"It was as perfect as it could go," beamed Will Power as he reflected on leading a Penske 1-2-3 domination of the Firestone Fast Six which will see the team lock-out the top positions on the starting grid for Sunday afternoon's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in California.

The Ganassi duo of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon had no answer to the Penske trio's impressive pace.

It was a difficult day for Andretti Autosport who saw only Mike Conway progress to round 2, while KV Racing Technology also found their recent strong form suddenly desert them as only EJ Viso sneaked through from his round 1 group.

Starting grid

1. #12 Will Power Penske
2. #3 Helio Castroneves Penske
3. #6 Ryan Briscoe Penske
4. #10 Dario Franchitti Ganassi
5. #9 Scott Dixon Ganassi
6. #06 James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas
7. #27 Mike Conway Andretti
8. #19 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne
9. #59 EJ Viso KV
10. #24 Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold
11. #22 Giorgio Pantano Dreyer & Reinbold
12. #77 Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt
13. #38 Graham Rahal Ganassi
14. #26 Marco Andretti Andretti
15. #17 Martin Plowman Sam Schmidt
16. #5 Takuma Sato KV
17. #18 James Jakes Dale Coyne
18. #2 Oriol Servia Newman/Haas
19. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti
20. #4 JR Hildebrand Panther
21. #82 Tony Kanaan KV
22. #78 Simon Pagenaud HVM
23. #34 Sebastian Saavedra Conquest
24. #88 Ho-Pin Tung Schmidt Dragon Racing
25. #7 Danica Patrick Andretti
26. #83 Charlie Kimball Ganassi
27. #67 Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher
28. #14 Vitor Meira Foyt

Qualifying times

Round 1 of qualifying consists of half the field running in the 15 minute Group 1 and the other half in Group 2. The top six from each group progresses to the ten minute round 2 with all 12 cars running together on track; the top six at the end of the round then go through to the shootout Firestone Fast Six round.

Group 1 consisted of Will Power, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, EJ Viso, James Jakes, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe, Mike Conway, Martin Plowman, Tony Kanaan, Sebastian Saavedra, Danica Patrick and Ed Carpenter.

Group 2 consisted of Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Giorgio Pantano, Ana Beatriz, Oriol Servia, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Marco Andretti, Ho-Pin Tung, JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Vitor Meira.

Round 1: Group 1 - 15 minutes

Underneath a gorgeous North California sky, qualifying got underway with a solo performance from Ed Carpenter setting a time of 1:20.6269s. It was another five minutes before everyone else piled out of pit lane, all of them learning from the morning session and opting to running on the 'red wall' soft option tyres. Will Power soon slammed in the fastest time seen so far all weekend with a 1:18.4476s, with Ryan Briscoe, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon battling among themselves to be the best of the rest and Mike Conway and EJ Viso also progressing to round 2. But Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan were the big names missing out, along with morning practice pace man Martin Plowman.

1. #12 Will Power 105.686mph 1m 18.4476s after 3 laps
2. #6 Ryan Briscoe 105.484mph 1m 18.5977s + 0.1501s after 5 laps
3. #9 Scott Dixon 105.476mph 1m 18.6035s + 0.1559s after 4 laps
4. #19 Sebastien Bourdais 105.262mph 1m 18.7631s + 0.3155s after 6 laps
5. #27 Mike Conway 104.745mph 1m 19.1521s + 0.7045s after 5 laps
6. #59 EJ Viso 104.538mph 1m 19.3086s + 0.8610s after 5 laps
7. #38 Graham Rahal 104.509mph 1m 19.3311s + 0.8835s after 7 laps
8. #17 Martin Plowman 104.445mph 1m 19.3792s + 0.9316s after 6 laps
9. #18 James Jakes 104.320mph 1m 19.4744s + 1.0268s after 7 laps
10. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 104.103mph 1m 19.6402s + 1.1926s after 6 laps
11. #82 Tony Kanaan 103.990mph 1m 19.7270s + 1.2794s after 5 laps
12. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 103.958mph 1m 19.7517s + 1.3041s after 7 laps
13. #7 Danica Patrick 103.914mph 1m 19.7854s + 1.3378s after 4 laps
14. #67 Ed Carpenter 102.829mph 1m 20.6269s + 2.1793s after 8 laps

Round 1: Group 2 - 15 minutes

Ana Beatriz, Vitor Meira and Ho-Pin Tung were quick to take to the track to make the most of the empty space to try for a fast lap, with Meira setting the best first lap of the three with a 1:20.1829s, but that was blitzed by Beatriz's brilliant 1:18.9714s instantly comparable with the best times in group 1. The rest of the field held back for more than six minutes before Giorgio Pantano and Alex Tagliani were next out and then the track soon started getting much busier. Even so, it wasn't until Dario Franchitti came out and put in his first flying lap with five minutes to go that Beatriz was finally displaced from the top. Helio squeezed into second, but Beatriz stayed third ahead of James Hinchcliffe, Alex Tagliani and Giorgio Pantano, while Marco Andretti and Oriol Servia failed to progress.

