Sonoma almost exclusively a Penske and Ganassi domain

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Going into this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 15th of 19 IZOD IndyCar Series races this year (4 p.m. EST, Sunday, NBCSN), the question is the same as entering Mid-Ohio: can anyone knock the Ganassi and Penske teams from the top of the standings?

After the unpredictability of the first half of this season, the established power teams of Ganassi, Penske and Andretti Autosport are undefeated in the last seven races. Collectively, the three of them have won all eight prior IndyCar-sanctioned races at Sonoma, with Andretti scoring the first two (2005 and 2006) and Penske (2008, 2010-12) and Ganassi (2007, 2009) taking the remaining six.

The last three years in particular, no team has been able to even enter the same zip code as the Ganassi and Penske squads. Since 2010, Penske and Ganassi drivers have taken 15 of the 18 Firestone Fast Six appearances on Saturday. On Sunday, only one driver outside Ganassi or Penske has even scored a top five – that was Rubens Barrichello in fourth a year ago.

You’d have to go back to 2009 to find the last time more than one driver outside of the Ganassi and Penske teams have invaded the top five.

Here’s the breakdown, with bolded drivers ones outside of Ganassi and Penske in either the top five in the race or Fast Six on Saturday:

Race Top 5

2012: Ryan Briscoe (Penske), Will Power (Penske), Dario Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Rubens Barrichello (KV), Graham Rahal (Service Central Ganassi)
2011: Power (Penske), Helio Castroneves (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Scott Dixon (Target Ganassi)
2010: Power (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Castroneves (Penske)
2009: Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Mike Conway (Dreyer & Reinbold), Mario Moraes (KV), Hideki Mutoh (Andretti)

Firestone Fast 6

2012: Power (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Sebastien Bourdais (Dragon), Castroneves (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi), Franchitti (Target Ganassi)
2011: Power (Penske), Helio Castroneves (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Dixon (Target Ganassi), James Hinchcliffe (Newman/Haas)
2010: Power (Penske), Castroneves (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Alex Tagliani (FAZZT), Briscoe (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi)
2009: Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Castroneves (Penske), Marco Andretti (Andretti), Mutoh (Andretti), Rahal (Newman/Haas)

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III