Track Talk: The Final Race - Sonoma

It’s the final race of the 2017 IndyCar season. Five drivers have a realistic chance of walking away with the championship. It’s Team Penske’s four-car armada vs Scott Dixon on this week’s edition of #TrackTalk!

Can Scott Dixon steal this away from Team Penske (again)? Mathematically, Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves are Team Penske’s title favorites. However, every Penske driver has a realistic chance at taking the title. The one thorn in their side? Scott Dixon, who came from nowhere at Sonoma back in 2015 to snatch the title from Juan Pablo Montoya. Dixon is only three points back from championship leader, Newgarden. In IndyCar terms- that’s a virtual tie. If you’re making your fantasy pool picks based on stats, then it’s good to note that both Dixon and Will Power are tied for the most wins at Sonoma with three each.

And speaking of a tie: With four wins to his name, Newgarden is going to close out 2017 with more victories than any other driver. Only teammate Power who has won three races, can match his tally by winning Sonoma. Why is this figure so important? Total race wins is the first tiebreaker if drivers are tied on points. It helped Dixon back in 2015. He and Montoya both amounted 556 points, but it was his three wins to (Montoya’s) two that snagged him the championship.

Don’t forget about Helio Castroneves: Could this be Castroneves’ swan song from fulltime IndyCar racing? If the rumors are to be true, then this could be Castroneves’ last chance at an IndyCar title. Long-time fans will have a soft spot for the veteran. But don’t feel too bad for him if he doesn’t win- he still has three Indy 500 victories.  

Another note on the remaining top-five drivers: Come to think of it, outside of Newgarden, the remaining top-five drivers have all found victory at Sonoma- with the last two championship winners taking both Sonoma and the championship.

TrackTalk’s picks for Sonoma: I’m going to place my money on Simon Pagenaud to win the race, but for Josef Newgarden to take the championship. After throwing away a certain podium at Watkins Glen two weeks back, we expect the championship point’s leader to take a bit more methodical approach to this weekend. Pagenaud also tested at Sonoma last week and came away very positive about his chances on Sunday. He’s also a little further back in points, meaning he can afford to take some risks. My darkhorse for the race win? Keep an eye on Alexander Rossi. He’s made big strides this year, with luck and reliability as his only real enemy. Can he keep the momentum going from Watkins Glen?

In Case You Missed It: Two-time IndyCar starter and Indy Lights winner, Zach Veach will contest the entire 2018 IndyCar season with Andretti Autosport. Veach joins Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Alexander Rossi in an all-American lineup. And speaking of American IndyCar drivers- Spencer Pigot gets promoted from part-time road course ringer to fulltime driver at Ed Carpenter Racing. He’ll replace another American, JR Hildebrand. The big question? With Pigot going fulltime, who will split the driving duties with bossman Ed Carpenter?

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @VicGenova