Photos: Mike Doran/Sonoma Raceway

Team Penske quartet completes critical test at Sonoma

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Team Penske will have an extra day of data and running in its pocket going into next week’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Sunday, Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), following today’s test at Sonoma Raceway.

The release from the track is below.

Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power completed a one-day test session at Sonoma Raceway on Thursday to prepare for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship race weekend at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 15-17.

This marks a particularly important test session for the Team Penske drivers, as all four are in championship contention. Newgarden (560 points) leads the point standings by a slim three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon with teammates Castroneves (538), defending series champion Pagenaud (526) and 2014 series champion Power (492) also within reach of the championship.

“We’re in a good position with the points lead, but it’s not anything secure,” said Newgarden. “We’ve got to have a good weekend here and I think having a test day like today is always helpful. What we learned today we want to apply to the race weekend. Team Penske has always been strong here, so we’ve got to execute on that.”

Despite wet conditions on Thursday morning, the drivers were able to get on track at noon and complete approximately five hours of testing throughout the afternoon.

“It was a little bit misty this morning and a little bit cooler, so we didn’t start right away, but at the end of the day the entire Team Penske got a little taste of what it’s going to be like next week and were able to try some interesting things,” said 2008 Sonoma race winner Castroneves. “So, right now, we feel more prepared than ever, but things can always change.”

Double points will be awarded for the season finale, which will mark the 12th consecutive year the IndyCar Series championship has been decided in the final race. With a win, the 26-year-old Tennessean Newgarden would celebrate a first championship in his inaugural year driving for Hall of Fame owner Roger Penske, but that will be no small feat, as the four drivers trailing him each boast at least one win in wine country.

“You can only control so much within the championship,” said Newgarden, who has posted a best finish of sixth in Sonoma. “The only thing we can really do is try to focus on winning the race and do the best job we can with that. If we win the race, we win the championship and for us that’s the best thing, that we control our own destiny.”

Pirelli reveals new super-hard, hyper-soft F1 tires in Abu Dhabi

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Pirelli has confirmed it will add two new tires to its range for the 2018 Formula 1 season, launching the ‘super-hard’ and ‘hyper-soft’ compounds in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Pirelli currently makes three of its five dry compounds available to teams for each race weekend, and despite varying selections across the course of the season has struggled to offer much in terms of strategy options, with one-stop races being the norm.

The hope is that the addition of two new tire compounds and a re-alignment of their durability will offer teams more choices in races.

Pirelli confirmed plans to introduce a new softest tire below the current ultra-soft earlier this month, inviting fans to pick a name.

The pink-colored compound will be known as the ‘hyper-soft’ from next year, with the arrival of a new ‘super-hard’ (colored ‘ice blue’) also being confirmed at a launch event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“Compared to this year, when the tires grew by 25% to fit a brand-new generation of cars, the changes for next year are less far-reaching,” Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola said.

“However, we’re pleased to present some important innovations with softer and faster compounds across the range: including the new hypersoft.

“We realized that, under the unique circumstances of this year, some of our 2017 compounds were perhaps conservative: the tires we have created for 2018 addresses this, in line with the objective of having around two pit stops at most races.

“However, the fundamental design concept of the tires hasn’t changed next year, preserving the attributes that all drivers have appreciated this year and allowing them to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.

“The new range consists of faster tires that should lead to even harder and more spectacular racing in 2018.”

Besides the seven dry compounds made available, there will be the two rain tires – wet and intermediate – taking it to a total of nine for the 2018 season.