Sonoma Finale Race Review: Egregious Ending Edition


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Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the whole kit ‘n caboodle at Sonoma’s so-called Raceway Sunday, leading all but nine laps in another regrettable road course runaway. Clinching a fourteenth IndyCar championship for the Cap’n in his 50th year in racing, it was Pags’ first IndyCar title in a decade in the sport. Yes and predictably, the season finale was truly that bad.


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There were some redeeming moments. Second fiddle stable mate Will Power couldn’t even keep the title hunt mildly interesting beyond lap thirty eight, suffering a clutch failure and falling out of contention. “Power down,” we gleefully Tweeted. The awful Aussie finished twentieth, eight laps off the pace. Always entertaining Graham Rahal ran a strong second for Honda, followed by the mercurial Juan Montoya in a Penske kind of day. Interestingly, it sounds as though Montoya won’t be back with the super team in 2017.


We plan to address the former Team Target‘s trials and tribulations in the forthcoming article “Scott Dixon‘s helmet,” as the defending champ encountered radio problems and had to hurriedly swap head gear mid-race. The Kiwi wasn’t really a factor all weekend – or much of the year, for that matter. It was a fitting send off for Target, who’s choosing to spend its money on another series after a quarter century in IndyCar.


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Sonoma’s sleep inducing speeds were on stark display during the restart, as the snaking cars barely out-ran a safety truck motoring along the other side of the wall. Josef Newgarden and Marco battled briefly in a bit of rare on-track action, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively. Newkid’s landing spot for next season is of great interest to fans, and the mere thought of him in a Penske car is frightening.


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Following Power’s outage the race was badly in need of another full course yellow. Unfortunately, none was forthcoming. The Proboscis took a commanding lead and the field strung out dully behind him. Tellingly, talk in the booth turned to fuel strategy, a lethal sign during any road race. At least Robin Miller’s admitted wild speculation about silly season kept things from flat lining completely during the Pagenaud processional.


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Our minds began to wander. Can Kimball’s team really do no better than nuclear waste green for the 83 car? Sato was driving for his stunningly long racing life – as we pointed out years ago – managing only to match A.J.’s famous number for a finish in quite possibly his final IndyCar race. As with next season’s schedule, IndyCar can and should do better.


NBCSN’s coverage was adequate considering what they had to work with, though Paul Tracy’s Marco to Uber comments of two weeks ago remain unsurpassed. Long, drawn out aerial shots of the dust bowl track vividly portrayed its drought-stricken desolation. Troublingly, Daffy Leigh Diffey looked as though he’s still battling whatever it is he picked up in Rio. Hopefully it’s not contagious, for Townsend Bell’s sake.

The finale was predictably dull, a downer of a conclusion to a fairly entertaining season. The Championship outcome, the final race and its dubious venue all left much to be desired.


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