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IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden withstood constant pressure from his nearest championship competitors, setting a track record to win the Verizon P1 Award in Grand Prix of Sonoma qualifying.

Newgarden earned his first pole of the season and second of his six-year career with a scintillating last lap of 1 minute, 15.5205 seconds (113.691 mph) on Sonoma Raceway's 2.385-mile, 12-turn permanent road course.

The championship bonus point Newgarden collected for winning the pole stretched his advantage to four points over Scott Dixon heading into Sunday's season finale that offers double race points.

The pole-winning lap from Newgarden in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet edged teammate Will Power for qualifying honors. It was the 11th pole position won by a Team Penske driver this season and No. 256 in the team's Indy car history.

"I was just hoping we could get one of these (Verizon P1 Awards) this year," said Newgarden, whose only previous pole came at Milwaukee in 2015. "We've been close a couple times and a couple places I felt like we had the speed to do it and didn't get it done.

"It's cool because this is the Verizon P1 Award and I've been driving the hum by Verizon car many races this year, and I haven't been able to get it in its place."

Power, fifth in the standings and now 69 points behind Newgarden, ran a best lap of 1:15.5556 (113.638 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet in the Firestone Fast Six, the third and final round of knockout qualifying. The lap fell less than four-hundredths of a second shy of giving Power his 51st career pole and seventh this season.

"You start going back through the lap in your head," Power said. "I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, would have helped me braking actually, push back. It's tight, it's just like that sometimes. Gave it everything I got."

Simon Pagenaud's track record from 2016 (1:16.2530) was broken in the first round by Newgarden (1:15.7917), but Pagenaud reset the standard temporarily when he was fastest in the second round (1:15.7120) in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

It set up the dramatic run for the pole. Newgarden - the only Team Penske driver to use a new set of the Firestone alternate tires in the first round - was quickest in the Firestone Fast Six with another lap record completed on a used set of red-sidewall alternates despite his teammates each having a new set of the softer alternates at their disposal.

"We were behind the eight ball there, for sure, after the first round," Newgarden said. "We made the best decision we could as a group. There was no way we couldn't run the reds (in first-round qualifying) because we just had no idea what people were going to run.

"We knew we'd be on our back foot then in the Fast Six, but this car was phenomenal."

Pagenaud, the reigning series champion, wound up third in the Firestone Fast Six with a lap of 1:15.6356 (113.518 mph). Helio Castroneves gave Team Penske a sweep of the first four qualifying positions when he finished fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:15.8032, 113.267 mph). It is the third time this season that Penske drivers have owned the top four qualifying positions, also sweeping at Road America in June and Gateway Motorsports Park last month.

Castroneves is third in the championship, now 23 points behind Newgarden. Pagenaud is fourth, 35 points behind the leader.

Takuma Sato qualified fifth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:16.2208, 112.646 mph), just ahead of Dixon in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing (1:16.3978, 112.385 mph). Dixon was the only driver to reach the Firestone Fast Six at all nine road- and street-course events where it was conducted this season.

"The car was kind of decent to drive, but just couldn't carry the speed through the corners," said Dixon, seeking his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship. A win Sunday would accomplish the feat.

"Good to make it through to where we did," Dixon added. "It was definitely hard work, a big credit to the team. Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there. I think in '15 we started ninth when we won that race (and the championship). Definitely you'd want to be a little further up, but that's the way it goes."

A final 30-minute warmup practice at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday (live stream onRaceControl.IndyCar.com) will give the 22 competitors a final chance to hone in on race setups. A special pre-race program will stream live at 6 p.m. on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Live race coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The race winner earns 100 points, with 80 points for second place, 70 for third and down to 16 points for 22nd place. A driver can earn one bonus point for leading a lap, with the driver leading the most laps getting two bonus points.

The 85-lap race on Sunday will mark the 12th straight year that the Verizon IndyCar Series championship is determined in the season's last race.

Chevrolet honored for sixth straight manufacturer championship

Chevrolet was recognized today for clinching its sixth consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturer championship. No matter what happens in Sunday's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Honda cannot overtake Chevrolet in manufacturer points.

"Although we were outnumbered on the track in quantity, we had the quality needed to win the races and poles required to win the championship," said Mark Kent, Chevrolet's director of motorsports competition. "It's an accomplishment we're very proud of.

"Chevrolet races to win. We race to win key races and we race to win championships. Every year, that's our goal. We know eventually when you're on the top, you get knocked off, but our goal is to stay on top as long as we possibly can."

Chevrolet's 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 engine powered eight full-season entries compared to Honda's 13 in 2017 competition, yet has won nine of the 16 races thus far and collected its 11th pole today.

