IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Preview

Momentum?  Momentum has been all over the place in 2017. But regardless of how the race and championship turn out, this has been the year of Josef Newgarden.

Look Out For?  While eight drivers have a mathematical possibility of winning the Astor Cup, we should look out for Scott Dixon and Newgarden. If either or both go out and finish towards the back , the variables for a win will all change rapidly.

Sentimental Favorite?  The two drivers who have multiple wins, Will Power and Dixon, are both enormously popular in Sonoma.

Challenges?  That depends. Because it’s the last competition of the season, there is more pressure than usual as drivers scramble for rides in 2018. Since it’s a very tight championship, at times it can be easy to emphasize it rather than the race.


SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Sonoma is a beautiful place and the track is one of the best on the circuit. It’s also where I won the race last year and won my first championship, so it’s definitely a place that means a lot to me. We’ve worked hard this season in the No. 1 DXC Technology Chevy and have some things we’re excited to try at Sonoma. We have a great shot at the title, and we’re ready to challenge Scott Dixon and my Team Penske teammates for it. My team has worked hard to get to this championship fight, and they put together a strong car for Sonoma. I feel great about our chances. We’re ready to get on track and put everything we can into the race.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The whole hum by Verizon Chevrolet team is looking forward to Sonoma with the championship on the line. The Watkins Glen weekend wasn’t the best, but we’ve quickly moved on from that. A great thing for us was to get back on the track last week for a Sonoma test. Our session was great. We were able to gain some information and start to formulate our plan of attack. We have another (series open) test day later this week which will help us as well. Overall, we’ve been good on the road courses. I really like the Sonoma course and the No. 2 team is definitely capable. The points are tight. It’s going to be a fun weekend with all of the scenarios that are out there. We have a championship-caliber team, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring another title to Team Penske.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) : “It all comes down to this. We had a strong car at Watkins Glen and were able to run toward the front of the pack. We’re ready to take what we learned at that race and all season to apply to the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet. I want a championship so bad and all of my guys definitely want one, too. We’ve worked hard to have strong finishes this season and know if we have a great race and win, we just might win the championship, which is really exciting. Sonoma is always a great race, and it will definitely be a challenge with (Scott) Dixon and my Team Penske teammates also battling for the title. We got some track time last week with a test day and some more this week. Every team’s goal at the beginning of the season is a championship and we’re in a position to realize ours.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) : “I think it’s been a total team effort for the No. 9 NTT Data team all season. I think Chip Ganassi Racing is very strong at these high-pressure, coming-down-to-the-wire situations, and not just for myself, but other championships they’ve won through the years. I remember being right there for many of Dario Franchitti’s, too, that worked out in similar fashion. I think it’s not necessarily a situation we thrive on. We would clearly like to be many points ahead and not having to worry about the last race, and you can go into a final just having to start or something like that. I don’t really speak to my competitors on that front or hear what they have to say or read up on it. For us, we’ll just go out there and try and get the job done and treat it as an ordinary race, even though there is a lot on the line.”

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By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.