Power tops practice; record under assault

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GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Practice 1 results

SONOMA, Calif. – Three of the six Verizon IndyCar Series championship contenders were among the top five on the lap time chart in the initial practice session for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30.

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power’s year-old track record of 1 minute, 17.2393 seconds, set in qualifications on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course, will be challenged in the three rounds of qualifying Aug. 29.

Power, who is fourth in the standings, recorded the quickest lap of 1:17.4858 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“It was the first time we got to try the new (Firestone primary) tire. Basically on a long run, it definitely degrades a lot. I think that will create good racing,” said Power, who has won three times and added a second-place finish in the past five years at Sonoma Raceway. “It was a good session, but tomorrow, obviously, really counts. We’re in a good window. Just go home, study and have a look and see if we can make good changes see if we can go a little faster.”

A 45-minute practice (10:30 a.m. PT live on NBCSN) precedes qualifying at 3 p.m. PT live on NBCSN.

American Graham Rahal, who is 34 points behind championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya entering the season finale, was .1326 of a second off the top lap time in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three Verizon IndyCar Series races in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, was third (1:17.6423). Three-time series champion Scott Dixon, who is fourth in the standings, was fourth (1:17.7937) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Montoya, driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, carries a 34-point advantage over Rahal into the 85-lap race that features double base points in addition to four bonus points available for earning the Verizon P1 Award (one point) in the three rounds of qualifying, leading a lap (one point) and leading the most race laps (two points).

He recorded a best lap of 1:18.0901 in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, which was ninth quick in the 3-hour, 30-minute session. Four different teams were represented in the top five, and the top 10 were separated by six-tenths of a second.

“I think we’ve been doing everything we need to put ourselves in this position,” said Montoya, who has stood atop the standings since winning the opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., to start his second Indy car season after a 13-year absence.

“It’s been a very cool year. We had our struggles last year. We won a race and everything, but we struggled most of the year. So we did a little work over the winter to get where we needed to be. We've been really good all year.”

Helio Castroneves, who was seventh on the lap time chart, and Josef Newgarden, who posted the 13th-quickest lap time, also are eligible for the title.

“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen with double points,” Montoya added.

Oriol Servia, who is driving the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda as a tribute to the late Justin Wilson, used the session to get acclimated to the road course aerodynamic package. Wilson succumbed to a head injury Aug. 23 sustained in a race a day earlier.

“It was a little bit what I expected after such a long time not being on a road course. These cars now have so much downforce, and this track is where you really feel it," he said. "It’s just getting used to the car; I have not raced here in two years."

Mikhail Aleshin, making his first Verizon IndyCar Series start since sustaining injuries in a post-qualifying crash at the 2014 season finale, posted the 17th-quickest lap (1:18.4491) in the No. 77 SMP Racing Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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