Will Power topped the times of every stage in which he ran in Saturday afternoon qualifying for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in California, as he led the Penske team to a 1-2-3 whitewash and domination of the starting grid on Sunday.
"Qualifying is very important here," said Power after setting a scintillating laptime of 1:18.6017s in the Firestone Fast Six stage of qualifying. "A Penske 1-2-3 is good - and we have two guys between the Target cars.
"We were a little concerned after practice and didn't know if we had the pace or not," he admitted. "But we made some good changes before qualifying. We were able to put a perfect lap together that was mistake-free and hit all of the sectors."
"I'm so happy to be starting on the front row!" exclaimed Helio Castroneves, clearly thrilled to qualify in second place albeit 0.4899s off Power's stunning lap time. "It has been awhile since I've started up front and here and it feels awesome. It is a great result for Team Penske to start 1-2-3 ... Tomorrow we just have to go out there and finish the job and bring home a strong result for the team."
"The hard work of Team Penske is paying off and now," agreed Ryan Briscoe, who will start from third place on the grid. "This is a great achievement from our standpoint of the #6 crew. We didn't have the best of days yesterday as we had issues with the brakes. We came on strong today and were fighting for the top spot all day long. It feels great and hopefully we can move up a little tomorrow as well."
Dario Franchitti had to settle for fourth place ahead of his Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon, but Dario was disappointed with his car's handling on the soft 'red wall' tyres after he had put in such promisingly strong performances on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning on the harder 'black wall' compound.
"We tried putting the red tyres on and the car was terrible," he said. "We tried to put up a fast lap and get the time we needed. We made a couple of changes throughout the session but just didn't quite have it. We have a lot of work to do tonight because we are going to have to use the red tyres for one segment of the race tomorrow."
For Dixon, the problem was one of track temperature. "The cars were good this morning in cool weather but once the track heated up we really struggled with the grip," he said. "We obviously messed up quite a bit there. I think this is just about our worst qualifying on road courses this year."
It was a difficult day for Andretti Autosport who saw only Mike Conway progress to round 2. Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay surprisingly failed to progress from an admittedly fiercely competitive group 1, while Marco Andretti was just pipped at the end in group 2 by Dreyer & Reinbold stand-in, former Jordan F1 driver Giorgio Pantano.