SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 29, 2015) – Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power reset his year-old track record in the Firestone Fast Six to earn the Verizon P1 Award and pace four of the six championship contenders who will start on the first three rows for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, this is the fourth track record broken by Power this season and the sixth track record broken in 2015 following the introduction of aero kits by Chevrolet and Honda.
Three rounds of qualifications set the 25-car grid for the 85-lap race Aug. 30 (1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) that carries double base points along with bonus points for the pole (one point), leading a lap (one) and leading the most laps (two).
Power claimed his sixth pole start of the season and 42nd of his career, which is fifth on the all-time Indy car list.
“I’m really stoked. I love qualifying and (am) very happy to end the year with a pole position,” said Power, a three-time winner at Sonoma Raceway who has started from the pole five times in the past six years for this race. “Lots of points on the table; we’ll go for that win.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, has stood atop the standings since winning the season opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and holds a 34-point lead over Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Montoya’s most direct path to his second Indy car title – separated by 16 years – is to finish first or second. The other contenders’ script also is clear.
“Win. That’s the best-case scenario,” said Rahal, who advanced to the Firestone Fast Six qualifying format used on all Verizon IndyCar Series road and street courses for the first time since Twin Ring Motegi in 2011. “We finish third, fourth, fifth (in the race), it becomes obviously a bit more difficult because you’re banking on Juan finishing 12th or worse. I don’t think that’s likely.”
Josef Newgarden, a two-time race winner this season, earned his second front-row start in the 16 races this season.
“Getting pole would’ve helped a lot more. It is worth points and it’s double points this weekend,” said Newgarden, driving the No. 67 GoPro CFH Racing Chevrolet. “We’ve got a really good car. We’re hoping to have a good race. It starts with qualifying and we did a pretty decent job there. If we keep clean, we have a shot at winning that thing.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three races in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, qualified a season-high third. He’ll share Row 2 with Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet.
Here is where the remaining title contenders qualified (with championship standings position and points behind leader in parentheses):
First — Will Power (fourth, -61 points), 1:16.2597 best lap, Firestone Fast Six (track record);
Second — Josef Newgarden (sixth, -87 points), 1:16.3964 best lap, Firestone Fast Six;
Fifth — Juan Pablo Montoya (first), 1:16.6631 best lap, Round 2; 1:16.8437 Firestone Fast Six;
Sixth — Graham Rahal (second, -34 points), 1:16.6435 best lap, Round 2; 1:17.1769 Firestone Fast Six;
Ninth — Scott Dixon (third, -47 points), 1:16.7365 best lap, Round 1;
15th — Helio Castroneves (fifth, -77 points), 1:17.2550 best lap, Round 1.
This marks the 10th consecutive season that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be decided in the final race.
Penske Shares Wall of Fame Honor with Wilson
Roger Penske is a firm believer in the strength of the team, and as owner of the most prolific organization in Indy car history, he should know. That’s why, while being inducted to the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame today, Penske felt compelled to have a recently departed favorite member of the Verizon IndyCar Series team share the honor.
As the plaque bearing his name and likeness was unveiled in Victory Lane, Penske asked Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway’s president and general manager, to have Justin Wilson’s name inscribed on it, too, before the plaque is posted with those of other wall of fame members behind the track’s main grandstand.
“I wouldn’t let this day go by without having his name on that plaque with me,” Penske said of the 37-year-old driver who died Aug. 24 from a head injury sustained the day before at Pocono Raceway, “because he’s one of the great guys. We lose a great friend and a competitor, and we need to honor him also.”
Penske was inducted by Sonoma Raceway for his lifelong contributions to motorsports, in many ways.
“I can’t think of anybody who is more deserving,” track president Page said, “either for their record here at Sonoma or for the body of work that you look at in the motor racing industry. From someone who competed and raced here – and Roger just reminded me he won the Trans Am championship here in ’69 – who built cars, who built engines, who built racetracks. Who has brought corporate America to a sport that is very dependent on sponsorship, and has really elevated this industry in ways that I don’t think any other individual can lay claim to.”
