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Pagenaud Claims 2016 Verizon Indy Championship
Wire To Wire
Leading for 76 of the 85 laps on the Sonoma road course is Simon Pagenaud, with Graham Rahal close behind. The two finished first and second in the race; Pagenaud took the season championship. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Simon Pagenaud went “wire to wire” to claim the victory at the GoPro Sonoma Grand Prix in his Team Penske/Hewlett Packard #22 Chevy this weekend. After capturing his fourth pole qualifying position of the season, Pagenaud dominated the race, leading 76 of the 85 laps in the race over the difficult Sonoma Wine Country road course. With the victory, he also captured the 2016 Verizon Indy Car Season Championship. Entering the event, only his Penske teammate Will Power, also had a chance to claim the season championship. Entering this final season double points event, Power trailed Pagenaud by a mere 54 points. If he could win the event and Pagenaud finished worse than fourth, Power could claim the championship. Any chance of this went away, however, when Power’s Penske/Verizon #12 Chevy suffered a clutch/gear box problem on lap 36, taking him out of contention. He would end up finishing 20th, eight laps down and taking second in the season championship.

Graham Rahal had a strong event, as he marched from his fifth qualifying position to finish second in his Rahal/Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak and Shake #15 Honda. Juan Pablo Montoya, in his Team Penske/Verizon #2 Chevy finished third. Ryan Hunter-Reay in his DHL/Andretti Motorsports #28 Honda got around rookie Alexander Rossi in his Castrol Edge/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport #98 Honda for the fourth position. Rossi finished fifth and 11th in the season standings.

For Roger Penske, the season was a strong one, as his team won 10 of 16 races during the season. It was the Team Penske’s 10th Indy Car season championship in his 50th year as a team owner and unprecedented 187th team Indy Car win. Team Penske finished the season 1-2-3 (Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Helio Castroneves).

The event was one of the quickest at Sonoma, as there were only three caution flags during the 85-lap race. Total race time was just over two hours with an average speed of 101.181 mph over the 2.385 mile 11-turn road course.

A highlight of the event was Ayesha Curry as the event Grand Marshal. Her task was to issue the most famous words in auto racing, “Drivers, start your engines!” And to the delight of the fans, the two-time NBA MVP, Stephen Curry, was also present. He greeted fans and took time to sign some autographs. The couple was also given a quick ride around the famous road course in a special two seat Indy car driven by the famous Mario Andretti.