“Prix-Viewing” the Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 2016 IndyCar Championship Finale

Photo Credit: IndyCar

The 16th and final race out of 16 scheduled races of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series calendar brings us to Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, on Sunday, September 18th. The indycars will race 85 laps around the 11-turn 2.385-mile natural terrain road course.

Simon Pagenaud leads the Verizon IndyCar Series points championship by 43 points over Will Power. Power had to sit out of the season opener at St. Petersburg with concussion-like symptoms, a race that started a streak of 5 consecutive top 2 finishes for Pagenaud, including 3 wins. Power was on a streak of 6 consecutive top 2 finishes, including 4 victories, until he finished in 8th place last weekend at Texas. Pagenaud, however, has won since his streak ended, winning last race at Mid-Ohio, while Power did not win at all during Pagenaud’s streak of top 2 finishes. Power also suffered concussion-like symptoms after a crash at the series’ latest race at Watkins Glen, but has since been cleared to drive.

Pagenaud has led the championship standings since the completion of the 2nd race of the season back in early April at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He and Power are the only 2 drivers that can mathematically win this season’s IndyCar title. Power has won the IndyCar championship before, while Pagenaud has not. Power won the title back in 2014, while Pagenaud’s career high finish in an IndyCar championship is 3rd place, which was in 2013.

Race winners from this season are Simon Pagenaud, who won at Long Beach, Barber, Indianapolis, and Mid-Ohio, Will Power, who won at the 2nd Detroit race, Road America, Toronto, and Pocono, Scott Dixon, who won at Phoenix and Watkins Glen, Josef Newgarden, who won at Iowa, Graham Rahal, who won at Texas, Alexander Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500, Sebastien Bourdais, who won at the 1st Detroit race, and Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at St. Petersburg. Those drivers sit 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th, 12th, and 14th in the championship standings, respectively.

Former winners of the Sonoma race from past years in this year’s field include Tony Kanaan (2005), Marco Andretti (2006), Helio Castroneves (2008), Will Power (2010, 2011, and 2013), and Scott Dixon (2007, 2014, and 2015).

Also of note is the Chevrolet vs. Honda battle. Drivers of the Honda-powered cars have seemed to race slightly better than they’ve qualified so far this year, but have only won 2 of the 15 races thus far this season, with those 2 victories being claimed by Alexander Rossi at the Indianapolis 500 and Graham Rahal at the Firestone 600. James Hinchcliffe, also driving a Honda-powered car, took the pole for the Indianapolis 500 as well. That pole position was Honda’s first in 31 races, and the drivers of the Honda-powered cars have since added 2 more pole positions this season with pole positions by Carlos Munoz at Texas and Mikhail Aleshin Pocono.

So far this season, drivers of the Honda-powered cars have done well, but not fantastic, at pretty much every track, but have been seemingly equal to if not better than the drivers of the Chevrolet-powered cars on the superspeedways (took the pole and the win at Indianapolis, took the pole and were running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at Texas before the race was suspended, eventually took the top 2 finishing spots at Texas, and took the pole and 2 of the top 3 finishing positions at Pocono). The road course Chevrolet/Honda split has been pretty even as well this season. However, drivers of the Chevrolet-powered cars have won all 5 races on road courses this season, despite drivers of the Honda-powered cars being in contention for the victory in all of them.

Drivers To Watch For (with Engine/Aero Kit Manufacturer):

The Obvious:

  • Scott Dixon (Chevrolet): Dixon won at Sonoma in 2007, 2014, and 2015.
  • Will Power (Chevrolet): Power won at Sonoma in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
  • Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet): Castroneves won at Sonoma in 2008.
  • Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet): Kanaan won at Sonoma in 2005.
  • Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet): Pagenaud’s best finish at Sonoma is 3rd place, which was in 2014.

Less Obvious:

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda): Hunter-Reay’s best finish at Sonoma is 2nd place, which was in 2014 and 2015.
  • Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet): Kimball’s best finish at Sonoma is 3rd place, which was in 2015.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet): Montoya’s best finish at Sonoma is 5th place, which was in 2014.
  • Graham Rahal (Honda): Rahal’s best finish at Sonoma is 5th place, which was in 2012.
  • Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet): Newgarden’s best finish at Sonoma is 6th place, which was in 2014.
  • Sebastien Bourdais (Chevrolet): Bourdais’ best finish at Sonoma is 6th place, which was in 2011.
  • James Hinchcliffe (Honda): Hinchcliffe’s best finish at Sonoma is 7th place, which was in 2011.

Sleepers:

  • Marco Andretti (Honda): Andretti won at Sonoma in 2006.
  • Takuma Sato (Honda): Sato’s best finish at Sonoma is 4th place, which was in 2014.
  • Mikhail Aleshin (Honda): Aleshin’s best finish at Sonoma is 7th place, which was in 2014.
  • Carlos Munoz (Honda): Munoz’s best finish at Sonoma is 19th place, which was in 2014.
  • Alexander Rossi (Honda): Rossi has never raced at Sonoma.

Other notables:

  • Jack Hawksworth (Honda): Hawksworth’s best finish at Sonoma is 15th place, which was in 2014.
  • Conor Daly (Honda): Daly has never raced at Sonoma.
  • Spencer Pigot (Chevrolet): Pigot has never raced at Sonoma.
  • RC Enerson (Honda): Enerson has never raced at Sonoma.
  • Max Chilton (Chevrolet): Chilton has never raced at Sonoma.

-Asher Fair