Penske owned the Chevrolet Camaro that Mark Donohue drove to the 1969 Trans Am title at Sonoma, two years before Donohue delivered the first of what is now a record 178 Indy car race wins for the team – including 16 at the Indianapolis 500. The team competed in its 700th Indy car race last weekend at Pocono.
“Everything you do, you kind of look back and say, ‘Wow!'” Penske said. “There’s no question, if you add it all up, it’s been a terrific run for us. I remember when we won the Trans Am championship back in the ’60s, it was one of the biggest days of our career. It’s ironic that we’re here tomorrow to try to win the Indy car championship again.”
Bourdais’ Car Tests LED Wheel Displays for Possible Future Use
In addition to the light-emitting display (LED) car positioning system employed by all 25 entries in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet driven by Sebastien Bourdais tested LED pods attached to the front and rear wheels during Friday’s initial practice on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course.
The LEDs, manufactured and supplied by UK-based Speed of Light Media Limited, have the potential to display logos or words for commercial partners, race or car information or other programmed information. The system is under INDYCAR consideration to add for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
During Friday’s on-track testing of the system, a solid green was displayed on the rear wheel of Bourdais’ car and the front wheel displayed a red and yellow pattern.
“The LEDs flash very quickly slices of an image,” said Guy Margetson, owner of Speed of Light Media. “(In early development) we put it in a bicycle wheel and we only had one color of LEDs. We were able to show the word ‘wheel’ in a wheel and it gave birth to the whole wheel technology. We patented it and, with full color, we can show logos in a wheel or whatever INDYCAR or the teams want.”
The LED car positioning system, which debuted at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 2, displays in real time each car’s running order on the racetrack, a pit stop time clock and indicates when a driver initiates the push-to-pass system on the car.
GoPro Sponsoring Newgarden’s Car This Weekend
GoPro is title sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series race this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, and added to its support by becoming the primary sponsor of the No. 67 CFH Racing Chevrolet driven by championship contender Josef Newgarden.
Under the agreement, CFH Racing will be able to capture compelling content through the lens of the GoPro HERO4 Black, the flagship of the brand’s line of video/photo capture devices, which will be mounted on Newgarden’s car recording 4K Ultra HD video.
“We are really excited to see the GoPro brand on the No. 67 car,” said Rod Rojas, motorsports marketing manager for California-based GoPro. “CFH Racing is a great collaborator, and to see them run the GoPro livery at the Grand Prix of Sonoma is going to be huge for the GoPro family watching the race.”
Newgarden, 24, of Hendersonville, Tenn., has won two races and is sixth in the standings entering the 85-lap race on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course. He also was among the title contenders who drove their Indy cars across the Golden Gate Bridge on Aug. 27. The Astor Cup, the trophy awarded to the series champion, rode in the back seat of the INDYCAR Experience two-seater driven by James Hinchcliffe. The one-of-a-kind event was recorded by multiple GoPro HERO4 cameras attached to the cars and positioned around locations on the bridge itself.
GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA QUALIFYING QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Basically, we were just going to do two one-lap runs on the used reds, but Newgarden went out and put a pretty good time up, so we had no choice but to use the new blacks at the end there. It was the obvious choice at the end but I had to work for it. I’m really stoked. I love qualifying and very happy to end the year with a pole position.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m pretty happy. On road courses we’ve gotten better. It’s kind of funny because, apart from Indy (Grand Prix), we haven’t made the Fast Six on a road course. It was encouraging today that we did. I felt like we did a really good job in practice this morning and again in qualifying. We have to be smart, we have to be patient and see what it brings.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a fantastic Hitachi Chevrolet this morning. Unfortunately, the track changed. We made a little change and it obviously didn’t go how we had hoped. We had a little bit of understeer and it just didn’t work for us on the red (alternate) tires. Hopefully, it will come around for us tomorrow. It will definitely make it more challenging starting in the middle of the pack, but we know the Hitachi car is fast. As we’ve seen this year, anything can happen and we’ll be doing our best.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “Qualifying didn’t go as we expected. We pitted a bit later because we decided to run an extra lap and then do a change. So when we got out the checkered flag was out and we weren’t able to improve our time on the new tires. It’s a shame because now we will start 20th tomorrow and it’s going to be tough race with tire degradation, so we will see how we end up.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I just didn’t get a lap together on the reds for qualifying in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car. I was feeling really competitive on the black tire and then I just had a mess of a run on reds and didn’t get a clear lap with the guys around me, and didn’t go any quicker on the softer tires. I think we’re better than that. It’s going to be an interesting race. If it’s anything like Mid-Ohio, strategy is going to play a huge part and I think if we can get the car to the front, we’ll be able to race at the front so that’s got to be the goal.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It’s been a frustrating weekend for the No. 7 Oculus MediaTech Honda. We just struggled with the balance, really. One good thing about IndyCar is that you can race from anywhere on the grid. We’ll just have to work overnight and have a good strategy tomorrow, and try to get some more points. It hasn’t been an easy weekend, but hopefully we can march forward tomorrow.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a very positive Saturday for us. We definitely made a lot of progress from yesterday. We gave it all we had out there in qualifying, but I think there’s still a little more we can do to make the race car quicker. I’m happy with the position we’re starting in tomorrow and I’m just excited to get out there for the race tomorrow.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): “I’m not sure who was ahead of us out on track in qualifying but they sprayed dirt all over the track around Turn 6. Kanaan and I both went through it and that just killed both our lap times. It’s very tight out there and you simply can’t afford to lose time like that. The Target team will have to come up with a great strategy for tomorrow and we’ll do our best to come to the front.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Someone in front of myself, Dixon, and Munoz got a wheel off the track and put so much dust in front of us in Turn 6. It’s not a coincidence that the last three cars in that second group were myself, Dixon, and Munoz. It was just bad luck for us – there’s nothing you can do about it. Obviously the guy in front of us didn’t want to go off-track, but unfortunately we all lost a lot on our fast lap times.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “Obviously, qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted. The Hydroxycut guys did a good job preparing the car and I think we had a chance to qualify in the top 10. Then on my fast lap another car, that had no chance of recording a timed lap before the checkered flag, came out of the pits in front of me. He tried to get out of the way, but put four tires in the dirt right in front of me and that was the end of my lap. It’s a shame because qualifying is so important here. We’ll just have to figure out a way to gain some track position tomorrow so we can finish the season on a high.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a tough qualifying session for us. We struggled for speed throughout the practice session but then the car was improved after the first run in qualifying, so I had a positive feeling. Unfortunately there was a bit of traffic on course when we were on our quick lap so we weren’t quick enough to get through to the second segment. Last year we made a good improvement in the warmup session on race day, so I guess we have to do that again.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “We changed quite a bit (during qualifying). I know we’ve been up front and everybody thinks things have been really good, but we’ve just been struggling to get a really good balance this weekend. Obviously I’m disappointed to be sixth, which is a good thing, but disappointed to be there. We were definitely capable. Particularly on new tires, the car was pretty good. But the second run, I don’t know why, they just had a lot of fall-off. Another thing is a lot of guys seemed to run a new set of blacks (primary tires) in (the Firestone Fast Six). We decided to keep them for tomorrow, so either they’ve got more tires than us or we’re making a wrong move or they are. I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow, it’s a new day. Our strength all season has been on the entire run, the entire race, and putting ourselves in a good spot. It’s a lot easier to come from sixth than it is 13th or further back. I’m looking forward to it.”
