The Verizon IndyCar Series will present its championship weekend at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma for the second straight year. The race is the competitive series’ final event of the 2016 season.
The finale gets under way on Sunday, September 18th at 7:00 p.m. ET. The race will be shown for your viewing pleasure on the NBC Sports Network. Furthermore, The finale marks the 11th straight year that the championship will be decided in the finale.
Simon Pagenaud, has raced his way to an impressive four wins this season. The Frenchman also reeled in seven pole positions. As a result, he holds a 43 point lead over his Team Penske teammate Will Power. This will be Powers last chance to catch Pagenaud in the final race for the Astor Cup.
There will be double points on the line in the GoPro Grand Prix. Therefore, a strong performance is still a must for Simon Pagenaud. The points leader has five starts under his belt at Sonoma Raceway.
He has accumulated two top five results including a career best finish of third in 2014. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar season is the speedster’s second with Team Penske and seventh in the IndyCar racing series.
“For the championship, the day in Watkins Glen was very good,” said Pagenaud, who will clinch the title with a finish of fourth or better in Sonoma. “We also collected a lot of points and have a cushion going into Sonoma. We still have to race hard, but it’s also going to be a lot more comfortable. This track is really good for the drivability of the engine. There’s a lot of slow corners and high speed corners. Furthermore, there is a lot of elevation change. It’s always really interesting to be here.”
Second place point holder Will Power, has won three times in Northern California. Furthermore, he has sped his way to five pole positions over the last six campaigns. The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion still is in striking distance for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar championship.
In last years finale, series leader Juan Pablo Montoya held a 47 point bulge over Scott Dixon. After some on track fiascoes and a strong performance from Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s team, the underdog prevailed. In the end, it was Dixon who held off season-long points leader Juan Pablo Montoya for the championship.
“I think that the double points will make it very interesting and exciting for the finale,” said Power. I definitely consider it one of my best racetracks. I’ve also had a lot of highs and a few lows there. It is going to provide a great venue for the final race of the season.”
Will Power’s status for the GoPro Grand Prix in Sonoma was up in the air over the last 48 hours. He made hard contact with Charlie Kimball. As a result, he was taken out of Sunday’s race at The Glen. Unfortunately, Power was still being evaluated even after the finish of the event.
The incident occurred on Lap 39 of the IndyCar Grand Prix at Watkins Glen Road Course. Will Power’s #12 Penske Chevrolet got hit and smashed into a barrier along the side of the track.
“Will is doing fine,” Dr. Olvey said. “He flew down to the University of Miami Concussion Center early this morning. We also conducted two sophisticated tests to determine if he’d suffered a concussion over the weekend. He passed both of them with no issue whatsoever.”
Graham Rahal comes into the GoPro Grand Prix sitting seventh in the point standings. Unfortunately, even with the double points being doled out in Sunday’s contest, Rahal still has no possible chance to claim his first Verizon IndyCar Series’ title.
Although, there is an interesting scenario that could take place in the feisty drivers final race. If Graham Rahal has an impressive run in in the last match of the year, combined with a bad outing from the other racers currently ahead of him in the standings, Rahal could still finish the year on the podium in the third spot.
Of course, that’s if everything falls into place like a well put together puzzle. Yet, at the end of the day, Graham Rahal must improve upon his last performance on a road course. In Rahal’s last race at Watkins Glen, he tallied a season-worst 21st after being caught up in contact with a fellow driver.
“I am excited to get to Sonoma Raceway and just try to get another win this year,” Rahal said. “We need it, we also want it and I think we can get it. I have nothing to lose, really. We should be very strong, based on our testing. I also 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.”
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