There has been nine different winners through 14 IZOD IndyCar Series races. Dario Franchitti would gladly be the 10th with his 32nd career victory.
The four-time series champion will have an advantageous starting position for the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma after earning his fourth Verizon P1 Award of the season. The Scotsman turned a lap of 1 minute, 17.5271 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six session on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course.
It was Franchitti's third pole start at Sonoma Raceway, and teammate Scott Dixon (1:17.7196) will start on the front row for second time at track. Both have won the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Sonoma, and Chip Ganassi Racing cars have won the past four races of the 2013 season.
Dixon, a three-time winner this season, enters the 85-lap race 31 points behind series championship front-runner Helio Castroneves, who qualified fifth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, third in the standings, qualified fourth in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport. Will Power, who set the track record of 1:17.2709 in earning the pole last August, will start third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
"Next time, I'll drive," Herschel Walker says following his ride in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater on the undulating 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway road course.
Of course, it was in jest. The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL player exited the stretched Indy car with a smile that busted out of the helmet, bumped fists as a thank you to driver Mario Andretti and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"That was awesome, and to have a legend like Mario Andretti -- a guy who has driven everything -- take me around the track was special," adds Walker, who is a guest of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Andretti Autosport for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
"When you feel the power of the car I was thinking, 'Boy, I hope he's got this.' It's amazing all that torque, and then when he hit the brakes it was 'Whoa. That's quick.' "
Walker, at 6 foot 1 and looking in playing form at 225 pounds, said he respects all athletes for their dedication and preparation. He competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics for the United States in the two-man bobsled.
"To come out here and drive an IndyCar is just amazing. I can see why they are exhausted after an 85-lap race, and I was out there without any other cars, which adds to the stress and abilities needed," Walker says. "My hat is off to these drivers after I've learned a bit more about the sport.
"Being a car guy, I really like these cars, too. Anything with an engine, I love it."
Walker, who's involved in numerous businesses, has more than 80 cars in his collection, including a '58 Cadillac and three Mini Coopers that have been modified to accept 350-horsepower engines.
"I still have my black 'Smoky and the Bandit' Trans-Am that I got when I was in college," he says. "I don't have an Indy car yet so maybe I'll have to get one for my collection, and maybe I'll want to get involved. That's one of the reasons I'm here."
The Race Tire Development (RTD) division of Firestone Racing presented a $10,000 check to Racing For Kids, the non-profit organization that uses motorsports to focus attention and raise funds for the health care needs of children.
The RTD group donated the prize money it received for winning this year's BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award, which annually recognizes engineering excellence at the Indianapolis 500.
The donation was made on behalf of engineers Dale Harrigle and Brett Schilling who were honored for the Firestone Firehawk™ Indy 500 Race Tire and while Firestone hosted a group from Racing for Kids, the national charity, which draws on the popularity of
motorsports to bring attention and funding to the health care needs of children and
child health institutions.
DALE HARRIGLE: "We were very excited back in May to win the Schwitzer Award and everything it stands for and the acknowledgement of the engineering department of Firestone Racing. As a team, we thought about what we could do with this award that would really benefit some people and our minds immediately went to Racing For Kids and our team has been able to attend visits."
ROBBIE BUHL (national spokesman, Racing for Kids): "Firestone has been there from the beginning of Racing For Kids and has always been supportive. This gift is not from the commercial/marketing side, this was driven from the engineering team. A lot of these guys have been to one of our visits over the years at Akron (Children's Hospital), so they've experienced the program and know how beneficial it is to patients and the hospitals. It's a testament to the quality of the people who work at Firestone and the commitment to Racing For Kids."
QUALIFYING PROCEDURE FOR THE VERIZON P1 AWARD:
Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award consists of three segments. In Segment One of qualifying, each group receives 10 minutes of track time. The fastest six cars from each group advance to Segment Two, while the remaining cars are assigned positions 13-26. Group One drivers will occupy the odd-numbered positions (13, 15, 17...) while Group Two drivers will occupy the even-numbered positions (14, 16, 18...) based on their fastest lap times.
During Segment Two, the 12 advancing cars receive 10 minutes of track time. The fastest six advance to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout while the remaining six cars are ranked in positions 7-12 based on their fastest laps.
During the Firestone Fast Six, the six cars receive 10 minutes of track time, with a guarantee of five minutes of green flag time. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-6 based on their fastest laps.
Any driver who causes a red flag during any segment will lose their two quickest laps.
VERIZON P1 AWARD QUALIFYING #1 SEGMENT ONE:
•Segment One of qualifying is divided into two groups. Group 1 has 12 driver, Group 2 has 13 drivers.
