2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

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2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by SpeedDemon37 on Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:56 pm

(I have decided to steal borrow the format used by The_Wall_91 for his Formula 1 threads.)

It all comes down to this. The historic and captivating 2016 season of the Verizon IndyCar Series concludes with one final race; the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Being championship weekend, there are always plenty of stories to follow. But first we address a recent tragedy that has devastated one of the most successful families in motorsports.


Tragedy for the Gordon Family

On September 14, Robert "Baja Bob" Gordon and his wife Sharon were both lost in a murder-suicide in which Robert killed his wife before killing himself. The investigation is ongoing, but Robby, Beccy, and Robyn Gordon have all lost their father and their step-mother. Robert, his three children, and their biological mother Marlene are all successful former off-road racers, and Robby has also won races in CART, NASCAR, and his very own Stadium SUPER Trucks league.

Among the grieving members of the Gordon family is IndyCar driver Ryan-Hunter Reay, who is married to Beccy. On the very day that Robert and Sharon were lost, Ryan and Beccy welcomed into the world their third child, Rhodes Maverick. As the Gordon family celebrates a birth and mourns two deaths, countless members of the motosports community have offered their support.


The Race

Points-leader Simon Pagenaud earned his seventh Verizon P1 Award for the race this weekend, acquiring one more bonus point in doing so and increasing his championship lead to 45 points over Will Power. It's another Team Penske lockout of the first two rows, with Hélio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Power starting behind Pagenaud in that order. The remainder of the Firestone Fast Six consists of Graham Rahal (qualified 5th) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (qualified 6th).

Just missing the Fast Six was Scott Dixon, who has won this race three times including the past two years. Considering this and especially after dominating at Watkins Glen International two weeks ago, Dixon looks to be one of the favorites to contend for the win. The only only other multiple-time winner at Sonoma Raceway is Will Power.

The fastest lap time among all three pre-qualifying practice sessions was set by Marco Andretti (during the third session), who won his first career race at this circuit in 2006.

Full qualifying results can be found here: http://www.indycar.com/News/2016/09/09-17-Sonoma-qualifying


The Championship

This time around, we have two racers in contention for the Astor Cup.

Simon Pagenaud of France has been the star of the season from early on. While his first year with Team Penske brought no race victories and an 11th-place rank in the standings, his second year with the team has been stellar. Having finally settled into his new team, he has found the success that many were confident that he would while driving for The Captain. In the first fifteen races, Pagenaud scored four wins (three consecutive at Long Beach, Alabama, and the GP of Indy, plus another at Mid-Ohio), six poles (plus a seventh this weekend), and seven podiums.

The only other contender happens to be Pagenaud's teammate, friend, and former roommate; Will Power of Australia. This is certainly not the first time that Power's been in contention for the title, but this year has been quite different than what we've seen from him in the past. Having missed the first race of the year due to an ear infection (a race for which he had just earned the pole), he has spent the entire season coming back from behind, and has thus far matched Pagenaud in wins (4; Detroit 2, Road America, Toronto, and Pocono) and podiums (7), and also has two poles if St. Petersburg is included. We've rarely seen the 2014 series champion at the center of a comeback story, but he has stepped up to the challenge with incredible results.

Pagenaud has amassed a 45-point lead over Power. Normally, the 1st-to-last points difference in a 22-car field is 42, but of course this race is worth double-points. If Pagenaud finishes in the top 5, he is guaranteed the championship. As we've seen in the past, however, anything can happen, and often times it does (we are coming off of a season where the title was decided by a tiebreaker, after all)!


------------------------------


From Josef Newgarden persevering through injuries to score a record-breaking win at Iowa, to Graham Rahal winning over James Hinchcliffe in a photo finish at Texas, to Alexander Rossi winning the 100th Indianapolis 500 in a miraculous economy run, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season has been one for the ages, and hopefully us race fans will be treated to one one last great race to close out the year.

The green flag waves on Sunday the 18th at 3:50 P.M. Pacific (6:50 P.M. Eastern)!
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Re: 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by PackerMan71 on Sun Sep 18, 2016 7:43 pm

Game, set, match. GC, Pagenaud.
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Re: 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by bigdc48 on Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:03 pm

Great job, Simon. Was a real force this season.
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Re: 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by PackerMan71 on Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:11 pm

My final review of 2016 will start with this...

The season finale needs to be somewhere other than Sonoma. Period.

This race, for it being a championship race, has been pretty meh for the last several years, and this year was no exception. It really hasn't been an exciting track as far as IndyCar is concerned, and after Will Power's gearbox issues, the championship was done at that point. In my opinion, there are FAR better tracks to host the season finale. Laguna Seca comes to kind, and I know some people will go 'But it's only known for one turn.' I don't give a shit. Unlike Sonoma, at least it HAS a turn its known for.

But I digress. Congratulations to Simon Pagenaud on an absolutely dominating performance tonight. He beat this field from pillar to post, and even though Graham Rahal tried to challenge him at the end, let's be honest here, no one was challenging Simon on this day. This was his moment, and I have a feeling this will just the first of many times he collects the Astor Cup at the end of the season. Granted, his first season with Penske was a disaster, but he spent the entire off-season training to get better, and the hard work paid off. Five wins, seven poles, and his first IndyCar championship. Good championship, Simon. You earned it.

The only other battle of particular note that was exciting was Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden. Those two went at it hard at the end of the race, with the third spot in the championship on the line. Josef ended up winning the battle on the track, but Helio takes the third spot in the championship by two points, ensuring a Penske 1-2-3 in the championship in Penske's 50th season.

STAR OF THE RACE: Simon Pagenaud. Need I say more?

REJECT OF THE RACE: Will Power's gearbox. Way to a ruin a championship battle, you bucket of bolts.

FINAL RATING: Overall, this race was pretty meh to me. I'll give it a 3.75/10, because after Will Power's mechanical problems, the title race was pretty much decided at that point, and the race really lost a lot of its luster, not to mention there weren't that many battles on track that interested me.

Overall, the entertainment value for IndyCar took a slight dip in comparison to last year, but you'll have that occasionally. This season still had its fair share of excitement, like the 100th running of the Indy 500, and the unexpected spectacular finish at Texas just to name a few. Hopefully, next year will be even better, even though the schedule isn't changing that much, the addition of Gateway is certainly exciting, and 2018 will be off the chains crazy.
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Re: 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by SpeedDemon37 on Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:00 pm

Congratulations to Simon Pagenaud on a well-earned championship title! He's met every expectation that everyone had for him when he teamed up with Penske, and I think that we should be expecting more championships to come.

As for the race itself, Pagenaud was about as fast today as Scott Dixon was at Watkins Glen. As nice as it was to see the #22 team earn the title (and to see Rahal finish in second), there wasn't much to follow throughout most of the event. I think that Sonoma generally produces more lackluster races than most of the other tracks that IndyCar visits, and I completely concur with Packer that Laguna Seca would be much better-suited to host the finale (after all, it used to host the CART finale, plus Indy Lights currently ends their season there). Even disregarding the Corkscrew, its layout is simple yet unique and can produce fantastic races from the Indy Lights and IMSA races that I've seen.

We now begin the wait for the 22nd season of IndyCar, the 106th season of American championship car racing, and the 101st Indianapolis 500! Today's race may not have been the most exciting way to close out the year, but for me the 2016 season in general was a lot of fun to follow and produced plenty of timeless moments!
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Re: 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Post by Alta on Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:43 am

Had a fun day at the track, quiet finale for the most part.

Simon Pagenaud killed it this season and today was no different, great win and great championship.
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