The Verizon IndyCar Series Championship is down to the last race at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

sonomatest16msf-9318Simon Pagenaud on course during the open test at Sonoma Raceway — Photo by: Mike Finnegan

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Race weekend: Friday Sept. 16 – Sunday, Sept. 18

Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 2.385-mile permanent road course in Sonoma, Calif.

Race distance: 85 laps / 202.7 miles

Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 15 seconds each

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary and three sets alternate for use through the weekend

Twitter : @RaceSonoma, @IndyCar, #IndyCar, #GoProGP

Event website: http://RaceSonoma.com/

2015 race winner: Scott Dixon

2015 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1 minute, 16.2597 seconds, 112.589 mph

One-lap qualifying record: Will Power, 1:16.2597, 112.589 mph, Aug. 29, 2015 (set in Round 3 of qualifying)

NBCSN telecasts: Practice 3, 5 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 17 (tape); Qualifying, 6 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 17 (live); Race, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 18 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for NBCSN alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video streaming: All weekend practice sessions (2 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. ET Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday) will be available live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The module includes live timing and scoring.

INDYCAR Mobile app: Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app has been enhanced with new features to keep fans in the know of the latest race-day action. Exclusive features of the INDYCAR Mobile app for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and includes enhanced real-time leaderboard and car telemetry; the ability to follow the race in real time with the interactive 3D track; live in-car camera video streaming for select drivers during Verizon IndyCar Series races; live driver and pit crew radio transmissions during races and live Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio streaming during all track activities.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, Sept. 16
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
2:45 p.m.-4 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Saturday, Sept. 17
11-11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live), NBCSN at 2 p.m. PT (tape)
3:05-4:20 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live)

Sunday, Sept. 18
11:30 a.m.-noon – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
3:10 p.m. – Driver introductions
3:30 p.m. – NBCSN on air
3:43 p.m. – Start engines command
3:50 p.m. – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (85 laps/202.7 miles), NBCSN (live)

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 555, Power 512, Dixon 451, Castroneves 451, Newgarden 446, Kanaan 427, Rahal 403, Munoz 402, Kimball 389, Hinchcliffe 380.

sonomatest16msf-3785Will Power sets up for the esses during the open test at Sonoma Raceway — Photo by: Mike Finnegan

sonomatest16msf-0095James Hinchcliffe crests the Turn 2 hill during the open test at Sonoma Raceway — Photo by: Mike Finnegan

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Media Tour – Tuesday, September 13, 2016

jgs_2258-1– Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Championship facts:

• Simon Pagenaud leads the Indy car championship with one race remaining for the first time in his career. He trailed Will Power by 92 points with one race remaining in the 2014 season in the only other time he went into the finale with a chance to win the title.

• Simon Pagenaud leads Will Power by 43 points. Pagenaud has led the championship since Round 2 of the season at Phoenix International Raceway in April.

• There are two drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship: Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. Power previously won the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2014. Pagenaud has never won the championship.

• This is the 11th consecutive year that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be determined at the final race of the season.

• Seven drivers – Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz – were eliminated from championship contention at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 4.

• This is the 13th Indy car race at Sonoma. The winning driver at Sonoma has won the championship twice in the prior 12 races (Dario Franchitti in 2009, Scott Dixon in 2015). Dixon trailed Juan Pablo Montoya by 47 points heading into the 2015 finale, but won the double-points Sonoma race while Montoya finished sixth. The two finished tied in points, but Dixon won the championship by virtue of the first tiebreaker for most wins in the season (Dixon’s three to Montoya’s two).

Race notes:

• There have been eight different winners in the 15 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2016: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Phoenix International Raceway and Watkins Glen International), Simon Pagenaud (Streets of Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Alexander Rossi (Indianapolis 500), Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle-1), Will Power (Raceway at Belle Isle-2, Road America, Toronto and Pocono), Josef Newgarden (Iowa Speedway) and Graham Rahal (Texas Motor Speedway). Dixon’s win at Watkins Glen on Sept. 4 gave him sole possession of fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 40. He is the active leader in wins. Bourdais’ win at Belle Isle on June 4 tied him with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all-time list with 35 wins. Power’s win at Pocono on Aug. 22 tied him with Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves for 11th all-time with 29.

• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 11th road/street course race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with five drivers winning the previous 10 races: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg), Simon Pagenaud (Streets of Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1), Will Power (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2, Road America and Toronto) and Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen International).

• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 13th Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway. Scott Dixon is the two-time defending race winner. This will be the fifth race on the 12-turn, 2.385-mile layout. The Verizon IndyCar Series competed on a 12-turn, 2.303-mile layout from 2005-2011.

• Will Power and Scott Dixon are the only drivers to win at Sonoma more than once. Dixon won the race in 2007, 2014 and 2015, Power won in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Past winners Dixon, Power, Tony Kanaan (2005), Marco Andretti (2006) and Helio Castroneves (2008) are entered in this year’s race.

• Will Power has won five of the last six pole positions at Sonoma (2010-12 and 2014-15). Other past pole winners entered this weekend are Scott Dixon (2006) and Helio Castroneves (2008). Three drivers have won the race from the pole: Castroneves (2008), Dario Franchitti (2009) and Power (2010-11).

• Three drivers have competed in every race at Sonoma since Indy cars returned to the track in 2005: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon is the only driver to complete every lap in those 11 races.

• Will Power has three wins and five poles in his six previous starts at Sonoma.

• Team Penske has won at Sonoma five times, including four of the last six races with Will Power (2010-11 and 2013) and Ryan Briscoe (2012). Chip Ganassi Racing has won four times at Sonoma (Scott Dixon in 2007, 2014-15 and Dario Franchitti in 2009) and Andretti Autosport has won twice (Tony Kanaan in 2005 and Marco Andretti in 2006).

• Five rookies – Max Chilton, Conor Daly, RC Enerson, Spencer Pigot and Alexander Rossi – are entered. Rossi leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 75 points over Daly. They are the only drivers still in contention for top series rookie honors.

• Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 265th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 206 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.

• Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 327th career Indy car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 326th Indy car start, which is fifth all-time. Charlie Kimball looks to make his 100th career start this weekend.

• The 2016 season is the second in which aerodynamic bodywork component kits are used on all Verizon IndyCar Series cars. The aero kits, produced by engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda for their respective supplied teams, are the latest technical innovation to enhance on-track performance through competitive aerodynamic development. Each manufacturer produces two kits for teams – one for short ovals/road courses/street courses and another for superspeedway ovals – but within each kit, teams have multiple component options available.

• The second season of aero kit competition complements the fifth year of engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet and Honda with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. It will be another season testing speed and durability to determine the manufacturer champion. Chevrolet, which has won four straight manufacturers’ titles, leads Honda by 71 points heading into the 2016 finale at Sonoma.

sonomatest16msf-9537Alexander Rossi on course during the open test at Sonoma Raceway — Photo by: Mike Finnegan

Alexander Rossi Homecoming and Constitution Day Parade – Sunday, September 11, 2016

jgs_1884-1— Photo by: Joe Skibinski

jgs_1798-1— Photo by: Joe Skibinski

jgs_1821-1– Photo by: Joe Skibinski

jgs_1675-1— Photo by: Joe Skibinski

GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA PRE-RACE QUOTES:

