After watching Dario Franchitti beat him to the checkered flag two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio, IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power will be looking to respond in kind this weekend at Infineon Raceway.
The two title rivals will be close to each other once again on the grid for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Power claimed his record-breaking eighth pole of the season on Saturday and will have some help on the front row in Penske teammate Helio Castroneves. But Franchitti and his No. 10 Target machine will be lurking right behind them in third position at the start of the green flag.
Power is hoping to extend his 42-point lead in the final road race of the season, which will be completed by a stretch of four straight ovals starting on Aug. 28 at Chicagoland Speedway. He'll also look to erase memories of his vicious season-ending crash last year at Infineon with Nelson Philippe (see how the series and the track are trying to prevent that from happening again).
Meanwhile, Franchitti's goal remains unchanged despite cutting into Power's advantage at Mid-Ohio: Get ahead of the Australian and stay there. He stayed ahead of everyone last year at Infineon, where he took a wire-to-wire victory over Ryan Briscoe and Mike Conway.
Alex Tagliani has never raced at Infineon, but still managed to qualify fourth for Sunday. The third row is filled by Briscoe and Scott Dixon.
Quotes from the front-runners
12-Will Power, Verizon Team Penske, pole sitter/championship leader
"I mean, I knew it was going to be really tight. I could just see that through every session. Yup, we took a risk in the second session and almost didn't get through. I thought they were done then. But we probably should have just gone out instead of waited.
"Very happy to be on pole here. I'm very happy for Verizon, our first full season with them, we've had a record eight poles now. Yeah, we need to win tomorrow basically because we have four, five races left. Just got to get a points lead."
3-Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, outside front row
"This place is always good to be in the front. Certainly, it's difficult to pass. We have straightaways, but it's not quite straight. That's why it's so difficult. But at the end of the day it's all about a great job from all three guys in [Team Penske]. We keep trying different things and at the end of the day put it all together. Certainly, it's showing up in qualifying, to have all three cars in the top six."
10-Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 2nd in championship
"All we can do is do our best. All we can do is focus on doing our best and trying to win the next five races. If we can't win it, we got to finish second and concentrate on our car, what we're doing, not really worry too much about what Will is doing. He'll be going out with the same game plan. We'll keep our head down, keep focused, see what happens."
IZOD IndyCar Series
Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
1. 12-Will Power, Team Penske.
2. 3-Helio Castroneves, Team Penske.
3. 10-Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
4. 77-Alex Tagliani, FAZZT Race Team.
5. 6-Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske.
6. 9-Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
7. 22-Justin Wilson, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing.
8. 37-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport.
9. 11-Tony Kanaan, Andretti Autosport.
10. 2-Raphael Matos, De Ferran Dragon Racing.
11. 78-Simona de Silvestro, HVM Racing.
12. 4-Dan Wheldon, Panther Racing.
13. 34-Bertrand Baguette, Conquest Racing.
14. 06-Hideki Mutoh, Newman/Haas Racing.
15. 8-E.J. Viso, KV Racing Technology.
16. 02-Graham Rahal, Newman/Haas Racing.
17. 5-Takuma Sato, KV Racing Technology.
18. 26-Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport.
19. 24-J.R. Hildebrand, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing.
20. 32-Mario Moraes, KV Racing Technology
21. 14-Vitor Meira, A.J. Foyt Racing.
22. 19-Alex Lloyd, Dale Coyne Racing.
23. 7-Danica Patrick, Andretti Autosport.
24. 18-Milka Duno, Dale Coyne Racing.
25. 36-Francesco Dracone, Conquest Racing.