Pagenaud puts a period on 2016 with win, title in Sonoma

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SONOMA, Calif. – Simon Pagenaud dominated the Verizon IndyCar Series season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, which put a period on his maiden championship season in his fifth full-time campaign since returning in 2012 and seventh season overall.

The driver of the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet started from pole, led 76 of the 85 laps, and won his fifth race this season in Sonoma. He’s the second straight IndyCar champion to win the Sonoma race and the title in the same day, as Scott Dixon did last year.

And he’s the driver that delivers Roger Penske a championship in Team Penske’s 50th anniversary season.

Meanwhile, a mechanical issue proved the final nail in the coffin for Will Power’s championship hopes, which was enough to secure Pagenaud’s inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series title.

Celebrities were present in the pre-race – Ayesha Curry served as grand marshal with San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in the Honda Fastest Seat in Sports – but the stars on track took over once the race got going.

Pagenaud led 36 of the first 37 laps before the first full course caution flew on Lap 38, with Power slowing on course exiting Turn 7 and then limping all the way around the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway road course before stopping at Turn 10.

Power needed to finish fifth or better to have any chance of winning the title, but once his car slowed, it was game over.

Pagenaud, 32, now has an IndyCar title to go along with his 2006 Formula Atlantic championship in his first season in North America 10 years ago, and a 2010 American Le Mans Series title co-driving with David Brabham.

Behind Pagenaud, Graham Rahal finished second to him – as he did at Barber Motorsports Park earlier this year in a thrilling bout – with Juan Pablo Montoya on the podium in third, Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth to put a period on a day when he signed an extension with DHL and Andretti Autosport through 2020, and Alexander Rossi fifth after running out of fuel on the final lap.

Josef Newgarden held off Helio Castroneves for sixth, with Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais in the top 10.

Dixon needed a helmet change and ended 17th, with Power limping home 8 laps down in 20th.

American rookies Spencer Pigot (gearbox) and Conor Daly (exhaust) were the only retirements on Laps 35 and 36, respectively.

SONOMA, Calif. – Results Sunday of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (5) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
3. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (6) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
5. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
6. (10) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
9. (12) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
10. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (11) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 85, Running
12. (20) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
13. (13) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (15) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
15. (16) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 85, Running
16. (18) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 84, Running
19. (22) RC Enerson, Honda, 84, Running
20. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 77, Running
21. (21) Conor Daly, Honda, 36, Mechanical
22. (19) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 35, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 101.181 mph
Time of Race: 2:00:12.9424
Margin of victory: 3.2523 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 3 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Pagenaud 1-15
Castroneves 16
Pagenaud 17-60
Rahal 61-62
Castroneves 63-68
Pagenaud 69-85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 659, Power 532, Castroneves 504, Newgarden 502, Rahal 484, Dixon 477, Kanaan 461, Montoya 433, Kimball 433, Munoz 432