Monday Musings – 2017 GoPro GP of Sonoma

By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel

My post-race feature for The Open Wheel continues with a collection of random thoughts following the final Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend of the season at Sonoma Raceway for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

  • Newgarden Delivers Deserved Championship – Josef Newgarden won the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in his first year with Team Penske. That’s incredible. His intelligence to avoid pushing too hard and making a mistake when Pagenaud exited the pits in front of him showed the maturity of a champion and this could be the first of many for the American star. He had to have wanted to win the championship in style with a win but he listened to his team and still pushed Pagenaud, but brought the car home in P2 for the title. But it wasn’t just maturity that won him the championship. It was incredible pace (Sonoma pole) and determination (Mid-Ohio and Gateway passes for the win) when he needed it most showing incredible courage on a team full of established veterans. Newgarden checks every box you can ask for as a Verizon IndyCar Series superstar and he’s now in position to dominate the series for a long time.
  • Pagenaud Brilliant To Win Two Straight At Sonoma – Simon Pagenaud used a four-stop strategy and blistering pace to win the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma for the second straight year. He did all he could to put himself in position to win the title but unfortunately for him, Newgarden managed to stay right behind him to seal the championship. However, Pagenaud closed his season with his best and most determined effort of the season and that’s a great sign for him looking forward to next year.
  • Rahal Finishes “Best Of The Rest” – Graham Rahal’s P6 finish at Sonoma allowed him to move up to sixth in the final Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings. He’s the first driver in the standings who doesn’t race for Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. That’s a deserved honor for both Graham and his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team. What they’ve been able to achieve year-in, year-out as a one car team has been incredible. Of course, that will change next year with the addition of a second car for Takuma Sato and it will be interesting to see how that affects the team’s dynamics.
  • For Better Or Worse, Aero Kit Era Is Over – There has been a of negative feedback over the initial look of the DW12, the subsequent aero kits and their expense, true effectiveness, etc. but they have delivered plenty of exciting racing over the years. That all changes next year in 2018 as the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to a universal aero kit with major design changes. While plenty of optimism surrounds these incoming changes, myself included, it’s hard to ignore the quality of racing and safety the now old aero kits provided us in recent years.