SONOMA, Calif – It shouldn’t be too surprising but the Team Penske trio are showing that they’re the ones to beat for Sunday’s Sonoma Grand Prix (6:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). Penske drivers have won six of the last eight Verizon IndyCar Series races at the Sonoma Raceway and are flexing their muscle so far this weekend.
But, in qualifying, they surprisingly struggled. Only one of their drivers make the Firestone Fast Six.
Will Power qualified his No. 12 Chevrolet seventh which was his worst start ever in Sonoma and as well as his worst of the 2018 season. Prior to this weekend, he never started outside of Row 2 on the northern California race track. He has five poles in nine starts. Josef Newgarden qualified third his No. 1 Chevrolet for his fourth top five starting spot in five tries. He started second in each of 2014 and 2015 and on the pole in 2017.
Simon Pagenaud who’s won each of the last two years in Sonoma will start eighth in his No. 22 Chevrolet.
In all but one year has the race been won by someone starting inside of the top five. 13 of the 15 from the top three. That doesn’t bode well for this Penske group.
Also, four of the five races on natural road courses in 2018 have been won by the pole sitter. They were dominated by them too.
Newgarden led 73 of 82 laps in his win at Barber back in April. He led all but two laps in June at Road America in that win to. Power, led 56 of 85 laps at Indy in May as well. Alexander Rossi led 66 of the 90 laps in Mid-Ohio.
All of this spells a potential upset day on Sunday for Penske. Unfortunately, all three are too far out to likely hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy too.
Pagenaud, despite nine straight top 10 finishes on the season and being fourth, 17th and sixth respectively in practice this weekend is mathematically eliminated from championship contention. Both Power and Newgarden are 87 points out and need to win and get some luck.
Newgarden, took part in two practice sessions this weekend and was first and fifth respectively. Power, was third, fourth and second respectively.
As you can see, it’s highly likely that all three finish in the top five or six spots on Sunday, but can they win? That in turn will play a part in who’s crowned the champion on Sunday. Rossi and Scott Dixon will be vying for spots in the top five too but the Penske’s will be hard to pass for them.
It was certainly a surprising day on Saturday that’s for sure.