Previewing IndyCar's last Sonoma finale

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The thrill of championship IndyCar racing returns to Sonoma Raceway for the last time as the Verizon IndyCar Series hosts its season finale in Wine Country for the fourth consecutive year, Sept. 14-16.

IndyCar LLC of Indianapolis decided last month to hold their annual season finale at Laguna Seca, accepting a bid from the Monterey Board of Supervisors to pay annual “sanction fees” of about $.15 million, numbers the private for-profit Sonoma Raceway could not match. Sonoma Raceway has included IndyCar on its major event schedule as early as 1970, when Dan Gurney beat Mario Andretti to the finish line, and for each of the last 14 years. Eight different IndyCar drivers have tasted victory in Sonoma since the series began running at Sonoma annually in 2005: Tony Kanaan (2005), Marco Andretti (‘06), Helio Castroneves (‘08), Dario Franchitti (‘09), Ryan Briscoe (‘12), Will Power (‘10, ’11, ‘13), Scott Dixon (‘07, ‘14, ‘15) and Simon Pagenaud (’16, ‘17).

The Verizon IndyCar Series championship has come down to the last race for the last 12 years, so a solid performance in Sonoma will be crucial for the 2018 champion. This year’s championship race will also feature the debut of the new bolder, sleeker and safer aero kits. With streamlined aerodynamics, fans can expect more jockeying for position on the 12-turn 2.38-mile road course.

Last year, Team Penske swept the podium as Simon Pagenaud won the Grand Prix of Sonoma for the second time, while teammate Josef Newgarden finished second to wrap up the championship, becoming the first American champion in the series since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012.

Race day won’t be your average Sunday drive, say Sonoma Raceway in a release. “Don’t miss the Patriots Jet Team six-jet air show, driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies. In addition to the great Verizon IndyCar Series action, race weekend will also feature racing by the Historic Trans Am series, as well as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Formula Car Challenge.”

The green flag for the Grand Prix of Sonoma drops at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16, for 85 laps of championship fight. For more information, to purchase tickets and for a full weekend schedule, visit www.SonomaRaceway.com.

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