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Indy Car Rockets Into Wine Country One Last Time
Scott Dixon of New Zealand celebrates claiming the championship of the Verizon Indy Car Series after the final race over the weekend in Sonoma. It was his fifth career Indy Car season championship. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The Verizon Indy Car series brought its high rpm open-wheel “bullets” to the famed road course in the wine country of Sonoma, for one final 85-lap dash around the famous hillside road course for the Sonoma Grand Prix.

The final event of the season featured two drivers, Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon, as strong candidates to win the season championship. Rossi came into the event trailing Dixon by 29 points. As long as Dixon finished ahead of Rossi, he would claim the title. Will Power came in as a long shot, needing to pretty much win the event and then have the leaders finish well to the back of the field or worse.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the DHL/Andretti Autosport/Honda team qualified on the pole and led 80 of 85 laps on his way to his second win of the season and the 18th of his career. The win also gave him enough points to lock him in with a fourth place finish in the Verizon Indy Car season championship. Rossi, who qualified his NAPA/Andretti Autosport/Honda sixth, suffered an early race spin. This, for the most part, took him out of any contention for the Verizon Indy Car season championship. Though he was able to battle all the way from the back of the field towards the front, he could only muster up a seventh place finish. This would clinch him a second place finish in the Verizon Indy Car season championship. Dixon, who qualified second in his PNC Bank/Chip Ganassi/Honda, finished second to claim his fifth career season championship. The 38-year old New Zealander had previously won the Indy Car season championships in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015 for Chip Ganassi Racing. Will Power qualified his Verizon/Team Penske/Chevrolet seventh and was able to finish third over the weekend. That garnered him enough points to finish third in the Verizon Indy Car season championship standings. Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Marco Andretti of Team Andretti Autosports rounded out the top five and gained them sixth and ninth place Verizon Indy Car season championship finishes respectively.

The season ending, double-points, Verizon Indy Car event at Sonoma Raceway not only crowned the season champions, but also would be the last Indy Car event at Sonoma Raceway. This event celebrated the 14th year at the famed road course. Over the past 14 years, the track had to put up somewhere near $1.5 million to host the event. During that time, the track only came out ahead during a couple of years. During the other years, the track lost between $200,000 and $250,000. Starting next season, the series has moved to Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, CA.

Though it is unlikely, Indy Car could return to Sonoma in the future, if contractual agreements could be agreed upon between the track and Indy Car. Since it costs race tracks about $1.5 million to host an Indy Car series event, it is unlikely that a suitable deal could be worked out that could support two tracks, that are relatively close together, hosting an Indy Car event during the same year.