Focus moves from Embarcadero to track for Indy title rivals

Photo: IndyCar

SONOMA, Calif. – Thursday was all about the hype and the buzz for Verizon IndyCar Series title contenders Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, who are separated by 43 points for the championship this weekend.

The two took their respective cars – Pagenaud’s No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet and Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – for a brief stroll of the iconic Embarcadero Drive on Thursday in San Francisco as a way to build up buzz and awareness for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Newly crowned Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones also took part, driving the IndyCar two-seater with the champion’s Astor Cup in the second seat.

Here’s some quick social posts and videos from the Embarcadero event on Thursday.

On Friday, the two championship contenders met the media at Sonoma Raceway following the first practice session for the race.

With Pagenaud in 10th and Power in 17th, neither driver was particularly concerned about their low standing. Both drivers opted to save tires during the session, as the second practice session would be closer to qualifying and race conditions.

Neither driver is noting the pressure of their title fight outwardly this weekend. They’re both thankful that either of them will deliver for Roger Penske, since the title can only go to a Team Penske driver.

“I think it’s a good situation, a great situation,” Power said. “After what happened last year, just no way we could let that happen again. It was just such a pity, that we allowed Ganassi to get that title.

“Yeah, it was unfortunate how it happened. But it didn’t need to happen. We were very determined to make sure it didn’t happen this year. It’s a relief that we can just go and race.”

Added Pagenaud, “Just excited to be here, excited to be in this fight, excited that we’re able to, with Will and our teammates, bring another championship for Team Penske in the 50th year anniversary of the team. I think it’s very important to Roger and the entire organization. It feels great.”

Power has a chance to win his second championship, after securing his first in 2014.

The Australian, who’s certainly grown and matured over the years and has cannily let races come to him throughout 2016, said getting that first title is helping him now.

“Yeah, I think at this point if I hadn’t won one, I probably would have just been like, ‘I’m not going to win one,'” Power said.

“I said that in ’14 actually. I went into ’14, I’m not going to win a championship, so who cares. I just went and raced, and I won one. That’s actually how I approached the beginning of that season, then it started coming together. Okay, I get it. Racing gods just want to play with you a little.”

Pagenaud, naturally, wants his first crown in IndyCar. He won the Formula Atlantic title in his first season in North America in 2006 and the American Le Mans Series title in 2010.

“I don’t feel awkward. I want to be the one winning for sure, and Will does, too. It’s great for Team Penske to win, but I do want to get this title,” he said.

“We’ve had a great season. I think first and foremost, even before this weekend starts, it’s just how great the season has been on the 22 car, the evolution compared to last year. The transition is done compared to being with Schmidt before.

“Couldn’t be happier to be where we’re at right now. Like I said, I’m going to embrace the weekend and enjoy it.”

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.