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Sonoma is a great place to close out the season. The track is challenging and competitive. It’s a place that really displays what the cars are capable of. We’ll have the hum by Verizon Chevy this weekend and I’m really excited about it. This season didn’t play out the way we wanted, but at the end of the day it is a championship season for Team Penske. A championship for our team was the primary goal, obviously, but getting one for the team is just behind that.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The championship is not available for us, but there is still plenty to race for. Final points position is still up in the air, as is winning the race. The No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet team has been tenacious all season long and we’ll finish strong. Sonoma is a track that we’re very familiar with. It’s very challenging and we’ve had good results there. I don’t think our finishes there the last couple of years is representative of the car we had. I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there and closing out the season on a strong note.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Obviously, I’m sad that the 2016 season is coming to an end, but there’s no better place to do that than Sonoma Raceway. The test last week was not as smooth as we would’ve liked, but that has happened a few times this year and each time we came back for the race much stronger. I’ve got full confidence in my Arrow Electronics team to come back strong and finish the season on a high.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “It’s going to be great to be back at Sonoma Raceway because I really enjoy that track. I have a lot of good memories from races I’ve done there and I’ll do my best to have another good finish for the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale. The SPM team has had some good momentum in the second half of the season so I hope we can put the No. 7 SMP Racing car up front to finish where we deserve to be.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We’ve done some testing at Sonoma this year and that’s always good to have in your back pocket when you’re a rookie in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Scott (Dixon) has won here the past two years and (CGR driver advisor) Dario Franchitti has been to victory lane in Sonoma as well, so I have a lot of good information to go off of. I hope we can continue to improve on our results and end the season on a high note for the Gallagher team.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, 2015 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma winner): “Sonoma is very hard to beat as a venue. You really have it all there. Flying into San Francisco, wine country, the Sonoma downtown area – what more can you ask for? It’s a huge event for our partners as well, with Target bringing hundreds of guests to attend the race and cheer us on. They come for the racing and the wine, so it’s an easy sell for the team. The track itself has the elevation changes and the flowing corners, and it proved to put on a great show for the championship finale last season.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to heading back to Sonoma this weekend and getting back on-track for the last race of the season. Our test last week at Sonoma was very productive and I think we were able to gather a lot of good data between the four Ganassi drivers. We had some issues in Watkins Glen that really hurt our race, so I think all of NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing wants to get back out there to put up a good result and end the season on a high note.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “Unfortunately, KVSH Racing didn’t test at Sonoma (last) week, but we have had a good race car on the permanent road circuits this year – especially last (race) weekend at Watkins Glen. Hopefully, we will come off the transporter with a good baseline and be competitive. The season finale in Sonoma is worth double points, so we still have a chance to finish in the top 10 and that is our goal. We just have to keep working hard and do the best we can.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s been a wild season. The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team didn’t have the best start even beyond the stuff at St. Petersburg (which Power missed with an inner-ear infection). We got it together, though, and being in a position to win the championship is awesome. The fact that it’s going to be a Team Penske championship is great, too. We all set out to win for ourselves and the team, so to be able to deliver a championship for Roger (Penske) in this special 50th season is special. Sonoma has been good to us over the years, but I’m not sure how much that matters. Every race has its own circumstances and every team has to make the needed adjustments. It will be an exciting weekend, for sure.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I feel the same way every year, but again I can’t believe it’s already the last race of the season. Sonoma Raceway is a very challenging track and I enjoy driving there a lot. We have had strong finishes at Sonoma so I hope we can repeat that in this season’s final race. It’s obviously a fantastic venue as it’s in wine country, where you have so many choices of great restaurants plus beautiful weather. Fans and guests always enjoy these plusses in addition to the racing and so do I.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “I am excited to get to Sonoma Raceway and just try to get another win this year. We need it, we want it and I think we can get it. We have nothing to lose, really. I think we should be very strong, but based on testing I think a lot of teams will be strong. Then again, when you show up for the race weekend, the cream rises to the top and I think we are in that group. My guys have been very focused amidst this busy, difficult season and I think we can get rewarded with a great result this weekend. I do not want to pressure ourselves, but I think we certainly deserve to be a top-five car at the end of the season.”

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda): “The Sonoma race is a big weekend with double points, so it was nice to have a test day before that. We have more information than we did previously and information is key. I’ve never raced there before so I learned a lot about the track; it was another new experience for me. It’s a cool place, for sure. It’s a great area and a great racetrack. The whole thing is interesting and presents challenges. It’s sort of low grip for a road course, but I really enjoyed it. It’s the last race of the season and we have to do the best we can. It would be nice to close out the season with a win, obviously, we’ve been close. It’s near impossible to get the Sunoco Rookie of the Year but the best we can do is try and go out and give it everything. Go big or go home and that’s how we’ll have to approach it. I’m more dedicated than ever to try and get a win before the season ends.”

