2016 Go Pro Sonoma Grand Prix
September 16 – 18, 2016
The Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 season finale was a terse battle between Team Penske teammates.
September 18, 2016, Sonoma, CA – Held on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway road course, an 85-lap race to determine a champion had the intrigue of taking place in Team Penske’s 50th anniversary year and holding double points for all 22 entries. Still only 2014 champ Will Power and points leader (by 43 points pre-race) Simon Pagenaud were eligible to win the Astor Cup, symbolic of the title.
Pagenaud pipped his three other Team Penske squad mates (Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya) for pole position on Saturday; Power held fourth place on the grid, emboldened by his record at Sonoma Raceway: in seven starts he had three wins, five pole positions and stood on podium four times. Pagenaud’s five starts yielded a single pole and podium, but no wins leading up to this race.
At the start Frenchman Pagenaud took a commanding lead over the field, even as Power held onto his spot and waited for opportunity. It wasn’t to be as he lost his clutch control sensor on the 36th lap and eventually finishing 20th on the day. There was nothing the Australian could do but watch his teammate continue to lead – all the way to the checkered flags.
It was Pagenaud, then, who earned the win in his No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprises Chevrolet – his first at this track – and his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Graham Rahal finished second while Team Penske’s Montoya earned third place in what may have been his final drive for the team.
By Ken Manfred