SONOMA, California – With a 39-point lead in the standings and just two races left in the battle for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Team Penske’s Will Power isn’t about to let off the accelerator.
He proved that in Saturday’s Firestone Fast Six for Sunday’s Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma when he added a newer set of Firestone “Reds” (softer compound tires built for speed) midway through the final rounds of qualification. At the time of his switch he was already the fastest driver in the session with a lap at 1:17.4126 around the 12-turn, 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway.
In Power’s mind there was more speed to be gained and that means more points to be earned as he tries to widen the gap between himself and Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in Sunday’s race.
Castroneves made it up to second in qualifying but ended up taking an off-road excursion knocking him back to sixth on the grid. Even with the new tires, Power wasn’t able to match his early lap and also drove off course trying to get an even faster speed.
It didn’t matter as Power clinched the pole in a Chevrolet. It was his fourth Verizon P1 pole of the season.
“It’s less pressure starting up front for the fact you aren’t amongst the action,” Power said. “It’s a very track position race and it has been in the past. We want to put ourselves in the best possible position to win the race on Sunday. I didn’t think that first speed would get the pole but it was really good. I was relaxed and the lap was good. I thought I could go quicker on newer tires. It’s the same as at Barber where I thought new tires would go faster but the worse tires actually got us the pole.”
Also, Power will get one bonus point for winning the pole, although that point won’t be officially added until after Sunday’s race.
“Every point is important because I’ve missed out by a couple points before,” Power said. “It all adds up but a lot of points on the table and a lot of racing left. I have to get the most out of every situation.”
His nearest championship pursuer qualified sixth and talked about the additional point Power earned.
“It’s another point, unfortunately, but we have to minimize the damage,” Helio Castroneves said. “Hopefully we are going to have a great race. If we have to take some chances we will do it. Right now not much to be conservative.”
Power will share the front row with Honda driver Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing after he drove a fast lap at 1:17.7318.