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Newgarden secures crucial pole at Sonoma in Penske 1-4 sweep

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden delivered his second – and easily his most important – career pole position for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in qualifying today.

Newgarden’s eventual lap of 1:15.5205 was a new track record and only edged teammate Will Power at 1:15.5556 for the top spot. The pole is Newgarden’s first since Milwaukee 2015, which was done on the same day as the race.

Beyond the front row it was Simon Pagenaud third and Helio Castroneves fourth, with Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon completing the top six.

The Team Penske team has now qualified in the top four positions for the third time this year after also doing so at Road America and Gateway. Castroneves and Power had the two pole positions at those two races.

Newgarden enters the weekend with a three-point lead but now garners a crucial bonus point.

“We were first out. I think it would have been risky for us to save a set of reds like the second group. And we knew we knew we’d be on our back foot there in the Fast Six. But, this car was phenomenal. It’s cool because this is the Verizon P1 award. I’ve been driving a Hum car many races this year by Verizon and I haven’t been able to get it in this place, so I’m happy to have those guys on board. They do so much for this sport. And it’s a good start for our weekend,” Newgarden said.

The full report is below.

In Q1, Josef Newgarden laid waste to the previous track record. The driver of the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet obliterated Simon Pagenaud’s previous mark of 1:16.2530, with Newgarden lapping the 2.385-mile circuit at a lap of 1:15.7917.

Beyond Newgarden, Andretti Autosport’s trio of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato were next, followed by two of Chip Ganassi Racing’s drivers in Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon, at more than 1.1 seconds behind Newgarden, had to be left stupefied by the pace displayed.

Those knocked out included Conor Daly, best of the rest in the first of two ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets for A.J. Foyt, fellow Americans Charlie Kimball and Spencer Pigot, and Indy Lights veterans Jack Harvey and Zachary Claman DeMelo. Claman DeMelo, in his maiden IndyCar start, was less than a tenth behind Harvey and will roll off 21st in his No. 13 Paysafe Honda.

Q2 saw the other three Penske drivers only run on blacks, and Helio Castroneves gambled by running only once in the session. Still, his time held up enough at a best time of 1:16.5534 to be fifth in his group.

Will Power led it at 1:16.1236 with Simon Pagenaud second at 1:16.2220 – both times ahead of Pagenaud’s previous track record mark – and with both times on blacks. Marco Andretti was third, top Honda in the session, at 1:16.3298 on the reds ahead of Graham Rahal, Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais.

Those knocked out were Max Chilton, who said this was one of his better qualifying efforts even if the result didn’t back it up, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, JR Hildebrand and Carlos Munoz.

All the Penskes needed to go to reds in Q2, and one by one they set their mark.

First Power dropped a 1:15.9919, followed by Castroneves at 1:15.9602, then Newgarden at 1:15.7325, and then Pagenaud at 1:15.7120 – which beat Newgarden’s earlier track record set in Q1.

Behind the Penske quartet, Sato and Dixon upheld Honda’s honor versus the four Chevrolets to advance.

Dixon though had to dodge several bullets to advance through to the Firestone Fast Six for the ninth time in as many opportunities this season. And with all of Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Rahal, Bourdais, Andretti and Kanaan coming short, Dixon made it through.

Several fast laps were exchanged in the Fast Six but ultimately it was Newgarden prevailing – only just – by 0.0351 of a second.


SONOMA, California – Qualifying Saturday for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile(s) Sonoma Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.