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.

Newgarden tries to regain control of IndyCar championship race at Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – There are just six races left in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden has a hard-charging Alexander Rossi closing in on his gearbox. Newgarden’s lead is down to just three points after last Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

Newgarden has been the leader in the standings after every race this season, with the exception of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, when he trailed Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden by one point.

Is Newgarden worried entering Saturday night’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway?

“I’m confident we have good cars,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “You can have bad weekends here and there. I think we can have a good result the rest of the year. But there are a lot of guys still in it. Rossi is the guy who is the closest, but you can’t count out Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon or Will Power. It’s going to be a fight until the end for this championship.

“We briefly lost the points lead after the Indy 500. Simon and I were one point apart. We’ve had better consistency this year. That is what is going to pay off at the end. We’ve been consistent up to this point and we have to continue it to the end.

“Look at all of these championship runs, most of the times it goes to the most consistent driver. You have to have clean finishes for every run. If you don’t, it’s pretty tough to make up the deficit.”

Newgarden has had a remarkably consistent season with three wins, six podiums (top three) and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

Rossi has nearly matched him with two wins, six podiums and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

These two drivers are nearly in a dead heat, so as the championship leader, can Newgarden force his fiercest foes into making mistakes?

“I’m a little bit boring,” Newgarden said. “I do the same thing every time. It puts more pressure on guys like Scott Dixon, who has to win races to catch up. They are going to be more aggressive. Our program is boring and that is trying to maximize each race individually. That is what we have to do.

“I don’t know if it is that different than being in a fight with Will Power or Simon Pagenaud or Scott Dixon. They have different tendencies. Alex is the more aggressive of those other drivers. It’s fun going up against all of them. Alex is really good. He has a certain style you have to play against. If it was Scott, it would be just as exciting, but it would be a different game.

“Alex brings a more aggressive side to the conversation.”

That aggressive fight continues to the .875-mile short oval at Iowa Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Iowa 300.

It’s one of Newgarden’s better tracks. He set an IndyCar Series record for leading the most laps in a single race when he was in front for 282 laps in his 2016 Iowa win with Ed Carpenter Racing. That was preceded by two straight second place finishes at Iowa in 2014 and 2014.

Since joining Team Penske in 2017, Newgarden finished sixth that season and fourth in 2018 in a race where he led 211 laps.

“We were pretty good there last year,” Newgarden admitted. “We qualified well, but we were a little shy of what we needed last year. The race didn’t pan out the way we needed it to. Our strategy wasn’t perfect there. But those are things we can clean up. We have a really capable group. I think we’ll have a good car there, again. I feel good about it. We’ve had good cars there in the past, we were just a tick off. I think we will be better there this year.

“We should be fine.”

Short oval racing is a unique form that adds diversity to the schedule as drivers have to get on an off the accelerator and on and off the brake, all while dealing with traffic throughout the 300-lap contest.

It’s that type of close quarter racing that real racers love.

“Iowa, for sure is a racer’s track,” Newgarden said. “It’s very bumpy, with a lot of character. It’s one of my favorite short ovals that we go to. I love that place. A lot of the tracks we go to are racer’s race tracks. There aren’t a lot of bad ones of the schedule. There are tracks with diverse challenges and you like that. Going from Toronto to Iowa to Mid-Ohio, they are all different tracks that require different setups, different driving styles.

“It’s like the championship is a driver’s championship. That is what it demands.”

An NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway is a special experience because it’s played out in front of grass-roots racing fans. These are the fans that following auto racing on a regular basis, many of which are regulars for sprint car racing down the road at Knoxville Speedway in Knoxville, Iowa.

“They are all different race fans,” Newgarden said. “Toronto has a bustling city vibe. Iowa is a bunch of farmers. Really nice people who are salt of the earth farmers who come out and enjoy racing. Mid-Ohio is a hybrid. It’s very much a Midwest race but different from Iowa.

“You get these different pockets of different fans, different people, different racers but they all like IndyCar racing and that’s pretty cool.”