IRR sets forth its final predictions of the 2017 season – including a surprise champion – while bidding adieu to a crime against racing aesthetics.
Our special prediction for the GoPro Grand Prix is while Sonoma may not feature much passing on its twisted, narrow confines, at least it’s the last time we’ll ever have to watch those hideously fugly, dangerous aero kits in action. Their departure alone will make this nearly unwatchable finale held in a dustbowl almost palatable, raising our spirits markedly in the process. That, and the wine.
Photo from racesonoma.com
Incidentally, since the cars become obsolete Sunday night – it’s about time – we’d love to see a non-points demolition derby held immediately following the podium celebrations. Charlie “pinball” Kimball, J.R. “hair today, gone next year” Hildebrand and Taku Sato would battle for an Andretti Winery gift certificate and Conor Daly’s domestic duties for a day. Which leads us to . . .
Saturday’s fight for pole position will take on special significance at the infamously tedious track, with the championship contenders – Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon – vying for the extra point and tremendous advantage starting up front at Sonoma brings. Four of the last five Grands Prix have been won by drivers starting in the top 3, including fickle Frenchman Simon Pagenaud from pole last year and Dixon’s win in 2014 (his win in 2015 came from 9th).
Photo from indycar.com
Saying goodbye to all that, we’ve got Pags on pole for Penske in a repeat of the previous running. Remarkably, the Cap’n’s crew have won an incredible nine of sixteen P1 awards thus far on the season.
As we finally say auf wiedersehen to those asinine aero kits – whose absence should lessen the above dreadful stat and others – first out of the race also takes on added import. Judging by how this year’s gone, fans should expect the Hondas to have additional issues again on Sunday. James “the finger” Hinchcliffe certainly did most recently at the Glen, and since his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team has thrown in with a homicidal Frenchman for the upcoming 500, it’ll be fine with us when they encounter further difficulties Sunday. See ya next year, crazy legs Canuck!
Photo from usatoday.com
The biggest surprise of the race will be the new crowned champion, particularly following his major misstep last race. The GP and championship winner will be Josef Newgarden, who’ll have little problem getting around Pags again, a la his magnificent bump pass for the win at Gateway. In his inaugural campaign for Penkse, Newkid will overcome adversity and self inflicted gaffes for his first IndyCar title. He’ll be the first American champ in five years – and only the third since 2006.
Photo from indycar.com
In honor of soon to be former king (and all-the-time ratfink) Pags, we say au revoir! But only until our forthcoming “Sonoma Season Finale Race Review” followed by our ever popular season recap, both coming soon.