•Qualifying laps will continue to be timed during local yellow conditions.
•Competitors must exercise caution during a local yellow condition. Violators may be penalized; and there is no passing in a local yellow area.
•A red condition will be declared when a car is in need of immediate assistance.
At 2:30 p.m., the ambient temperature was 79 degrees with a relative humidity of 43 percent and winds from the north at 11 mph. Skies were fair. The track temperature was 110 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.
•Track record: Will Power,1:17.2709 (August 2012).
•Quickest lap this weekend: #10 Dario Franchitti, 1:18.0988.
2:30 p.m. - GREEN. First group on track.
2:40 p.m. - CHECKERED for first group. Top six cars: #12 Power, #77 Pagenaud, #19 Wilson, #27 Hinchcliffe #15 Rahal, #3 Castroneves. Cars failing to advance: #14 Sato, #5 Viso, #67 Newgarden, #16 Jakes, #18 Davison and #78 De Silvestro.
Top time from first group: #12 Will Power, 1:18.0033
No. 6 time from first group: #3 Helio Castroneves, 1:18.7895
No. 7 time from first group: #14 Takuma Sato, 1:18.9164
2:45 p.m. - GREEN. Second group on track.
2:55 p.m. - CHECKERED for second group. Top six cars: #10 Franchitti, #9 Dixon, #83 Kimball, #1 Hunter-Reay, #7 Bourdais #25 Andretti. Cars failing to advance: #55 Vautier, #11 Kanaan, #98 Hildebrand, #6 Saavedra, #4 Briscoe, #20 Carpenter, #97 Luhr.
Top time from first group: #10 Dario Franchitti, 1:17.4874
No. 6 time from first group: #25 Marco Andretti, 1:18.1179
No. 7 time from first group: #55 Tristan Vautier, 1:18.3141
VERIZON P1 AWARD QUALIFYING SEGMENT TWO:
At 3 p.m., the ambient temperature was 79 degrees with a relative humidity of 42 percent and winds from the north-northwest at 10 mph. Skies were fair. The track temperature was 110 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.
3:05 p.m. - GREEN. Track open to all 12 participants in second segment.
3:15 p.m. - CHECKERED. End of segment two. Top six cars: #12 Power, #9 Dixon, #10 Franchitti, #83 Kimball, #1 Hunter-Reay, #3 Castroneves. Cars failing to advance: #19 Wilson, #15 Rahal, #27 Hinchcliffe, #77 Pagenaud, #25 Andretti, #7 Bourdais. All 12 cars turned laps on Firestone red "alternate" tires.
Top time from segment two: #12 Will Power, 1:17.5475
No. 6 time from segment two: #3 Helio Castroneves, 1:18.0813
No. 7 time from segment two: #19 Justin Wilson, 1:18.2138
VERIZON P1 AWARD QUALIFYING FIRESTONE FAST SIX SHOOTOUT:
Engines in Firestone Fast Six: Honda 3 (#9 Dixon, #10 Franchitti, #83 Kimball), Chevrolet 3 (#1 Hunter-Reay, #3 Castroneves, #12 Power)
3:25 p.m. - GREEN. All cars remain on the pit lane.
3:31 p.m. - #10 Franchitti on track on Firestone alternate "red" tires.
3:32 p.m. - All six Firestone Fast Six participants on Firestone alternate "red" tires.
3:33 p.m. - #10 Franchitti is fastest at 1:17.5271.
3:35 p.m. - CHECKERED. #10 Franchitti wins Verizon P1 Award for capturing pole with lap of 1:17.5271. #9 Dixon will start second, joining Franchitti on front row.
VERIZON P1 AWARD QUALIFYING NOTES:
• This is Dario Franchitti's 33rd career Indy car pole and fourth pole of the season. He won the Verizon P1 Award at Long Beach, Belle Isle, Toronto and Sonoma this season.
• This is Franchitti's third pole at Sonoma (2007, '09, '13)
• Scott Dixon qualified second. It is his second front-row start at Sonoma. He started from the pole in 2006.
• Will Power qualified third. He has never qualified outside of the top-three at Sonoma.
• Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified fourth. It is a career best start for Hunter-Reay at Sonoma. His previous best was seventh (2007, '12).
• Helio Castroneves qualified fifth. He has never qualified outside of the top-five at Sonoma.
• Charlie Kimball qualified sixth. It is a career best start for Charlie Kimball at Sonoma. His previous best start was 21st in 2012.
