What to Watch For: IndyCar at Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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SONOMA, Calif. – A champion will be crowned today at the Verizon IndyCar Series’ GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but the question is whether it will be Simon Pagenaud or Will Power.

Today’s 85-lap race at Sonoma Raceway will see a driver from Team Penske drive away with the championship while there could be plenty of other story lines to develop.

PREVIEW
QUALIFYING REPORT

Here’s some of the additional items to watch for today:

THE TITLE BATTLE

Pagenaud and Power both appear to be in the right mindset. Pagenaud has gone to another level this year mentally while Power has nothing to lose, although now down 44 points.

Fifth or better, and Pagenaud wins the title regardless. Fifth or worse, and Power can’t win regardless.

We shall see how it goes.

TIRE DEGRADATION

Says Power, who enters the day 44 points back of Pagenaud: “It’s a long race. I think it’s going to be a race of degradation. It’s going to be really interesting the way the tires go.”

With the abrasive surface at Sonoma, tire life is more of an issue than fuel mileage, and if teams want to go off strategy and run a four-stop strategy instead of a three-stop one, they could be more of a rabbit on the softer red tires.

STRATEGERY

Look for a mix between three stops and four, and look for about Laps 13 to 16 as the first window for anyone opting for a four-stopper and Laps 62 to 68 as the “get-home stop.”

THE WILD CARDS

What will the day hold for, among others…?

  • Helio Castroneves, starting second, and Tony Kanaan, starting 13th, both looking to end two-plus year win droughts?
  • Juan Pablo Montoya, starting third, in potentially his final race for Team Penske?
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, starting fifth, a race after his 200th start and having gone through an emotional roller coaster of a week?
  • Scott Dixon, starting seventh, in the final sendoff for Target at Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar program?
  • Sebastien Bourdais, starting ninth, in his likely but not necessarily last drive for KVSH Racing?
  • Josef Newgarden, starting 10th, in potentially his final race for Ed Carpenter Racing?
  • Charlie Kimball, starting 12th, in his 100th career start?
  • Marco Andretti, starting 14th, needing any result of note 10 years after his first win at Sonoma?
  • James Hinchcliffe, starting 20th, in his last race before retreating solely to the land of dancing?

STARTING GRID AND TIRE CHOICES