"The most exciting thing about this year is once again every one of our teams contributed to this championship," Kent said. "It reinforces the strength of our team. Team Penske, AJ Foyt Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, all three of them contributed."

Chevrolet has won the manufacturer title every year since it re-entered Verizon IndyCar Series competition in 2012.

Jones presented Sunoco Rookie of the Year award

Dale Coyne Racing driver Ed Jones was presented the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award for the 2017 season in a news conference today at Sonoma Raceway. The only full-time rookie in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season, the 22-year-old from Dubai has impressed with five top-10 finishes to date - including a memorable third-place finish in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.

"I feel like as a driver, I got stronger (as the season progressed)," said Jones, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda. "Early in the season, I had some really great results. I was driving well, but also a lot of things fell my way. I was pretty lucky in that sense.

"Now I think we've gotten better, me as a driver, also bonding with the team."

Jones, who also earned $50,000 for winning top rookie honors, qualified 18th for Sunday's season finale. He is 14th in the standings, but with double points available in the race, has his sights set on moving up.

"If we can have a good race this weekend, we can get ourselves back up there, maybe just outside the top 10," he said. "If we can do that, it will be a great job."  

Results:

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691) 
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360) 
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

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Alexander Rossi's weekend of great news continued today when he won the qualifying for the IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen.

A day after it was announced he would return to Andretti Autosport next season in a multiyear deal, Rossi clocked a dramatic last lap of 1 minute, 22.4639 seconds (147.119 mph) on Watkins Glen International's high-risk, high-reward permanent road course.

It was the fastest lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the third and final round of knockout qualifying, to earn Rossi the first pole position in his 32-race Verizon IndyCar Series career.

"It was a big lap we needed," said Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner and driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda. "The lap before was pretty good, but they came on the radio and said, 'You need at least a tenth (of a second quicker),' so we went for it.

"It's amazing to finally accomplish this, especially on the back of the announcement on Friday. I think it's been a long time coming, so it's just nice to finally get that. The whole team has been working so hard and they deserve this."

Rossi was the last of the Firestone Fast Six drivers on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn circuit at the session's end, crossing the timing line to win the pole as the others were in pit lane. The 25-year-old Californian's best previous qualifying effort was third on two occasions, both on ovals this season at Indianapolis and Texas.

Rossi will lead the 21-car field to the green flag in Sunday's 60-lap race (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). In winning the pole, he denied Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon the chance to edge closer to championship leader Josef Newgarden in the point standings.

Dixon settled for the second starting spot with a lap of 1:22.5168 (147.025 mph) in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda that nipped Newgarden by one ten-thousandth of a second.

"Front row is definitely decent," said Dixon, the four-time series champion and four-time Watkins Glen race winner. "The frustrating part is that we had plenty in hand.

"We caught Helio (Castroneves on track) so quickly. I don't know what he was doing out there, he was just sort of cruising around. We caught him way too fast with two laps to go.

Maybe we should have backed off on the second-to-last lap (to open a gap). I think we had probably another three or four tenths (of a second) in the car. Definitely frustrating to lose it that way."

Regardless, Dixon is the only driver to reach all eight Firestone Fast Six rounds contested this season and has earned a top-five starting position in each of his eight visits to Watkins Glen. Dixon also broke his year-old track record in the second round of qualifying with a lap of 1:22.4171 (147.202 mph).

Newgarden, holding a 31-point lead over Dixon heading into Sunday's race, will start third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet following a lap of 1:22.5169 (147.024 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six.

"I think I messed up a pole run, to be honest with you," Newgarden said. "I lost two or three tenths (of a second) in the final corner.

"I just deuced it, totally messed it up, lost a couple tenths (in Turn 9). Great lap time, good starting position for us. I feel so silly for messing up what could have been a pole position."

Takuma Sato, Rossi's teammate at Andretti Autosport, qualified fourth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:22.5660, 146.937 mph). Charlie Kimball was fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda (1:22.8081, 146.507 mph), with Castroneves sixth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.3350, 145.581 mph).

Newgarden, Dixon, Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud (who qualified 12th), Will Power (qualified eighth), Graham Rahal (qualified 10th), Rossi and Sato all remain mathematically alive for the championship.

Drivers must be within 104 points of the leader following the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen - with only the double-points GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 17 remaining on the schedule.