GO PRO GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING QUOTES:
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): Obviously both Target cars have been fast all weekend, and in the test as well. We made a lot of changes, but seemed to go back where we started. Q1 we just did the one lap on the reds and it was the quickest time, so they pulled me in and we felt that there was a lot of good still left in the tires. So we put those on for the second run and the car was good again, and I managed to make a couple of mistakes, actually, so I was surprised to be as close to the guys on the new reds. We had the new reds on obviously for the Firestone Fast Six, which is just as well because I did a good job at the 10 and 11 corners and royally screwed up Turn 6 both laps, so luckily I had the advantage in the other corners to make it. So really happy, good to have 1-2 and all three of the Ganassi cars in the top six is pretty cool. It's obviously been a tough week with Floyd passing away and then Andy Brown's wife Kristie passing away too, so we're very focused on bringing a good result for the team.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "It was a pretty disappointing day for us. I think we had a pretty good pace leading up to it; then the wind shifted. It is the same for everybody; it just made for really difficult conditions and we didn't capitalize on it. It was tough to get the lap times out of the cars - it was for everybody. But the Ganassi cars have been one step above. Dario (Franchitti) did what we did in Mid-Ohio and went out on used reds (tires) in the second session. I think that is where he won the pole. Congratulations to those guys. They've been super quick. We are a little disappointed to start fourth, but we can definitely work from there. Now we have to go re-engineer it, and make it a race car instead of a qualifying car."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): "So far, it has been a frustrating weekend," Kanaan said. "We've made a lot of changes to the car and it is definitely improved from this morning, but we are still chasing the setup. We have to keep working and hope that we can come up with a strategy that will help us gain some track position during the race."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): "When we went out on the blacks in that first run, we thought we were pretty competitive. Then we went out on the reds and just couldn't quite find the grip on the track. It's frustrating because the Barracuda Racing guys have been working really hard and it's actually been quite enjoyable to work with the team. It felt like we were closer in the window than we ended up being out there. I think we're close to being in the mix in the entirety of the group, but that group just ended up having five of the top six or seven guys, so we'll see what we can figure out for tomorrow."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "That (performance) stings a little bit. We just didn't have the pace today in qualifying. We were quicker than some of the folks in the first qualifying group today. But you get some breaks some times and you don't other times. We just happened to be in the fast group today. It's disappointing because I thought we could close the gap on the leaders, time wise. But we couldn't do it today. I don't know if I needed to try harder with this setup. The wind does play a factor here but it is the same for everyone. So you have to adjust to that element at this track. We had a good race pace at Mid-Ohio and I hope we can have it here on Sunday. Just wish we were further up the grid though."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): "Disappointed. I had higher hopes for the RC (Cola) Chevy today. We were loose and just couldn't get the lap together we needed. Not the starting position we had hoped for but we'll fight tomorrow and make the best of it."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "It's a disappointing qualifying run. We made some progress but not enough to advance to the next segment. We've been struggling but we've found some positives so hopefully we will improve again and have a better package tomorrow."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "I'm happy because we made huge improvements this week to get the HP car in the 10th starting position. The really positive point is that we have a fantastic race car and it is incredibly consistent. We just have to find what the other guys have found in pure grip level. Apart from that the car was really nice to drive and the balance was great."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "I'm pretty disappointed. We had an ok car in practice, but then I think we tried to be a little bit too aggressive for qualifying and that kind of through us off a bit. We're starting way back which is really annoying. We're going to have to do a lot of work during the race tomorrow, but we'll see."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It's been a good weekend so far. We have been fifth and sixth in practice and qualified seventh. We were hoping to break into the Firestone Fast Six, but that's just the way it goes. Everyone on the #19 Boy Scouts of America team has done a great job so far this weekend and we will keep pushing forward tomorrow. We have put ourselves into a good spot for good result in the race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires Honda): "We got a lot out of qualifying, I think the lap was solid. Unfortunately we had a few overboost's and when that happens it basically gives you a penalty. I think we probably lost three or four tenths (of a second) and with that alone I think we could have advanced to the top-six. But eighth is a victory for us right now though. I'm pretty proud of the Big O Tires / Midas guys for pushing as hard as we have. This hasn't been easy. (New race engineer) Neil (Fife) has done a great job. We found some stuff this weekend that I think is really going to help us on into the future. Honda is pushing hard and doing a great job to put all of our cars up front. I didn't think it would benefit us in Round 2 to go run on (Firestone) blacks or used reds and fool ourselves and I just wanted to wait (to get on track) and it worked fine for us."
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "It was strange, the conditions were awful at the start of qualifying but then we came in P2 (second fast). We just didn't anticipate that much grip on the (Firestone) reds so we got caught out really after the one lap, it wasn't enough. It's a shame really. I didn't really think we would get in the top-six. To be honest we were really struggling with the balance a lot. Just putting the perfect lap together might have allowed us to creep into the top-10. We've just got a lot of work to do. We passed a lot of cars in the race last year so hopefully we will do the same tomorrow, just get some good points and move on to Baltimore."
