IndyCar Go-Pro GP of Sonoma Race Preview
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Fast Facts
Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 2.385-mile permanent road course in Sonoma, California
Entry list: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (PDF)
Race distance: 85 laps / 202.7 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race.
Twitter: @RaceSonoma, @IndyCar, #IndyCar, #GoProGP
Event website: www.SonomaRaceway.com/
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2016 race winner: Simon Pagenaud
2016 Verizon P1 Award winner: Simon Pagenaud, 1 minute, 16.2565 seconds, 112.594 mph
Qualifying record: Simon Pagenaud, 1:16.2530, 112.599 mph, Sept. 17, 2016 (set in Round 1 of qualifying)
NBCSN telecasts: Practice 2, 5 p.m. ET Friday, Sept. 15 (live); Qualifying, 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 16 (live); Race, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 17 (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.
At-track schedule (all times local):
Thursday, Sept. 14
• This is the 14th Indy car race at Sonoma. The winning driver at Sonoma has won the championship three times in the prior 13 races (Dario Franchitti in 2009, Scott Dixon in 2015 and Simon Pagenaud in 2016).
championship will be decided in the final race.
Point differential: The three points that separate Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon atop the standings is the closest margin with one race to go since 2007 when Dario Franchitti led Dixon by three points. The closest margin with one race to go was 2006, when Helio Castroneves led Sam Hornish Jr. by one point. The average deficit with one to go since 2006 is 19.6 points. The 22 points between Newgarden and third-place Helio Castroneves is the closest margin between first and third since 2009, when just eight points separated the top three.
Championship-eligible drivers results at Sonoma: Josef Newgarden has never finished in the top five at Sonoma. He recorded his best finish (sixth) in five starts in 2014; Scott Dixon has six top-five finishes in 12 starts, including wins in 2007, 2014 and 2015; Helio Castroneves has six top-five finishes in 12 starts, including a win in 2008; Simon Pagenaud has three top-five finishes in six starts, including his win in 2016; Will Power has four podium finishes in six starts, including wins in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
• There have been 10 different winners in the 16 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2017: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), James Hinchcliffe (Streets of Long Beach), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park, Streets of Toronto, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Gateway Motorsports Park), Simon Pagenaud (Phoenix Raceway), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway), Takuma Sato (Indianapolis 500), Graham Rahal (Raceway at Belle Isle-1 and Raceway at Belle Isle-2), Scott Dixon (Road America), Helio Castroneves (Iowa Speedway) and Alexander Rossi (Watkins Glen International). A new winner at Sonoma would equal the Indy car all-time record of 11 in a season, which has occurred three times, most recently in 2014. Bourdais' win at St. Pete on March 12 gave him sole possession of sixth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 36 wins. Dixon's win at Road America on June 25 was his 41st career victory and he will tie Michael Andretti for third all time with his next win. Castroneves' win at Iowa on July 9 ended a 54-race winless streak and gave him sole possession of 12th all- time with 30 wins. Power's win at Pocono on Aug. 20 gave him sole possession of ninth on the all-time list with 32 wins.
• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 11th road/street course race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with seven drivers winning the previous 10 races: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), James Hinchcliffe (Streets of Long Beach), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park, Streets of Toronto, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix), Graham Rahal (Raceway at Belle Isle-1 and Raceway at Belle Isle-2), Scott Dixon (Road America and Alexander Rossi (Watkins Glen International).
• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 14th Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway. Simon Pagenaud is the defending race winner. This will be the sixth 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), Helio Castroneves (2008) and Simon Pagenaud (2016) are entered in this year's race.
• Will Power has won five of the last seven pole positions at Sonoma (2010-12 and 2014-15). Other past pole winners entered this weekend are Scott Dixon (2006), Helio Castroneves (2008) and Simon Pagenaud (2016). Four drivers have won the race from the pole: Castroneves (2008), Dario Franchitti (2009), Power (2010-11) and Pagenaud (2016).
• 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 12 races.
• Team Penske has won at Sonoma six times, including five of the last seven races with Will Power (2010-11 and 2013), Ryan Briscoe (2012) and Simon Pagenaud (2016). 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).
• At least three rookies - Jack Harvey, Ed Jones and Zachary Claman DeMelo - are entered. Jones has already clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for 2017. Claman DeMelo is attempting to make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut.
• Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 282nd consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 223 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti has made 199 consecutive starts, which is the fourth-longest streak in Indy car racing and the most of any driver to start their Indy car career.
• Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 344th career Indy car start, which ranks third on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan is fourth all-time with 342 starts heading into the weekend.
GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "Sonoma is a beautiful place and the track is one of the best on the circuit. It's also where I won the race last year and won my first championship, so it's definitely a place that means a lot to me. We've worked hard this season in the No. 1 DXC Technology Chevy and have some things we're excited to try at Sonoma. We have a great shot at the title, and we're ready to challenge Scott Dixon and my Team Penske teammates for it. My team has worked hard to get to this championship fight, and they put together a strong car for Sonoma. I feel great about our chances. We're ready to get on track and put everything we can into the race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) : "It all comes down to this. We had a strong car at Watkins Glen and were able to run toward the front of the pack. We're ready to take what we learned at that race and all season to apply to the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet. I want a championship so bad and all of my guys definitely want one, too. We've worked hard to have strong finishes this season and know if we have a great race and win, we just might win the championship, which is really exciting. Sonoma is always a great race, and it will definitely be a challenge with (Scott) Dixon and my Team Penske teammates also battling for the title. We got some track time last week with a test day and some more this week. Every team's goal at the beginning of the season is a championship and we're in a position to realize ours."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Sonoma is a beautiful venue and a terrific place to finish off the season. Double-points races have yet to go well for me, but obviously, we plan on turning that around. We've had a string of pretty good races going, and there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to keep the results coming. I'm very happy to have an extra test day before the weekend because each time this year we've had good races at places, we've tested at those tracks before the race weekend. The more information we can have before qualifying, the better."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "The week we had off was a welcome reprieve after the luck we had at the Glen. I'm happy to put that behind us and move forward as we come into the finale in Sonoma. We had a preseason test there in very wet and cold conditions, so the extra track time we'll get this Thursday will be a nice way to kick of the weekend. I'm hopeful the Arrow crew and I will be able to bring home a good result to finish out the season."
JACK HARVEY (No. 7 AutoNation Honda): "Sonoma holds a lot of good memories for me with winning two races here in Indy Lights and having my first Indy car test here, which was with SPM (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports). I'm hoping to add to those memories this weekend and keep building off all the positive we had at the Glen. I'm excited to have everyone from AutoNation and Sirius XM come out this week to support me and the team."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda) : "Sonoma is always a roller coaster of a track to drive. The car and your body are put through its paces as the forces of the car take you through many compressions due to the blind dips and rises. It's situated in one of the best areas we visit all year, and I can't wait to capitalize on the double points."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "After our last few races, we'd really just like to finish out with a good result this weekend in Sonoma to take into the offseason. Obviously we're all really focused on doing as much as we can to help Scott (Dixon) take his fifth championship and a good result for the No. 10 car would definitely help in making sure that happens. I think it's going to be a really exciting season finale and I'm looking forward to ending the season on a positive note, especially with all of our friends from NTT Data attending the race."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Watkins Glen was a tough race but we came out with a strong finish. Now we're heading to Sonoma. We're a little further back in points, but if things go our way, the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team could win another championship, which has definitely been a goal of ours. Since the last race, my crew has worked on the car and is trying some new things that should really pay off in the end. We'll be battling other strong teams including (Scott) Dixon and my Team Penske teammates, so it won't be easy. We've worked hard all season long, and although we've had some bad luck, we're ready to put that all behind us and give this race everything we have."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DEMELO (No. 13 Paysafe Honda): ""Since I made the move to cars from karts, I always knew that I either wanted to get a chance to race in INDYCAR or F1. So to get this opportunity is a big deal for me, and I can't thank Paysafe and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing enough. I think Sonoma in general is a great track. It's really up and down, which is exciting. You have some fast sections and hard braking and a lot of blind corners, so it's a cool place with a bit of everything. My favorite part would have to be Turn 2. It's just so uphill and really fun to drive. I've been in the gym every day. I want to make sure I'm in the best shape I can be and make a big splash at Sonoma. I've been watching as many onboard videos as possible and staying in touch with the team. My approach is going to be to go in with an open mind and learn as much as I can. I think to set expectations is always hard, but as a driver and competitive person I want to be at the front running with the best guys and showing that I can compete. If I had to set one goal throughout the weekend, it would just be to keep on progressing and learn every time I go out on track."