Qualifying relust:

1. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:22.4639 (147.119)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:22.5168 (147.025)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:22.5169 (147.024)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:22.5660 (146.937) 
5. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:22.8081 (146.507)
6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:23.3350 (145.581)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:22.9854 (146.194)
8. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:23.0987 (145.995)
9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:23.1459 (145.912)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:23.2240 (145.775)
11. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:23.2959 (145.649)
12. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:23.2981 (145.646)
13. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:23.4917 (145.308)
14. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:23.5089 (145.278)
15. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:23.9851 (144.454)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:23.6854 (144.972) 
17. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:23.9982 (144.432)
18. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:24.1390 (144.190)
19. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:24.2012 (144.083)
20. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:24.1779 (144.123)
21. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:24.4543 (143.652)

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Scott Dixon continued his mastery of Watkins Glen International, leading this afternoon's second practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen with the fastest lap of the day.

A year after pacing every practice session, winning the pole position and leading 50 of 60 laps on his way to victory, Dixon topped the end-of-day speed chart on the iconic road course.

The driver of the No. 9 NTT Data Honda sped around the 11-turn, 3.37-mile circuit in 1 minute, 22.6187 seconds (146.843 mph) - less than a tenth of a second off the track record he set in capturing the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying in 2016.

"Just really enjoy it," Dixon said of Watkins Glen. "It's a fun place, man. It's extremely fast. It's definitely some pretty high-risk situations.

"For me, the tracks of current day are nothing like these. It's a lot of fun to come here. I think (we're) very fortunate for all INDYCAR and the competitors to come back to a circuit like this."

Dixon's win at the Glen last year was his fourth in seven Verizon IndyCar Series races during the current era of competition that began in 2005 at the track in upstate New York.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is hoping to use today's results as a springboard toward his fifth season championship. He trails Josef Newgarden - who was 11th overall in practice - by 31 points with two races remaining.

"For us, the biggest thing we've got to do is just focus on our race, go out there, try and win," Dixon said. "If we can win, that takes care of a lot of situations."

Will Power, the 2010 Watkins Glen race winner, was second fastest in the afternoon session with a lap of 1:22.7129 (146.676 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

"We learned a lot today," Power said. "The Verizon Chevy was pretty good. It was good to get a feel of the (Firestone alternate) red tires versus the (primary) black tires. I feel like the course has changed a little over the last year, but it's still super-fast."

Rounding out the top five were: Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (1:22.9716, 146.219 mph), Simon Pagenaud in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.0915, 146.008 mph) and Alexander Rossi in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda (1:23.1124, 145.971 mph). Earlier today, Andretti Autosport announced it had signed Rossi and sponsor NAPA Auto Parts to a multiyear extension for 2018 and beyond.

Eight drivers - Newgarden, Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Pagenaud, Power, Rahal, Rossi and Takuma Sato - remain mathematically eligible to win the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Of those, only Dixon (four times), Pagenaud (2016) and Power (2014) are past champions.

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Josef Newgarden made a daring pass for the lead 30 laps from the finish of the Gateway race and drove on to his third win in the last four IndyCar Series races.

The Team Penske driver won by 0.6850 of a second over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon to also extend his championship lead unofficially to 31 points over Dixon with two races remaining this season.

The IndyCar Series returned to Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis for the first time since 2003 and was greeted by a crowd overflowing the grandstand in the frontstretch. In turn, the 21 drivers put on a thrilling show on the 1.25-mile oval.

Newgarden, in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, led 170 of the 248 laps but trailed teammate Simon Pagenaud on a Lap 212 restart after the final round of pit stops. Newgarden moved inside of Pagenaud’s No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet as they battled down the front straight and the two cars touched entering Turn 1.

The contact forced Pagenaud to drift up in the corner and slow, allowing Dixon to slip past in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda. Pagenaud finished in third place.

Helio Castroneves gave Team Penske three of the top four finishers when he finished fourth in the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet. Castroneves led 52 laps early but stalled his car during a Lap 157 pit stop and couldn’t recover.

Conor Daly finished fifth in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, the American’s best finish with the team this season and his best showing since placing fourth last year at Watkins Glen.

The start of the race was slowed by a pair of incidents. Tony Kanaan spun in Turn 2 on the pace lap and backed his No. 10 NTT Data Honda into the SAFER Barrier. Kanaan went laps down while the car was repaired and eventually finished 16th.

When the green flag did wave, pole sitter Will Power spun in nearly the same place as Kanaan and hit the wall in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The cars of Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato touched as they tried to avoid Power, sending both into the wall as well. None of the drivers was injured but their races were over before the race had barely begun.

The unofficial Verizon IndyCar Series standings have Newgarden in the lead with 547 points, Dixon second with 516, Castroneves third at 505, Pagenaud fourth at 504 and Power fifth with 464. Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi and Sato all remain mathematically alive for the championship as well.

By finishing 13th tonight, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the season.

The next race is the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, from the road course at Watkins Glen International.

source: indycar.com

 

         

 

 

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