Competition tight heading into qualifying

By Dave Lewandowski

SONOMA, Calif. – Over a 2.303-mile, 12-turn natural-terrain road course, 16 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers were separated by one second in a 60-minute practice session for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

That stat heralds another furious three rounds of qualifying, including the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six session, to determine the PEAK Performance Pole Award and starting grind for the Aug. 22 race (watch qualifications at 5:30 p.m. ET on indycar.com).

Dario Franchitti, the defending race winner, topped the time chart with a lap of 1 minute, 18.2970 seconds (105.889 mph) in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Will Power, the Mario Andretti Road Championship Trophy winner, was second (1:18.3011; 105.884) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

“We tested last week and it helped a lot but the track is different today,” Power said. “I think it is going to be very tight in qualifying. It is going to be tough to get into the Fast Six. There are a lot of Verizon people here this weekend. I’d love to win the race. We’re doing everything we can to do that.”

It was Alex Tagliani, however, who turned heads by springing to the top of the chart on his final lap in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/La Capsule Sportive/TorcUp FAZZT Race team entry with a lap of 1:18.5661. Surprising only because Tagliani hadn’t driven on the track before the session – his 10th season in open-wheel racing.

Tagliani is coming off a series-best fourth-place finish at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 8, in which he led 30 laps after starting 14th.

“I’m very happy with the session; the team did a fantastic job preparing the car,” Tagliani said. “We found some things in Mid-Ohio that have helped move us in the right direction. I think we turned a corner in Mid-Ohio and even though we didn’t get to test here the gains have stayed with us.

“This is my first time on this track so I think we’re going to need to follow the track and just keep getting a little quicker every outing. In general, I think we finally found something that we needed and we’ve got a car that can run up front.”

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (1:18.6070) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Justin Wilson (1:18.6161) rounded out the top five. Marco Andretti, who was ninth at Mid-Ohio, and Graham Rahal were sixth and seventh on the list.

source http://www.indycar.com

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