This weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for its final event of the 2017 season.
Coming into this year’s running of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the following five drivers have a realistic chance of walking away with the series championship when all’s said and done.
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
Standings: 1st (560 Points)
Josef Newgarden enters today’s race as the current championship leader, a position the driver is finding himself in for the first time in his career.
In his first year at Team Penske, the Nashville driver dominated the summer months, winning three straight races.
A disastrous outing two weeks ago at Watkins Glen however, saw Newgarden’s championship lead evaporate to just a handful of points.
“The points are tight. It’s going to be a fun weekend with all of the scenarios that are out there. We have a championship-caliber team, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring another title to Team Penske.” Said Newgarden, ahead of on-track action earlier this week.
While Newgarden will certainly have his work cut out for him today, the 26-year-old has a clear path to victory. If Newgarden wins, he clinches the championship, plain and simple.
The overall list of possible scenarios is endless, so all Newgarden will need to concern himself with is the race victory.
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
Standings: 2nd (557 Points, -3)
Only three points separate the four-time series champion from frontrunner Josef Newgarden. If anyone has proven their ability to get things done when the championship is on the line, it’s Ganassi’s Scott Dixon.
Dixon’s 2017 campaign has been the mark of consistency, with one win, and nine top fives, ensuring the Kiwi has been in the championship hunt all season.
Like Newgarden, Dixon has a clear path to victory come today. A race win, and the Astor Cup is his once again.
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
Standings: 3rd (538 Points, -22)
In what could very well be his final start as a full-time Penske IndyCar driver, Helio Castroneves finds himself in search of his first ever championship title.
Castroneves has a lengthy list of accomplishments, including three Indy 500 victories, but the elusive championship is all that remains for the Brazilian to conquer.
Castroneves has been one of the most talked about drivers in the IndyCar paddock this season; with Roger Penske returning to sports car racing next year, the 42-year-old’s future remains uncertain.
“It all comes down to this. We had a strong car at Watkins Glen and were able to run toward the front of the pack. We’re ready to take what we learned at that race and all season to apply to the #3 Hitachi Chevrolet. I want a championship so bad, and all of my guys definitely want one too.” Castroneves said Thursday.
Winning the championship this time around should certainly impact Penske’s decision as to where to put Castroneves for the 2018 season.
Should Castroneves win today’s race, he will need to see his Penske Teammate Josef Newgarden finish no higher than third.
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske
Standings: 4th (526 Points, -34)
The defending series championship enters Sonoma in a rather comfortable position.
Coming up to the end of his third season at Penske, the Frenchman has proven himself worthy of a spot at IndyCar’s most prestigious team.
With two teammates ahead of him in the standings, it is likely Pagenaud will look to take a defensive approach come today’s race, doing whatever he can to ensure the championship returns to Penske.
However, should the top three contenders run into trouble, Pagenaud is more than capable of getting the job done.
Will Power, Team Penske
Standings: 5th (492 Points, -68)
Since his first season with Team Penske back in 2010, Will Power has finished each season fourth or higher in the standings.
Power’s championship ambitions this time around are to ensure a Penske driver walks away with the series title. Exactly who that will be remains unknown.
Coming into the final race 68 points behind teammate Josef Newgarden, Power virtually has nothing to lose at this point.
If Power is to win the championship today, he’ll need a lot to go his way, including disaster striking both Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon. However, if the last few season finales are anything to go by, don’t rule out Power’s chances of a second IndyCar Series title.