1. #10 Dario Franchitti 105.403mph 1m 18.6578s after 3 laps
2. #3 Helio Castroneves 105.379mph 1m 18.6761s + 0.0183s after 4 laps
3. #24 Ana Beatriz 104.985mph 1m 18.9714s + 0.3136s after 7 laps
4. #06 James Hinchcliffe 104.796mph 1m 19.1138s + 0.4560s after 5 laps
5. #77 Alex Tagliani 104.594mph 1m 19.2666s + 0.6088s after 5 laps
6. #22 Giorgio Pantano 104.546mph 1m 19.3026s + 0.6448s after 5 laps
7. #26 Marco Andretti 104.455mph 1m 19.3717s + 0.7139s after 4 laps
8. #5 Takuma Sato 104.440mph 1m 19.3836s + 0.7258s after 5 laps
9. #2 Oriol Servia 104.424mph 1m 19.3955s + 0.7377s after 5 laps
10. #4 JR Hildebrand 104.332mph 1m 19.4654s + 0.8076s after 5 laps
11. #78 Simon Pagenaud 104.204mph 1m 19.5635s + 0.9057s after 5 laps
12. #88 Ho-Pin Tung 104.170mph 1m 19.5894s + 0.9316s after 5 laps
13. #83 Charlie Kimball 103.849mph 1m 19.8349s + 1.1771s after 6 laps
14. #14 Vitor Meira 103.479mph 1m 20.1209s + 1.4631s after 9 laps

Round 2: Top 12 - 10 minutes

Giorgio Pantano and Sebastien Bourdais joined Ana Beatriz as the early runners in the ten minute session, but it was only a minute or two after that before the rest of the top 12 were filtering out to join them. Pantano briefly went top with 1:19.2408s but was soon displaced by James Hinchcliffe; Helio Castroneves was the first of the expected big name contenders to break into the 1:18s and his Penske team mates Will Power and Ryan Briscoe went faster still, Power's time of 1:18.2667s a new weekend high. The Ganassi duo of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon had no answer for them and had to settle for fourth and fifth ahead of James Hinchcliffe. Castroneves had a late spin and stall but didn't bring out a full course caution - which would have caused his fastest time to be deleted.

1. #12 Will Power 105.930mph 1m 18.2667s after 3 laps
2. #6 Ryan Briscoe 105.465mph 1m 18.6116s + 0.3449s after 5 laps
3. #3 Helio Castroneves 105.342mph 1m 18.7034s + 0.4367s after 3 laps
4. #10 Dario Franchitti 105.333mph 1m 18.7103s + 0.4436s after 4 laps
5. #9 Scott Dixon 105.184mph 1m 18.8222s + 0.5555s after 3 laps
6. #06 James Hinchcliffe 105.059mph 1m 18.9154s + 0.6487s after 5 laps
7. #27 Mike Conway 105.028mph 1m 18.9388s + 0.6721s after 5 laps
8. #19 Sebastien Bourdais 104.984mph 1m 18.9717s + 0.7050s after 7 laps
9. #59 EJ Viso 104.851mph 1m 19.0724s + 0.8057s after 5 laps
10. #24 Ana Beatriz 104.801mph 1m 19.1100s + 0.8433s after 5 laps
11. #22 Giorgio Pantano 104.628mph 1m 19.2408s + 0.9741s after 5 laps
12. #77 Alex Tagliani 103.891mph 1m 19.8032s + 1.5365s after 4 laps

Round 3: Firestone Fast 6 - 10 minutes

With everyone having burned through their 'red wall' soft tyres to get through to the Firestone Fast Six, it was time to thump back down to earth on the much slower black/hard compound tyres. There was a short delay for Helio Castroneves' #3 to be retrieved and brought back to pit lane, and then a full three mintes into the ten minute session before the #6 of Ryan Briscoe was the first out on track setting a time of 1:19.1112s, followed quickly by Helio Castroneves (11:19.1436s) and James Hinchcliffe (1:19.6445s). The times improved second time around as the harder compounds heated up to optimum operating temperature, with Castroneves going top before being blown away by a superb 1:18.6017s from Will Power that was almost half a second better than anyone else could manage. Once again the two Ganassi drivers didn't have the speed to disrupt the Penske 1-2-3 lock-out, and Hinchcliffe was just grateful to settle for sixth place.

1. #12 Will Power 105.479mph 1m 18.6017s after 4 laps
2. #3 Helio Castroneves 104.825mph 1m 19.0916s + 0.4899s after 5 laps
3. #6 Ryan Briscoe 104.799mph 1m 19.1112s + 0.5095s after 5 laps
4. #10 Dario Franchitti 104.753mph 1m 19.1464s + 0.5447s after 4 laps
5. #9 Scott Dixon 104.432mph 1m 19.3892s + 0.7875s after 4 laps
6. #06 James Hinchcliffe 104.346mph 1m 19.4546s + 0.8529s after 4 laps