Six drivers remain eligible for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, as the series returns to Sonoma Raceway this weekend for its season finale at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Aug. 28-30.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who has stood atop the standings since winning the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., takes a 34-point lead over Graham Rahal into the 85-lap title-deciding race for the Astor Cup. Three-time series champion Scott Dixon, who won at Sonoma Raceway last August, Helio Castroneves, reigning series champion Will Power and Josef Newgarden also remain eligible.
“We’ve had an awesome year. We’ve got (an Indianapolis 500) win. We’ve done everything. If we win the championship, it’s a plus," said Montoya. "We took our time and were smart. I think we had a car that could win the race, but it wasn’t worth risking it (with other title contenders running behind him). We did what we needed to do.”
The finale carries double base points, and it marks the 10th consecutive year that the championship will be decided in the finale.
"You never count it before it’s yours," Montoya added.
Power has won three times and finished second once in the past five years at Sonoma Raceway, which is hosting the series' championship-deciding race for the first time.
"I think that the double points will make it very interesting and exciting for the finale," said Power, driver of the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. "I definitely consider it one of my best racetracks. I've had a lot of highs and a few lows there, but it is going to provide a great venue for the final race of the season."
Sonoma Raceway first hosted an Indy car race under USAC sanction in 1970, which was won by Dan Gurney. Mario Andretti was the runner-up and Al Unser finished third. Mark Donohue started from the pole. Indy car racing under INDYCAR sanction returned to the racetrack in 2005 (Tony Kanaan the winner).
"It's just a fantastic racetrack with the way it uses the natural landscape," Power added. "It's very technical with lots of elevation changes. A technical racetrack provides more opportunity for driver error, which helps promote great racing with the ability to pass. It's just a lot of fun for both the drivers and the fans."
NBCSN will telecast live the final practice session (10:30 a.m. PT) and three rounds of qualifications (3:30 p.m. PT) Aug. 29. The network will telecast the race at 1 p.m. PT Aug. 30. For more information or to purchase tickets for this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, visit www.racesonoma.com/indycar or call 800-870-RACE.