RC ENERSON (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “I think the test went all right. We were trying different things, we made progress and I think it was a pretty positive test overall. We’re coming off a good result at Watkins Glen and the team spirits are pretty high right now. We just need to keep pushing forward with the car and with myself as well on the driving side and see what we can bring home for the finale. I know it’s double points and there’s people battling for a championship, but we’re there to show what we can do. I think it’s a pretty cool track. It’s definitely different. It’s like if you added a bunch of different tracks altogether. You have some high speed, you have some really sharp low-speed corners, some big braking zones, so I think it’s a good mixture. I think it will be a little tough to pass since there’s not really a straightaway that’s actually straight for a while, so it will be tough for any of that to happen but it’s a fun and interesting track.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Samsung/Fuzzy’s Vodka/ECR Chevrolet): “I haven’t raced at Sonoma Raceway since 2014, so I’m excited to be going back. It’s a very challenging track with lots of elevation changes and a good combination of slow and fast corners. We learned a lot at the test, so hopefully we will come back strong for the race. I’ve really enjoyed my rookie season in IndyCar and I’ll be giving it my best to end the year on a high note.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet): “I’m excited to get back to Sonoma Raceway, it’s great to race there for the finale. We’ve had an awesome season with the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka car and we’re looking to finish things off right. Sonoma’s been good to us the last couple of years with starting on the front row after the last two qualifying sessions there. We need to try and replicate that, then have a good, strong finish and see where that puts us in the championship.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader): “I’m looking forward to getting to Sonoma. This is our big season finale and I’m very excited to get to battle it out on the track. It’s a place where I’ve done pretty well in the past and I was very pleased with our test last week in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet. Obviously, this weekend is going to be intense regarding the driver championship and I’m very proud with our result in Watkins Glen that we could bring the team championship in this special 50th season to Team Penske. Now, the job for our HPE Chevy team is a little different than usual, as we are only fighting Will Power. Our season has been incredible. I am so proud of my team and what we have already accomplished with six poles and four wins. Now we want the championship and may the best win.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 hhgregg Honda): “Looking forward to going to Sonoma. It is not one of the tracks that I have done very well at, if I’m honest. But in testing, the team was quick so let’s see what we can bring home for the hhgregg car the last race of the season.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We need to end the season on a high note after a horrible season. With double points earned for this race, it can hopefully move us up the running order in the championship.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Sonoma is certainly one of the highlights on the schedule for many reasons. From a competition standpoint, we have finished runner-up the last two years here, so we’re really working hard to get that breakthrough win. We just completed a very encouraging test where we led the a.m., p.m. and overall sessions. Hopefully we can translate that speed to the race weekend. DHL, AutoNation, Honda and all of our partners deserve a win before the season is over and we’re determined to get that done.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Sonoma Raceway is the most difficult track on the schedule for the drivers and engineers. Very low grip but with some high-speed corners which require support from the car. Track conditions can change a lot throughout the day as well.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): “We had a really good test last week at Sonoma Raceway. The No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet crew worked through a lot of development programs that gave us a really good direction for when we go back for the race. I’m really excited – I love racing at Sonoma Raceway and being back on the West Coast is always great. But at the same time, it’s a little bittersweet because it’s the last race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team has had a good year and I think it’d be even better if we could finish it off with a podium or victory this weekend. This will be my 100th career Indy car start so I’m hoping it’s a memorable finish, too.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “There is so much that I am looking forward to this weekend, that it’s hard to choose just one thing. Whether it’s my home race in California, double-points season finale or the fact that 100-plus friends and family are coming out to watch – some for the first time. I want to take all of this energy and use it as even more fuel to end the season on a high note. I’m proud of how the No. 98 team has steadily improved throughout the year and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish this weekend.”

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