SONOMA, Calif. — official series release — Chris Jones/IndyCar photo —
Three of the six Verizon IndyCar Series championship contenders were among the top five on the speed chart in the initial practice session for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power’s year-old track record of 1 minute, 17.2393 seconds, set in qualifications on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course, will be challenged in the three rounds of qualifying Aug. 29.
Power, who is fourth in the standings, recorded the quickest lap of 1:17.4858 today in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“It was the first time we got to try the new (Firestone primary) tire. Basically on a long run, it definitely degrades a lot. I think that will create good racing,” said Power, who has won three times and added a second-place finish in the past five years at Sonoma Raceway. “It was a good session, but tomorrow, obviously, really counts.
“We’re in a good window. Just go home, study and have a look and see if we can make good changes, see if we can go a little faster.”
American Graham Rahal, who is 34 points behind championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya entering the season finale, was 0.1326 of a second off the top lap time in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three Verizon IndyCar Series races in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, was third (1:17.6423). Three-time series champion Scott Dixon, who is fourth in the standings, was also fourth in practice (1:17.7937) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Montoya, driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, will chase his second career Indy car championship in the 85-lap race that features double base points in addition to the usual four bonus points available for earning the Verizon P1 Award (one point) in the three rounds of qualifying, leading a lap (one point) and leading the most race laps (two points).
He recorded a best lap of 1:18.0901 in today’s practice, ninth quick in the 3-hour, 30-minute session. Four different teams were represented in the top five and the top 10 were separated by six-tenths of a second.
“I think we’ve been doing everything we need to put ourselves in this position,” said Montoya, who has stood atop the standings since winning the opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., to start his second Indy car season after a 14-year absence.
“It’s been a very cool year,” he said. “We had our struggles last year. We won a race and everything, but we struggled most of the year. So we did a little work over the winter to get where we needed to be. We’ve been really good all year.”
“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen with double points, though.”
Helio Castroneves, who was seventh on the practice time chart, and Josef Newgarden, who posted the 13th-quickest lap time, also are eligible for the title.
CREDIT: IndyCar Communications