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IndyCar: Power stays hot for final Sunday warm-up

Will Power carried through the momentum from a record-setting qualifying performance to put himself top in Sunday warm-up at Sonoma.
Penske's Will Power firmly established himself as the man to beat in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma by setting the pace in Sunday morning's half-hour warm-up session at the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course.

In the final practice session of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series, the reigning champion was top with a best lap of 1:17.6107s (110.345mph), putting him 0.1761s ahead of AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato who was second fastest followed by Power's Penske team mate Simon Pagenaud in third.

CLICK: Full Sunday morning warm-up session times from Sonoma Raceway

The times were understandably some way off Saturday afternoon's blistering qualifying pace, which saw the track record broken six times before Power finally won pole position with a time of 1:16.2597s (112.589mph).

With double points available in today's race, there are six drivers including Power who are still mathematically in contention for the 2015 title, and four of them finished the warm-up in the top ten.

Along with Power, there was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal in fourth place in the final practice times, Penske's Helio Castroneves in sixth and his team mate Juan Pablo Montoya in ninth.

Outside the top ten, Ganassi's Scott Dixon was 12th fastest in the cool morning conditions while CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden - who will start today's race on the front row alongside Power - could only manage 17th.

Montoya currently has a 34 point lead over Rahal in the standings, but with 100 points on offer to today's race winner there is still very much everything to play for in this afternoon's 85-lap, 202.7-mile race which gets underway just after 2pm (10pm BST).

Clearly, if Montoya wins the race outright or comes second then he will clinch his first IndyCar championship regardless or what his rivals do in today's race.

If Rahal were to win today's race, then Montoya must finish no worse than third place or else the points lead that he has held ever since the first weekend of the season when he won at St Petersburg in March would be overturned.

The most points that Dixon can claim in today's race would still mean that Montoya could manage to secure the title if he was in fifth place or better.

A win for Will Power meanwhile would knock Dixon out but would still need Montoya to finish no better than tenth place, with Rahal in third or lower.

Helio Castroneves' situation is even more of an outside bet, with the best possible result for the Brazilian still needing Montoya to finish no better than 17th place, with Rahal fifth or lower and Dixon no higher than third.

And as for Newgarden, his title hopes are effectively in name only. Even if he won the race and swept all available bonus points he could still only amass a maximum of 517 points, which Montoya would still beat with 21st place.

If Montoya fell short, then in that scenario Rahal would still win if he finished in the top six, or else Dixon if he were to cross the line in the top four, or finally Power if he were in second place when the chequered flag dropped. Only if all those eventualities fell through could Newgarden possibly find himself walking away from Sonoma with the title.

“Same thing as every week," summarised Montoya of his game plan for the day. "Go out there and do the best we can, see what happens.

"It's double points, so it's open for anything," said the former F1 and NASCAR driver, who previously won the 1999 CART title. "I feel if we run a smart day all day, we'll be fine."

See full Sunday morning warm-up session times from Sonoma Raceway

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Will Power being interviewed after winning the pole position for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Graham Rahal celebrates victory in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway   (image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens)
Scott Dixon leads the Indycar field   [pic credit: Indycar media/Bret Kelley]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Ed Jones - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/JOE SKIBINSKI]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Shawn Gritzmacher]
Will Power - Penske  [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing [credit: Chris Jones]

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