IndyCar

IndyCar: Fast Facts for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Sonoma

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With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship on the line this Sunday, here’s what you need to know about the Grand Prix of Sonoma season finale:

INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma Fast Facts

Race weekend: Friday, Sept. 14 – Sunday, Sept. 16

Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 2.385-mile permanent road course in Sonoma, California

Entry list: INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma (PDF)

Race distance: 85 laps / 202.7 miles

Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race.

Twitter: @RaceSonoma, @IndyCar #IndyCar, #SonomaGP

2017 race winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet)

2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Josef Newgarden (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 1 minute, 15.5205 seconds, 113.691 mph

Qualifying record: Josef Newgarden, 1:15.5205, 113.691 mph, Sept. 16, 2017 (set in Round 3 of qualifying)

NBCSN telecasts: Practice 1, 4 p.m., ET Friday, Sept 14 (same-day delay); Practice 2, 6 p.m., ET Friday, Sept. 14 (live); Qualifying, 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 15 (same-day delay); Race, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 16 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for NBCSN alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Nick Yeoman (Turn 7) and Jake Query (Turn 9) are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Michael Young and Dan Rusanowsky reporting from the pits. The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practices and qualifying are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 219 and XM 209.

Video streaming: All sessions not covered by live television will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar).

At-track schedule (all times local Pacific Time):

Friday, Sept. 14

11 – 11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com; NBCSN (4 p.m. ET, same-day delay)

3 p.m. – 4 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 2, NBCSN (live)

4:05 – 4:20 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice

Saturday, Sept. 15

11 – 11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)

3 – 4:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (8 p.m. ET, same-day delay)

Sunday, Sept. 16

3 p.m. – Driver introductions

3:30 p.m. – NBCSN on air

3:33 p.m. – Start engines command

3:40 p.m. – INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma (85 laps/202.7 miles), NBCSN (live)

CHAMPIONSHIP FACTS:

  • There are four drivers mathematically eligible for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship: Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Dixon has won four Verizon IndyCar Series championships, while Power and Newgarden won the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Rossi has never won the championship.
  • Scott Dixon leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship with one race to go for the fifth time in his career. Dixon, who took the championship lead following his win at Texas in June, won championships in three of the previous four seasons that he led with one race to go (2003, 2008 and 2013).
  • Scott Dixon leads Alexander Rossi by 29 points, with Will Power and Josef Newgarden both 87 points behind. With 104 maximum points available at Sonoma, the championship is nearly a winner-take-all situation for the top two drivers in the championship.
  • This is the 13th consecutive year that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be determined at the final race of the season.
  • This is the 15th Indy car race at Sonoma. The winning driver at Sonoma has won the championship three times in the prior 14 races (Dario Franchitti in 2009, Scott Dixon in 2015 and Simon Pagenaud in 2016).

Key championship point statistic: This is the 13th straight season that the Verizon IndyCar Series championship will be decided in the final race.

Point differential: The 29 points which separate Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi is the fifth-largest margin with one race to go since 2006. The closest margin with one race to go was 2006 when Helio Castroneves led Sam Hornish Jr. by one point. The average deficit with one to go since 2008 is 20.3 points.

Championship-eligible drivers results at Sonoma: Scott Dixon has seven top-five finishes in 13 Sonoma starts, including wins in 2007, 2014 and 2015; Rossi finished fifth in his first start at Sonoma in 2017; Power has five podium finishes in nine starts, including wins in 2010, 2011 and 2013; Newgarden has one top-five finish at Sonoma. He recorded his best finish (second) in six starts in 2017.

RACE NOTES:

  • There have been eight different winners in the 16 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), Josef Newgarden (ISM Raceway, Barber Motorsports Park and Road America), Alexander Rossi (Streets of Long Beach, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Pocono Raceway), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Gateway Motorsports Park), Scott Dixon (Raceway at Belle Isle-1, Texas Motor Speedway and Streets of Toronto), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Raceway at Belle Isle-2), James Hinchcliffe (Iowa Speedway) and Takuma Sato (Portland International Raceway). Dixon’s win at Toronto on July 15 was his 44th career win, which ranks third on the all-time Indy car victory list. Bourdais’ win at St. Petersburg on March 11 was his 37th, which ranks sixth all-time. Power’s win at Gateway on Aug. 25 was his 35th and tied Bobby Unser for seventh on the all-time Indy car victory list.
  • The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 11th road/street course race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with seven drivers winning the previous 10 races: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), Alexander Rossi (Streets of Long Beach), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park and Road America), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix), Scott Dixon (Raceway at Belle Isle-1 and Streets of Toronto), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2) and Takuma Sato (Portland International Raceway)
  • The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 15th Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway. Simon Pagenaud is the defending race winner. This will be the seventh 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.
  • Will Power, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud are the only drivers to win at Sonoma more than once. Dixon won the race in 2007, 2014 and 2015, Power won in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and Pagenaud won the race in 2016 and 2017. Past winners Dixon, Power, Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan (2005) and Marco Andretti (2006) are entered in this year’s race.
  • Will Power has won five of the last eight pole positions at Sonoma (2010-12 and 2014-15). Other past pole winners entered this weekend are Scott Dixon (2006), Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2017). Four drivers have won the race from the pole: Castroneves (2008), Dario Franchitti (2009), Power (2010-11) and Pagenaud (2016).
  • Three drivers have competed in every race at Sonoma since Indy cars returned to the track in 2005: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon and Kanaan are entered. Dixon is the only driver to complete every lap in the previous 13 races.
  • Team Penske has won at Sonoma seven times, including six of the last eight races with Josef Newgarden (2017), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Will Power (2010-11 and 2013) and Ryan Briscoe (2012). Chip Ganassi Racing has won four times at Sonoma (Scott Dixon in 2007, 2014-15 and Dario Franchitti in 2009) and Andretti Autosport has won twice (Tony Kanaan in 2005 and Marco Andretti in 2006).
  • Eight rookies – Santino Ferrucci, Pietro Fittipaldi, Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, Jordan King, Matheus Leist, Patricio O’Ward and Zach Veach – are entered. Robert Wickens, who will not race due to injuries sustained in an accident at Pocono, has clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for 2018. O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champion, and Herta, who finished second in Indy Lights in 2018, are attempting to make their series debut.

Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 300th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Scott Dixon has made 240 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Marco Andretti has made 216 consecutive starts, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.

Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.