And then there were five. Out of all the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers competing in Sunday’s Sonoma Grand Prix (6:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) only five of them are eligible to win this year’s championship. With this being the 17th and final round of the year, one of those five will be hoisting the Astor Cup championship trophy following Sunday’s race.
Here’s how those five have fared at Sonoma and how they’ve done this season.
This has been one of Dixon’s most complete seasons to date. He took over the points lead following his win at Texas and hasn’t given it back. He’s finished in the top 10 in 14 of the 16 races, with 13 of those being in the top six. He just doesn’t make mistakes and that’s why he’ll be hard to beat this weekend.
At Sonoma, Dixon has never started outside of the top 10 and has two wins and a fourth place run over the last four years. He does have a 13th (2013) and 17th (2016) place finishes lately though, so he’s not immune to giving up big chunks of points.
Natural road courses are kind to Rossi. Two of his wins (Watkins Glen/Mid-Ohio) have come on them as he’s been strong at Sonoma in the past. He finished fifth as a rookie in 2016 and despite being 21st last year, he was fast before something broke. He’s started eighth in each of his two starts in wine country and should be a contender on Sunday.
Rossi, also hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 since June 24 and has two wins over the last four races on the year.
He’s looking to be the first back-to-back series champion since Dario Franchitti (2009, 2010, 2011). But, points wise it’s going to be hard to happen. Newgarden, still has an outside chance of doing something special but it’s going to take a tall task. He does have three top six finishes in his last four Sonoma starts but he’s never won on the northern California road course. He did finish second last year and led 41 laps though. Newgarden, also has three top two starting spots in his last four races there too.
The Tennessee native has two wins in five starts on natural road courses in 2018 and enters with four top five finishes in his last six starts on the season.
Is it enough though?
This is likely his best track. Power, has three wins and five podiums during his career at Sonoma. He also has five poles in his last eight starts and has started in the first two rows in all eight of those races. He finished third last year for a 1-2-3 Penske finish. In fact, Penske has won six of the last eight races at Sonoma overall. So, the odds of Newgarden or Power winning are high. But, they may be too many points behind to make up substantial ground on Dixon and Rossi.
Power led 73 laps in 2010, 71 in 2011, 57 in 2012, 16 in 2013, 33 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. But, he hasn’t led a lap in each of the last two years in Sonoma. He has three top six finishes over his last five starts on the season though. Will the Indy 500 champion get enough luck on his side to win and have the other three fall out of contention?
That’s his only shot.
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