Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden claimed his first Verizon P1 Award as a Penske driver for the season finale GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. The Tennessee native who going into the race had a three point advantage over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon set a time of 01:15.5205s and in doing so collected the bonus points so goes into today’s race leading the championship by four points.
Speaking following the session, Newgarden who is driving the No.2 Hum by Verizon Chevrolet commented by saying:
I was just hoping we could get one of these (Verizon P1 Awards) this year. “We’ve been close a couple times and a couple places I felt like we had the speed to do it and didn’t get it done.
“It’s cool because this is the Verizon P1 Award and I’ve been driving the hum by Verizon car many races this year, and I haven’t been able to get it in its place.”
Newgarden is joined on the front row by team mate Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Chevrolet and speaking following the session, Power who set a 01:15.5559s commented by saying:
You start going back through the lap in your head. “I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, would have helped me braking actually, push back. It’s tight, it’s just like that sometimes. Gave it everything I got.
The Australian who still has an outside chance of winning the championship went on to say:
Qualifying was really great for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy crew and I. It was really just awesome for all of Team Penske with Josef Newgarden winning the pole and the rest of us starting up front. We had a little mistake in qualifying that set us back a bit that could have gotten us more speed but starting second isn’t bad. We’ll work hard tomorrow to get the car in the best possible spot to keep us up front. We need to do everything we can to stay up front to challenge to win the race and if things really go our way, we could have a shot at the championship. We’re ready to see what happens.
Defending series champion Simon Pagenaud in the No.1 DXC Chevrolet starts the race from third place on the grid with a 01:15.6356s and speaking following his session the Frenchman commented by saying:
That was really close. I can’t be unhappy with the DXC Technology Chevrolet. I thought we had as good a chance as any at the pole, but Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) were a little bit faster. Third is not a bad starting position at all. We’ll be right there if they make a mistake and right there to apply some pressure. We’ll continue to work on the car this evening and tomorrow morning in final practice, then put together our race strategy. We plan for it to be a great day for the No. 1 team, but expect it to be a great day for Team Penske.
Helio Castroneves in the No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet starts the race from fourth place having set a 01:15.8032s and speaking following the session the Brazilian commented by saying:
The talent of our group is incredible. Great job on Josef Newgarden winning the pole. Our team is really strong and we work really well together. It’s really exciting for Team Penske that we will start in the front tomorrow. I’d rather Josef get the pole and we get the victory. For us with the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, we wish we had a little more speed during qualifying. We have a great spot up front, but wish we had a little more. It’s going to be quite a battle tomorrow with my teammates and Scott Dixon and we are ready for the challenge.
Newgarden who heads into the race with four wins this season concluded by saying:
We were behind the eight ball there, for sure, after the first round. “We made the best decision we could as a group. There was no way we couldn’t run the reds (in first-round qualifying) because we just had no idea what people were going to run.
“We knew we’d be on our back foot then in the Fast Six, but this car was phenomenal.