Sunday Morning Update from Sonoma (Update)

Servia and Becker
Servia and Becker

UPDATE The final practice session has completed. No major incidents before the last race of the season. Max Chilton did cause a red flag during the session. AR1 is not sure what the teams were working on during this final practice session but looking at the final practice times, speed was not the main focus of this session. It will be interesting to see the type of tires the teams will use for the race today. Firestone made the primary, black tire for this race more durable than the 2016 Sonoma compound. The 2017 alternate (red) tire is similar to the 2016 primary compound.

On a lighter note, Oriol Servia, the Honda test driver for the new IndyCar for 2018, and Jaclyn Becker were married yesterday. AR1 does not have all the details but the couple is expecting their first child in the next few months. Congrats to the happy couple.

Starting Lineup

SP Car Driver Make Tire
1 2 Newgarden, Josef Chevy Primary
2 12 Power, Will Chevy Primary
3 1 Pagenaud, Simon Chevy Primary
4 3 Castroneves, Helio Chevy Alternate
5 26 Sato, Takuma Honda Alternate
6 9 Dixon, Scott Honda Alternate
7 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan Honda Alternate
8 98 Rossi, Alexander Honda Alternate
9 15 Rahal, Graham Honda Alternate
10 18 Bourdais, Sebastien Honda Alternate
11 27 Andretti, Marco Honda Alternate
12 10 Kanaan, Tony Honda Alternate
13 4 Daly, Conor Chevy Alternate
14 8 Chilton, Max Honda Primary
15 83 Kimball, Charlie Honda Primary
16 5 Hinchcliffe, James Honda Alternate
17 20 Pigot, Spencer Chevy Primary
18 19 Jones, Ed (R) Honda Alternate
19 7 Harvey, Jack (R) Honda Alternate
20 21 Hildebrand, JR Chevy Primary
21 13 Claman DeMelo, Zachary (R) Honda Primary
22 14 Munoz, Carlos Chevy Primary
Newgarden on pole for today's race
Lucille Dust/

09/17/17 It is a bittersweet morning here at Sonoma Raceway where the final race of the season will be run today. The weather has been perfect this weekend, except for some wind conditions that the drivers had to contend with. It is currently 50 degrees but we should warm up into the low 80s by race time.

Today's race will determine the IndyCar championship for 2017. The champion has been decided the last 12 season at the final race.

IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden withstood constant pressure from his teammates, setting a track record to win the Verizon P1 Award in GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma qualifying yesterday. Newgarden earned his first pole of the season and second of his six-year career with a scintillating last lap of 1 minute, 15.5205 seconds (113.691 mph) on the 12-turn permanent road course. The championship bonus point Newgarden collected for winning the pole stretched his advantage to four points over Scott Dixon heading into Sunday's season finale that offers double race points.

"I was just hoping we could get one of these (Verizon P1 Awards) this year," said Newgarden, whose only previous pole came at Milwaukee in 2015. "We've been close a couple times and a couple places I felt like we had the speed to do it and didn't get it done.

"It's cool because this is the Verizon P1 Award and I've been driving the hum by Verizon car many races this year, and I haven't been able to get it in its place."

Team Penske will be the team to beat. All four of the drivers, Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, have won a race this season. Between the four drivers, the team has won nine races and ten poles this season.

Helio Castroneves said it best in the post qualifying press conference yesterday. "Team Penske, we're throwing everything out there. We wanted this championship as bad as anybody. We do have a chance. We going to obviously try to execute. That's our goal."

Can Dixon ruin the Penske party?

The one driver to threaten a Penske championship is Scott Dixon. Dixon was the only driver to reach the Firestone Fast Six at all nine road- and street-course events where it was conducted this season.

Qualifying sixth for today's race, Dixon was upbeat with his starting position. "The car was kind of decent to drive, but just couldn't carry the speed through the corners," said Dixon, seeking his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

"Good to make it through to where we did," Dixon added. "It was definitely hard work, a big credit to the team. Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there. I think in '15 we started ninth when we won that race (and the championship). Definitely you'd want to be a little further up, but that's the way it goes."

We spoke with Beth Boles, Christian Daly's mom, yesterday in the paddock and inquired as to how the younger brother of Conor was doing after fracturing his right leg while competing at the P1AquaX National Watercross Championships last week. Boles said he was doing fine and should be in a walking cast in four weeks.

Warm up is at 11:30 am with the final green flag of the season at 3:30 pm.

We will keep you updated as things happen.

Lucille Dust reporting live from Sonoma Raceway

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