Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report

Track: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (12-turn, 2.385-mile road course)
Race: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Date: Aug. 30, 2015

No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start: First
Finish: Seventh
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 26
Final Points Position (behind leader): Third (-63 pts.)

Recap: Will Power recovered from mid-race contact with Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to finish seventh in Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. With the result, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion finished third in this season’s final series standings. Power started from the pole position – his series-leading sixth Verizon P1 Pole Award this season – and led 26 laps before the incident with Montoya on lap 38 sent him to 24th in the running order. By the checkered flag he raced back to seventh place, which allowed him to move up one position to third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. It marked the sixth consecutive top-10 finish for Power at Sonoma, where he has won three times in his career. Power has finished among the top four in the final standings for six consecutive seasons. He closed the year with one win in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis to go along with seven top-five finishes.

Quote: “Unfortunately, the yellow (flags) came at the wrong time for the Verizon Chevy. I feel horrible for Juan. Josef (Newgarden) went up on the inside and I went to switch back off of him and I damaged Juan’s wing. Then the yellow started and that set the day there. Before that we were all in good shape there. But I want to say congratulations to Scott (Dixon) and obviously a very close finish there. Most importantly, I want to say that the Verizon Chevy boys did a great job this year and we’ll look forward to coming back next year and going for the championship again.”

No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Juan Pablo Montoya
Start: Fifth
Finish: Sixth
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Final Points Position (behind leader): Second (556 pts., tied for the most points as title was decided on a tiebreaker)

Recap: Juan Pablo Montoya’s bid to win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship came up barely short Sunday. Following a lap 38 incident with teammate Will Power, Montoya battled back to finish sixth in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday afternoon. Montoya, the series leader all season, entered the race with a 34-point lead over Graham Rahal and a 47-point lead over Scott Dixon, but Dixon won the championship by winning the race. Montoya and Dixon tied with 556 points earned on the year, but Dixon was awarded the championship based on the tiebreak — number of race wins during the 2015 season. The race started well for Montoya, who qualified the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet in the fifth position before moving up to fourth place on the first lap. When he pitted with the leaders on lap 15, Montoya emerged in 10th place as several other drivers ran longer in their fuel window. However, by the time the yellow flag of the race waved on lap 33, Montoya was back up to fifth place and in command of the championship. Unfortunately, shortly after a restart on lap 38, Montoya collided with Power in one of the tight Sonoma corners. Power spun off track, while Montoya’s car suffered a broken front wing in the incident. The ensuing pit stop left Montoya in 24th place when the race resumed. He eventually worked his way to seventh, but needed to finish fifth to wrest the championship from Dixon. Montoya got past Sebastien Bourdais and Rahal over the final 15 laps of the race, but he wasn’t able to pass Ryan Briscoe for the necessary fifth-place finish. For the season, Montoya scored two wins – including the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 – and nine top-five finishes.

Quote: “The No. 2 Verizon Chevy team had a great season. We just had a disappointing finale. There was a lot to be proud of this year, from winning the season opener to giving Roger Penske another Indianapolis 500 title. Unfortunately, today we gave one away but we will come back stronger next year. I have to thank everyone at Verizon, Chevrolet, Hawk Performance and PPG for their great support. I’m looking forward to even more success with them.”

No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Start: 15th
Finish: 15th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (behind leader): Fifth (-103 pts.)

Recap: After qualifying in the 15th position on Saturday afternoon, Helio Castroneves suffered a broken front wing early in Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway that virtually ended his chances to win his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship. When the race began, Castroneves quickly moved up three positions in the first two laps, but was forced to pit on the third lap to fix damage to the front wing on his No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet. He made a valiant drive back through the field, eventually moving into the top 10. However, he was unable to gain further ground and ultimately settled for a 15th-place result. Castroneves finished fifth in the final standings and showed remarkable consistency with five podium finishes and four Verizon P1 Pole Awards in 2015.

Quote: “First of all, it was a good season for the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy team. We finished in the top five in the championship and to battle down to the last race of the year was great. We know we did have a fast Hitachi Chevy today but because of a bad qualifying we put ourselves in a tough position. I’m disappointed for everyone at Team Penske and especially for Juan Pablo (Montoya) and the No. 2 car team, leading the championship up until the end. To have the team finish second just doesn’t seem right. But this team is strong. We’ll come back even stronger next year. A big thanks to Hitachi, AAA, Shell-Pennzoil and Chevrolet for all their support this year.”

No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Start: Fourth
Finish: 16th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (behind leader): 11th (-172 pts.)

Recap: Simon Pagenaud raced among the leaders for part of Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway before posting a 16th-place finish that placed him 11th in the final Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings. After starting fourth, Pagenaud remained in the top 10 for the opening segment of the race. On his first pit stop, however, Pagenaud stopped short of his pit stall to avoid contact with teammate Will Power and Josef Newgarden, who were both making stops as well. As a result of the extra time on pit lane, Pagenaud fell from sixth to 20th in the running order. After another stop on lap 48, Pagenaud dropped from third to 19th place. Upon returning to the track, Pagenaud began to turn some of his fastest laps of the race in an attempt to carve his way back through the field and salvage a top-10 finish. He maneuvered his back to the 16th position before crossing the finish line. In his first season with Team Penske, Pagenaud finished on the podium twice — at Detroit and Mid-Ohio – and won the Verizon P1 Pole Award at Auto Club Speedway in July.

Quote: “With the season we’ve had, I’m disappointed for the team. Team Penske did win the Indy 500 and that’s obviously the biggest race of the year and we had three cars in the championship, so we should feel good about that. Our guys do such a good job on the cars and we tried with the Avaya Chevy today, but it wasn’t meant to be as we just had too many issues. Congratulations to Scott Dixon on the championship. I also want to thank Avaya, HP, Hawk, Carlisle and Devilbiss, PPG, Chevy and Penske Truck Rental for everything. We’ll be working hard in testing this offseason and build on what we started this year for 2016.”