IndyCar Notes: Stickers Allow Power To Get A Grip In Qualifying

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 22 2010

Being fastest in the Fast Six was the easy part for Will Power on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the IndyCar Series)

Will Power earned his IZOD IndyCar Series-record eighth PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season Saturday at Infineon Raceway, where advancing into the Firestone Fast Six was the more difficult part of qualifications for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Team Penske’s Power posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 16.5282-seconds/108.337 mph with 1:30 left in the 10-minute shootout around the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway circuit in Sonoma, Calif., to claim pole. Helio Castroneves (1:16.5652/108.284 mph) will join his Team Penske teammate on the front row for Sunday’s 75-lapper.

Defending event champion Dario Franchitti (1:16.9437/107.752 mph) – who enters the race 42 points behind Power in the championship standings – will share Row 2 with Alex Tagliani of FAZZT Race Team (1:17.2068/107.384 mph). Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe (1:17.2109/107.379 mph) and Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (1:17.3470/ 107.190 mph) –who extended his series-record streak to 45 top-10 starts – will be on the third row.

With a minute left in Round 2 of qualifying, Power was on the outside of advancing by four-tenths of a second to Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Power’s Penske team switched to a sticker set of Firestone alternate tires in an effort to make up the difference, and the Australian recorded a lap of 1:16.8072 to bump his way into the Firestone Fast Six.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to pull it off in the second round of qualifying,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda. “I was two-tenths off from the Fast Six. I knew it was going to be very close for pole here. I’m really stoked to get the Verizon team a record eight poles this season. It’s important that we start up front here. This is the toughest series I have ever raced in. You can’t leave anything on the table.”

Power now has made six consecutive front row starts, while Castroneves earned his fourth front row post of 2010.

“It was very consistent,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Dallara/Honda. “We made some incredible changes and made great gains from Friday. Ron Ruzewski, my engineer, did an awesome job. It was one corner. I guess that made the difference. I didn’t want to take too much of a chance, but when they told me I was P2, I only had one lap and the tires were already a little bit shot.

“Good job to Team Penske to sweep the front row. Now we need to be there at the end.”

Franchitti, the two-time and reigning IndyCar champion, earned his ninth consecutive top-five start of the season. But the Scotsman is well-aware he will have his hands full at the start with the all-Penske front row.

“We’re definitely going to try to get Will (Sunday),” said Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Target Dallara/Honda. “He did a great job in qualifying. There’s no doubt about it. (But) the Target car was probably a 95 percent car today. I think I left a half-a-tenth on the table myself with a slight mistake. We’ll see what we have, but I’m disappointed with third today.”

Sunday’s race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS, and air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 212.

Power hauls the hardware: Power, who clinched the series’ inaugural Mario Andretti Road Championship on Aug. 8 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, was assisted at the unveiling of the trophy on Thursday in San Francisco by its namesake.

“It would be great to have two celebrations in Victory Circle,” said Power, who earned the award based on amassing an insurmountable points lead through eight of the nine road/street course races on the IndyCar schedule.

Power now is focused on maintaining his comfortable lead over Franchitti while aiming to secure his first overall driver’s championship.

“I got to test (at Infineon Raceway) last week, and I think that was important for me,” Power said. “I’m confident, but I’m aware that Dario is very quick around here. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, give it everything we’ve got because I want to really win this championship.”

Tech-it-out: Honda’s overtake assist system, or push-to-pass, will be used for the second time at Infineon Raceway Sunday. The system employed by Honda Performance Development is an ECU software alteration. Activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel, it provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine.

Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout. For the 2.230-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway, drivers will have 15 uses of 15 seconds duration each with a10-second recharge period between uses.

Long-distance runners: Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Tony Kanaan, both previous winners at Infineon Raceway, are the only drivers to complete every lap (395) in the five IndyCar races run to-date. …The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark Penske Racing’s 1,250th all-time open-wheel start.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 22 2010
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