Championship points possibilities || Unofficial qualifying results
SONOMA, Calif. -- Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power reset his year-old track record in the Firestone Fast Six to earn the Verizon P1 Award and pace four of the six championship contenders who will start on the first three rows for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Three rounds of qualifications set the 25-car grid for the 85-lap race Aug. 30 (1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) that carries double base points along with bonus points for the pole (one point), leading a lap (one) and leading the most laps (two).
Power claimed his sixth pole start of the season -- a field high -- and 42nd of his career, which is fifth on the all-time list. Track records have been reset six times, including four by Power in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, in the inaugural season of aerodynamic bodywork packages designed and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
"I’m really stoked. I love qualifying and very happy to end the year with a pole position," said Power, a three-time winner at Sonoma Raceway who has started from the pole five times in the past six years. "Lots of points on the table; we'll go for that win."
Where the title contenders qualified (with place in standings in parentheses):
First -- Will Power -- (fourth, -61 points) ... 1:16.2597 best lap Firestone Fast Six (track record)
Second -- Josef Newgarden -- (sixth, -87 points) ... 1:16.3964 best lap Firestone Fast Six
Fifth -- Juan Pablo Montoya -- (first) ... 1:16.6631 best lap Round 2; 1:16.8437 Firestone Fast Six
Sixth -- Graham Rahal -- (second, -34 points) ... 1:16.6435 best lap Round 2; 1:17.1769 Firestone Fast Six
Ninth -- Scott Dixon (third, -47 points) ... 1:16.7365 best lap Round 1
15th -- Helio Castroneves -- (fifth, -77 points) ... 1:17.2550 best lap Round 1
Montoya has stood atop the standings since winning the season opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and his most direct path to his second Indy car title -- separated by 16 years -- is to finish first or second. The other contenders' script also is clear.
"Win. That's the best-case scenario," said Rahal, who advanced to the Firestone Fast Six for the first time since Twin Ring Motegi in 2011. "We finish third, fourth, fifth (in the race), it becomes obviously a bit more difficult because you're banking on Juan finishing 12th or worse. I don't think that's likely."
Newgarden, a two-time race winner this season, earned this second front-row start in the 16 races.
“Getting pole would’ve helped a lot more. It is worth points and it’s double points this weekend," said Newgarden, driving the No. 67 GoPro CFH Racing Chevrolet. "We’ve got a really good car. We’re hoping to have a good race. It starts with qualifying and we did a pretty decent job there. If we keep clean, we have a shot at winning that thing.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three races in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, qualified a season-high third. He'll share Row 2 with Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet.
Lap times in qualifying were aided by new the new primary and alternate Firestone Racing tires that feature softer compounds to improve grip levels around the circuit, though in the race the tires will degrade quicker than a harder compound.
"No one's going to have a clue how this whole thing is going to play out," said Dixon, who won the 2014 race. "I think it will be exciting."
Seven drivers had the opportunity to compare the new primary tire against the 2014 tire in back-to-back stints during a test day Aug. 13 at Sonoma Raceway. The construction of both the primary and alternate is the same as the other road course tires used this season.
It is the 10th consecutive season that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be decided in the final race.