RODOLFO GONZALEZ (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I think we did a good job in quali and we have done a good job all weekend improving the car. I had a good lap going when I got into the fluid from (Jack) Hawksworth. I think I lost three tenths in the chicane which might have gotten me into the top 6. I’m going to just have try to make that up tomorrow. The guys have done a great job with the car and getting it faster. We have improved a lot since the first laps of practice 1. I think the lap time showing for me in qualifying doesn’t do us justice but we have tomorrow to prove that.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It was a tough qualifying. I just didn’t get a good lap together and didn’t have the speed. Overall, I’ve been trying to find more speed since the start of the weekend and we aren’t there yet. Tomorrow is a long day including the warm up session to try some stuff. We will try to stay positive and try some things for tomorrow. It is disappointing especially with it being such a tough weekend for everyone. We have to stay positive and come back stronger for the race.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “We missed the Fast 12 by half a tenth to (Juan) Montoya which is a shame. It’s frustrating because the car was good. I think we could have easily been in the top 10. Now I have found a good feeling in with car and also with the circuit which is very tricky. Coming here without any testing was not easy but now I feel confident for tomorrow. As we know in INDYCAR anything can happen. I am very motivated to finish the season on a high. It was good that Josef (Newgarden) had a good qualifying run, which shows we have a good car as well and we will both have a good opportunity tomorrow.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s tough. Everything is wrong (about this weekend) – Justin (Wilson) should be here. Apart from that, I haven’t been on a road course in a year and a half, and I’m not going to say how long it’s been since I’ve been in a gym. Yesterday was a wakeup call. The car was really good. I just feel like I’m one session behind. Now on blacks I was only a couple tenths off Marco, so it looked good. But that was the first time I’ve put reds on so I didn’t know how much there was there to gain. The car felt the best balance it’s felt all day yesterday and today so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “I’m a little bit disappointed with the result of qualifying. I think we were looking better in practice. We’re starting 12th… a little disappointed but tomorrow is a long race – and it’s IndyCar, anything can happen.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I’m a little bit bummed to be starting in eighth. I was hoping to make the (Firestone) Fast Six. We came up to Turn 6 and it was covered in dirt so we lost a lot of our time there. Definitely unlucky, but can be done from (eighth).”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a good day after breaking the track record in practice one this morning. I had a really good car this morning. The heat made things a little bit more difficult for qualifying but, as they say, it’s the same for everyone. We had P1 locked up for a good part of the (Firestone) Fast Six. Just lost out a little bit on tires’ choice at the end. In hindsight I went with the strong set of tires. We went with a used set and they didn’t quite get us through. Starting P3 tomorrow we can, hopefully, get it done. Good to have the DHL Honda starting up front.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We went out there, did a couple laps on the black tires, came in for the reds (tires) and made some changes. It felt a bit better but then we had an engine issue and lost power. It was not a good day. We’ll try and have a good one tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 GoPro CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I’m proud of us. It’s great having GoPro here with us this weekend. It’s their home event and it’s a lot of fun to have them on our car at CFH Racing. It’s been a really fun year. It’s been an amazing year in a lot of ways, tough year in others. We were close today, but no cigar. We got bumped at the end so we’ll have to get them tomorrow.”
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I don’t think it was that bad for the first race weekend in the No. 77 SMP Racing car after a year. I’m glad that we made good progress with the car setup during the practices and I think that’s why qualifying also wasn’t too bad. I always aim for more. I was hoping to be better than that, but probably to get there you need to do the full season, the same as the other guys. So I think it’s not so bad to be in the middle.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “It’s a pretty good starting position for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. It’s always nice to transfer into the top 12 and we were so close to moving into the Firestone Fast 6 but the field was just so tight on lap times. I think the NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet should be really good on older tires throughout the course of the race. I’m really looking forward to ending this season on a high note and hopefully watching (Scott) Dixon win a championship and take the No. 83 into victory lane.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “Tough qualifying session for the No. 98 ALARM.COM/Bowers & Wilkins/Castrol EDGE/Deltro Electric car today. We made a lot of changes and, just like every other track, every time we go out on the red (alternate) tires, we can’t find the right balance for the car, so we just have to keep working at it. It’s a long race tomorrow so hopefully we can get a good chance there.”