JAMES DAVISON (No. 18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda): "We progressed from Mid-Ohio and came close to making the Firestone Fast 12. I am pleased with our results today and think that the #18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q team will give me a better car for the race tomorrow. We were able to qualify ahead of some respectable drivers today. I am looking forward to another mistake free race and hopefully another top 15 finish."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Angie's List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "I'm disappointed with starting 13th in tomorrow's race but I also think we did a good job because the car felt really good to drive. We just couldn't quite find enough to advance from our group. We were definitely in the tougher qualifying group though because our speed would have been more than good enough to advance out of the first group. We're just missing a little grip, but overall we've improved the Angie's List car so much since we got here. Tire degradation is going to play a huge part in the race tomorrow, so we're going to be focusing on that tonight."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "We definitely lacked the speed, which is a shame, because we've been feeling really confident. But since yesterday afternoon into today we've lost the pace a little bit, so we need to look at where we need to turn it back around and make ourselves competitive again. It's going to make for a long race tomorrow and I think we're going to see a lot of tire degradation, so we're going to have to try to make the strategy and the consistency work to our advantage, and try to move the National Guard Chevrolet forward from where it is we're going to start."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Citgo Chevrolet): "I'm pretty disappointed with how qualifying went after yesterday... to be honest, I didn't expect to be this slow. We just still haven't been able to find the pace. Qualifying was very difficult; I didn't have grip in the fast corners and quite a lot of understeer in other corners, and at the same time, braking was fairly difficult. Obviously, we didn't have a good package to go out and qualify up front today. Tomorrow is going to be a long race but we have good expectations as always. However, we're going to be spending a lot of hours trying to find some grip and speed."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet): "All in all, we're relatively pleased. Of course you always want to make it in the (Firestone) Fast Six, and we didn't do that today. But, from where we were in practice, we made some improvements which is the name of the game here. With a top-10 qualifying, we can work with that in the race. Certainly with the other (Andretti Autosport) cars, we were all hoping to be a bit higher, I think, but this is about Sunday, and that's what pays the points. If we can just keep making the kind of improvements that we did from yesterday to today, then hopefully we'll be within a shout of getting the GoDaddy car on the podium tomorrow."
LUCAS LUHR (No. 97 RW Motorsports/SFHR Honda): "Generally I have to say that I think we overall made improvements and got at least a little bit closer, but still not there. It's difficult. It's the first time for me qualifying and then experiencing the reds so you have no idea how much more grip there is and how much you can use and you really only get one shot at it. I think now that we have the practices and everything out of the way I just am looking forward to the race. I'm looking forward to getting into race mode."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We started the day off a little off from where we wanted to be, but it really came together well in the second half of qualifying. It came together almost surprisingly to me. It caught us a little off guard of what we gained going into the second part of qualifying. I really just did not use the reds enough. Normally that's not the case, and normally I feel pretty good about the run that I do but I feel like I just did not hang it out enough, and we actually had more to use. I don't think we were a fast 6 car but I really think we could have transferred into the top 12 and had a better starting place for tomorrow. We really were not far off that benchmark. It gives me a lot of courage for tomorrow. I think we can really run a solid race and have great points. I'm really proud of everyone and looking forward to maximizing what we can tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was interesting when the wind changed, as everyone said, so there was no difference for anyone. But the first group was really brutal because of the different tires and series running out there. I struggled just to pass the first group, but thank God for the Hitachi guys. They did a hell of a job just tweaking from the right point on the setup of the car, and we were able to position ourselves for Q2 and Q3. We just took another session as a test and it paid off as well. It didn't pay off to hold off the Ganassi guys, but we're right there in the area that we need to be. Let's see what's going to happen tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The wind does totally change the track. Our car was quite tough to drive on blacks, but on reds it was reasonable. Pretty happy, I think those Ganassi guys definitely have a leg up on everyone here, but we'll see what we can do tomorrow."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It's been a decent week. I think the cars have had - generally all three of them - have had good speed. We didn't get great laps together as far as ultimate times and having a good shot at pole. Dario obviously made a strong call to save a set of reds in Q2 and go through Q3 with a new set, so we were kind of setting our sights on trying to be second and that's what turned out. Front row start for us, we really happy with that as it's typically a Penske pretty strong track here, so it's nice to get on the front row, but obviously tomorrow is where the points pay and looking forward to that."
SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
IZOD IndyCar Series warmup
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma pre-race
Command to start engines by GoPro CEO Nick Woodman
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (85 laps/202.73 miles), NBC Sports Network (Live)