SONOMA, US: Reigning IndyCar champion Will Power smashed his year-old track record in grabbing pole position on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) for the season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Four of the six drivers still in contention for the season title will start on the first three rows in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) race, in which double points will be on offer.
“I’m really stoked,” said Australia’s Power, who is fourth in the title chase led by Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.
“I love qualifying and very happy to end the year with a pole position.”
“Lots of points on the table,” added Power — a three-time winner on the 2.385-mile (3.84-kilometer), 12-turn Sonoma road course in California. “We’ll go for that win.”
What had been expected to be a festive final week has been overshadowed by the death of British driver Justin Wilson in a Pennsylvania hospital on Monday after a head injury suffered in the previous day’s race at Pocono.
Wilson was struck in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car after the rookie crashed his Ganassi Chevrolet while leading late last Sunday.
Karam, who suffered a foot injury, is in Sonoma merely as a spectator and the 20-year-old admitted he’s having a hard time getting to grips with Wilson’s death.
“It’s been tough on me, but the main thing is Justin’s family,” he said.
“I had questions about coming to this race, whether I needed to or not. But it’s always good to be around the racing family because these are the people who are closest to me and will be able to pick me up when I need to be picked up.”
For the six drivers still in the championship hunt there’s work to be done, despite their grief.
Power’s qualifying lap time of 1min 16.2597sec crushed his previous track record of 1:17.2393 he set last year.
His bonus point for earning pole position pulled him within 60 points of Montoya in the standings.
Montoya, who holds a 34-point lead atop the standings over Graham Rahal, qualified fifth and Rahal was sixth fastest.