By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season concludes this weekend at Sonoma Raceway with the Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. The Open Wheel will be on-site covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sunday, September 17, 2017 6:30PM (ET) NBCSN – The Verizon IndyCar Series championship will come down to the final weekend as Josef Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by 3 points, Helio Castroneves by 22 points, Simon Pagenaud by 34 points, and Will Power by 68 points. 2017 Indy Lights race winner Zachary Claman DeMelo will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as a teammate to Graham Rahal in the the No. 13 car. Previous driver experience shows six former winners at Sonoma in the field in Dixon (3), Power (3), Marco Andretti (1), Castroneves (1), Tony Kanaan (1), and Pagenaud (1). The Top 5 in laps led at Sonoma racing this weekend are Power (276), Dixon (121), Pagenaud (76), Castroneves (58), and Kanaan (49). Newgarden has only led two laps at Sonoma. Box scores from 2016 and 2015 show the series champion has won in each of the last two years (Dixon 2015 and Pagenaud 2016). Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only driver to finish in the Top 5 in each of the last two years. He’s joined by only Charlie Kimball if that’s expanded to the Top 10. My picks to win: Race – Simon Pagenaud & Championship – Josef Newgarden – Team Penske locked out the top four positions in qualifying at Sonoma last year led by pole, race, and championship winner Simon Pagenaud. I expect all four Team Penske cars to be ultra quick once again and Pagenaud is due to come out on top of one of these battles once again. He’s a dangerous man after his frustration at Gateway and I expect him to do all he can to give himself a shot at the title at Sonoma. However, I don’t think Josef Newgarden is going to allow the field to do enough to overtake his championship lead. Newgarden should have a better car than Dixon and equal pace to Castroneves. I think he’ll find a way to earn the championship in his first year at Team Penske.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball – You know my thoughts on Pagenaud (and really all of Team Penske). I’ll complement him with Power since he’s cheaper than the others, has led a ridiculous 276 laps at Sonoma, and has a reliable 4 Top 5’s and 6 Top 10’s in 8 Sonoma starts. Pricing is tough this week so it’s a challenge from here. Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan have each had success at Sonoma, need to run at the front to give their teammate Dixon a chance at the title, and each has something to prove heading into next season so I think they could be ones to watch for this weekend.