Sonoma almost exclusively a Penske and Ganassi domain

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Going into this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 15th of 19 IZOD IndyCar Series races this year (4 p.m. EST, Sunday, NBCSN), the question is the same as entering Mid-Ohio: can anyone knock the Ganassi and Penske teams from the top of the standings?

After the unpredictability of the first half of this season, the established power teams of Ganassi, Penske and Andretti Autosport are undefeated in the last seven races. Collectively, the three of them have won all eight prior IndyCar-sanctioned races at Sonoma, with Andretti scoring the first two (2005 and 2006) and Penske (2008, 2010-12) and Ganassi (2007, 2009) taking the remaining six.

The last three years in particular, no team has been able to even enter the same zip code as the Ganassi and Penske squads. Since 2010, Penske and Ganassi drivers have taken 15 of the 18 Firestone Fast Six appearances on Saturday. On Sunday, only one driver outside Ganassi or Penske has even scored a top five – that was Rubens Barrichello in fourth a year ago.

You’d have to go back to 2009 to find the last time more than one driver outside of the Ganassi and Penske teams have invaded the top five.

Here’s the breakdown, with bolded drivers ones outside of Ganassi and Penske in either the top five in the race or Fast Six on Saturday:

Race Top 5

2012: Ryan Briscoe (Penske), Will Power (Penske), Dario Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Rubens Barrichello (KV), Graham Rahal (Service Central Ganassi)
2011: Power (Penske), Helio Castroneves (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Scott Dixon (Target Ganassi)
2010: Power (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Castroneves (Penske)
2009: Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Mike Conway (Dreyer & Reinbold), Mario Moraes (KV), Hideki Mutoh (Andretti)

Firestone Fast 6

2012: Power (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Sebastien Bourdais (Dragon), Castroneves (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi), Franchitti (Target Ganassi)
2011: Power (Penske), Helio Castroneves (Penske), Briscoe (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Dixon (Target Ganassi), James Hinchcliffe (Newman/Haas)
2010: Power (Penske), Castroneves (Penske), Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Alex Tagliani (FAZZT), Briscoe (Penske), Dixon (Target Ganassi)
2009: Franchitti (Target Ganassi), Briscoe (Penske), Castroneves (Penske), Marco Andretti (Andretti), Mutoh (Andretti), Rahal (Newman/Haas)

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

Audi Sport
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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”