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Sonoma is really different from Watkins Glen. We're arriving at a track that doesn't have a lot of grip from a track that has a lot of grip, so it's going to be a really weird feeling in the beginning -at least the first couple of laps in the car. Sonoma is a really difficult track because it changes so much from the morning to the afternoon. I think you have to be competitive in the heat because qualifying is at that time and also the race, so I think you have to prepare a car for the heat. It's a double-points race and our goal is to be the second Chevy team in the championship, which I think we are close to making that happen. It's been a tough season, especially in the beginning, but we have improved a lot over the season. Race by race, I think we've been really good. We've been in the top 10 in a few races, so I'm looking forward to finishing the season on a high note. Our team worked really well the whole year even though the circumstances weren't the best, but I think we will finish strong."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals / SoldierStrong Honda): "Expectations are always high going into a race weekend, but I think we have been good on the road courses this year overall. We have a lot to work on, though. I don't think we were great at Watkins Glen, which was disappointing, but we just need to keep working hard like we have been and put the United Rentals / SoldierStrong Honda up front. We've got one race to go, and it's important to us to finish off strong and try to get in the top five in the championship. Everything is going to have to go our way to do that. We are close to (Alexander) Rossi and not that far off of (Will) Power, so we'll keep our heads down and keep working hard. We lost two opportunities towards the end of the season at Pocono and St. Louis, which was disappointing, but certainly Sonoma should be a good one for us. We'll see how it plays out. We want to finish the season strong."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "We're hoping for some better luck at Sonoma this weekend. At Watkins Glen, we were looking good but ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm definitely looking forward to Sonoma. It's a place where I've regularly been fast. It's a tough, technical place which gets really slick when it gets hot. Not so long ago, it was 111 degrees so we can expect some heat over there and hope for a good day. It's going to be our last race (of the season), so if we could make a little statement and finish strong, it would be great. It would be nice to enter the offseason with a nice result to look at."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I've never raced in Sonoma before, but I did get to test with the team there earlier this season. It's going to be completely different from our last race at Watkins Glen, going from a super-high-grip track to a track that falls off really quickly. It's going to also be very hot compared to our last race, where it was on the cold side, so polar opposites, really. We'll see how we get on, but when we tested there we had a pretty decent car. I can't wait, hopefully we can finish the season strong."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "Sonoma is always a difficult race. It's the final race of the season, so everyone will be trying to end their year on a high note, and we will be doing the same. We didn't have a great race last year after an issue took us out before halfway, so we will be looking to make a big step forward this time around. We had a productive test there earlier in the season, so hopefully some of those gains will translate to pace on race weekend. Everyone on the Fuzzy's Vodka cars will be doing their best for a strong finale before some much-deserved time off."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "I've been going to Sonoma Raceway since I was a kid, and it was probably the first racetrack I went to with my dad. I grew up racing at Sonoma and went through the whole system. Pretty much everything I've ever raced, I've raced there at some point. The cool thing about Sonoma is it's such a unique track. They have always featured so many types of racing and growing up with that variety is part of what made me passionate about racing. It is very cool to have the season finale at my home track."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "I cannot believe it's already the last race of the season, but Sonoma is the perfect venue for the finale. It's a gorgeous area for wine and foods, so of course we all enjoy the fantastic environment alongside of extremely exciting racing. The track is challenging and tricky, but we have been fast in the recent road courses and the team has good history on this track. I'm really looking forward to having a good race in the Dickinson car."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "Sonoma has been good to me in the past, and I think we should be strong here again this year. It is my favorite track on the schedule, and it's important for the UFD team to end the season on a high note, especially with double points up for grabs this weekend."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "First of all, I'd like to say on behalf of my family, we're keeping our fellow Floridians and everyone else affected by the recent hurricanes in our thoughts. I'm really looking forward to getting to Sonoma for the season finale. The DHL Honda has been strong there the last few years, and the team is looking to keep the momentum rolling after last (race's) podium. It's our last chance to win this year, so we're going to give it our all and look to end the season on a high note."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "I'm looking forward to going back to the 'best coast' for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. The track has been good to me in the past, so hopefully we can finish out the year on a high note. If I had to give one word to describe the 2017 season for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team, it'd be resilient. Through the ups and downs, the whole team has never settled and kept fighting back. Sonoma Raceway always presents unique challenges for us drivers, with a lot of elevation changes and a good mix of both flowing and sharp corners. We'll see what it has in store for us this year and be ready at the green flag."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda) : "It was a big confidence booster to get our first pole and win of the season in the NAPA car at The Glen, and it couldn't have come at a better time as we head into my home race. Sonoma is always a special event for me, as there is a lot of local support from my hometown that shows up and gives me the extra motivation to get a good result. We have all the pieces in place to succeed, so it's now just about executing and doing our job come race day."
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