Fast Facts: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

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Courtesy of INDYCAR PR, here’s all you need to know ahead of this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 16th and final round this season:

Date: Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015
Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 2.385-mile permanent road course in Sonoma, Calif.
Race distance: 85 laps / 202.7 miles
Entry List: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
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/ 
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com 
2014 race winner: Scott Dixon
2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1 minute, 17.4126 seconds, 110.912 mph
One-lap qualifying record: Will Power, 1:17.2393 seconds, 111.161 mph, Aug. 23, 2014 (Set in Round 1 of Qualifying)

NBCSN television broadcasts: Practice, 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 29 (live); Qualifying, 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 29 (live); Race, 4 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 30 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Paul Page is chief announcer with analyst Davey Hamilton. Pit reporters are Dave Furst, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young, with Mark Jaynes and Jake Query serving as the turn announcers. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying and races air live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 15 app. Practice sessions are available on IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 15 app.

Video streaming: Practice sessions not televised are available live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

INDYCAR 15 app: The Verizon INDYCAR 15 app has exclusive features for Verizon Wireless customers, including interactive 3D Live View with real-time leaderboard and car telemetry to see where drivers are positioned, a leaderboard with enhanced 2D “marching ants” and car telemetry, in-car camera video streams from cameras that move 360 degrees and driver-pit crew chatter during the race.

At-track schedule (all times local): 

Friday, Aug. 28
2:30-6 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 1

Saturday, Aug. 29
10:45-11:30 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 2, NBCSN (live)
3:05-4:20 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live beginning at 3:30 p.m.)

Sunday Aug. 30
10-10:30 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup
1 p.m. – NBCSN on air
2:07 p.m. – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (85 laps/202.7 miles), NBCSN (live)

Championship facts:

• Juan Pablo Montoya leads the Indy car championship with one race remaining for the first time in his career. He trailed Dario Franchitti with one race remaining in the 1999 CART season when he claimed his first Indy car championship.

• Montoya leads Graham Rahal by 34 points. Montoya has led the championship since winning the opening round of the championship at St. Petersburg in March.

• There are six drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship: Montoya, Rahal, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Three drivers – Montoya, Dixon and Power – have previously won Indy car titles.

• Four drivers – Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud – were eliminated from championship contention at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23.

• This is the 12th Indy car race at Sonoma. The winning driver at Sonoma has won the championship once in the prior 11 races (Franchitti, 2009).

Race notes:

* There have been nine different winners in 15 Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2015: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg and Indianapolis 500), James Hinchcliffe (NOLA Motorsports Park), Scott Dixon (Streets of Long Beach and Texas Motor Speedway), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park and Streets of Toronto), Will Power (Grand Prix of Indianapolis), Carlos Munoz (Raceway at Belle Isle-1), Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle-2 and Milwaukee), Graham Rahal (Auto Club Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway). In 2014, there were a record-tying 11 different race winners. Dixon’s win at Long Beach on April 19gave him sole possession of fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 36. He is the active leader in wins with 37 after his victory at Texas on June 6.

* The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 10th road/street course race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with a different driver winning eight of the previous nine races: Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg), Hinchcliffe (NOLA Motorsports Park), Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park and Toronto), Power (Grand Prix of Indianapolis), Munoz (Raceway at Belle Isle-1), Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle-2) and Rahal (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course).

* The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 12th Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway. Dixon is the defending race winner. Power has won four of the last five pole positions. This will be the fourth 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.

* Power and Dixon are the only drivers to win at Sonoma more than once, Dixon won the race in 2007 and 2014, Power won the races in 2010, 2011and 2013. Past winners Dixon, Power, Ryan Briscoe (2012), Helio Castroneves (2008), Marco Andretti (2006) and Tony Kanaan (2005) are entered in this year’s race.

* Dan Gurney won the first Indy car race at Sonoma under USAC sanction in 1970. Mark Donohue was the pole sitter.

* There have been five different pole winners in the previous 10 Verizon IndyCar Series races at Sonoma. Briscoe (2005), Dixon (2006), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2009, 2013), Castroneves (2008) and Power (2010-12 and 2014). All but Franchitti are entered at Sonoma this weekend.

* Three drivers have won the race from the pole – Castroneves (2008), Franchitti (2009) and Power (2010-11).

* Three drivers have competed in every Verizon IndyCar Series race at Sonoma – Castroneves, Dixon and Kanaan. Dixon is the only driver to complete every lap of every race at Sonoma.

* Power has three wins and four poles in his five previous starts at Sonoma.

* Briscoe has four podium finishes in nine previous starts at Sonoma.

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

* With its next Verizon IndyCar Series victory, Chip Ganassi Racing will earn its 100th Indy car race win.

* Kanaan seeks to start his 249th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Dixon looks to make his 190th consecutive start this weekend.

* The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season marked the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda that attach to the Dallara IR-12 chassis used by all entrants. Cars are differentiated by their shape as the manufacturers have designed a separate aero kit specification for road and street course/short ovals and another for superspeedways. References to the cars incorporate the name of the corresponding kit manufacturer.

* The No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb BHA with Curb-Agajanian crew of Gabby Chaves claimed the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23 with a total pit-lane time of 2 minutes, 31.30 seconds. It is the first-ever Pit Stop Performance win for Bryan Herta Autosport. The No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).