Verizon INDYCAR Series
What We Learned from Sonoma 2017
The Big Picture: This is a rather odd place for a season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Sonoma’s race fans are not particularly engaged with the sport of open wheel racing. There isn’t a significant amount of history of the sport there unlike Laguna Seca Raceway just down the road or at Watkins Glen back in New York. It’s as if there was a contract for this event at this time and so the Powers That Be decided to have the calendar end here and so it has been. Yawn.
Event: Sonoma is a wine and cheese fest, although there is plenty of room for the pizza and beer crowd. It draws a small to an average attendance.
Qualifying: Penske to the fourth power with Josef Newgarden winning his first pole of the season and the second of his career. His three Penske teammates followed him.
Race: It was the Newgarden and Pagenaud show with the Penske teammates splitting the laps led between themselves.
Biggest Surprise: That Newgarden had the maturity to not charge at Pagenaud, but throttled back to ensure the championship was his.
Biggest Disappointment: None, it was a decent show.
Sponsor of the Weekend: Verizon, who sponsors both the series and Newgarden’s team.
Quote of the Weekend:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m so proud of these guys. I don’t even know what to say. It was all year. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates. They were giving me a lot of help today in making sure that we got this done. It’s a huge team effort at Team Penske. So, it’s cool to do this with Verizon. Verizon does so much for the IndyCar Series. They’ve given fans such great access over the years. I’m happy to have this car for the championship. It’s super fitting; and all the other partners we’ve had at Team Penske. It’s just been phenomenal working with Team Chevy. We’ve had so many great partners on this car. And to finally get it done is a dream come true. It’s too awesome. It was hard. I was using my natural instincts. I was trying to get (Simon) Pagenaud there because that’s what I normally do. I try to win the race whenever possible. They were telling me to be patient and not do something stupid. I tried to get him, but I also tried not to do anything dumb for the team. Like I said, this has been a team effort. So, I’m happy for Pagenaud. He had the pace to win today, for sure; he’s very deserving. This entire group makes this happen. I’m so thankful and happy with everything that Team Penske has done. Congrats to everyone at the factory. This is an amazing amount of work that goes into this.”
Runner-Up Quote of the Week:
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals / SoldierStrong Honda): “We had a great race and raised more money for United Rentals and the Turns for Troops program. We went out there and pushed as hard as we could. The Honda engine got us great fuel mileage so that made life a little bit easier. We could attack for quite a lot of the race. Obviously tires were key today. They went off a lot. We tried as hard as we could to make some good passes, but I think sixth is the best that we could expect this weekend. I tried to get by Helio (Castroneves) there near the end, but came up a little bit short. I was in front of him but he broke really late, which I would have done too, and just slid across my front. We have finished fourth, fifth, and now sixth in the standings this year. Our team is doing a good job. We have a lot to be proud of this year. We have to just keep pushing as hard as we can. I hope we can come out on top next year.”
What We Learned: Just like Formula One this week, the video reporters covering the race were either wrong or misleading. In IndyCar’s case, the argument put forward was win the race, win the championship when this was absolutely not the case.
Schedule: We have a long wait until March 11, 2018, and the opener at St. Pete. That’s about six months from now, folks. Hope to see you next season!
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