The Verizon IndyCar Series concludes its 2015 season with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. It marks the first time that the final race of a season has been on a road course in several years, and will also be an emotionally important race as IndyCar continues to mourn the death of driver Justin Wilson. We’ve compiled the race schedule, event facts and a driver preview of what you can expect from the 2015 season finale.
The 85-lap event, which was held last season as the penultimate round (and which is remembered for the earthquake that occurred on the morning of race day), was won in 2014 by three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who remains in the title hunt in 2015. The pole position was won by Will Power, who is also still championship eligible.
The current series leader is still Juan Pablo Montoya, who was briefly bumped off the top spot as they ran at Pocono by Graham Rahal, but reasserted his lead after a rough outing for Rahal and now leads the other driver by 34 points. As the season finale, Sunday’s race now pays double points, so six drivers can take the title: Montoya, Rahal, Dixon, Power, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden.
Castroneves, Marco Andretti, last week’s winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dixon are the four drivers previewing the race; you can hear what they have to say about Sonoma and the championship by using the media player included with this article.
Below is the event schedule for race weekend (all times local):
Friday, Aug. 28
2:30 PM to 6 PM – Practice 1
Saturday, Aug. 29
10:45 AM to 11:30 AM – Practice 2 (TV broadcast on NBCSN)
3:05 PM to 4:20 PM – Qualifying (TV broadcast on NBCSN beginning at 3:30 PM)
Sunday Aug. 30
10 AM to 10:30 AM – Warmup
1 PM – IndyCar Live pre-race (TV broadcast on NBCSN)
2:07 PM – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma green flag (TV broadcast on NBCSN)
In addition to the event coverage, fans can also enjoy re-airings of the IndyCar Chronicles episodes featuring Hunter-Reay and Dixon prior to the start of the race broadcast, beginning at 12 PM.
Understandably, the drivers’ comments heading into this final race are muted by the sadness of losing a colleague. “The Verizon IndyCar Series is going into Sonoma with heavy hearts this weekend,” said Power in the league’s statement. “I had the pleasure – and I do mean pleasure – to race against Justin Wilson for many years in this series. To see how hard he worked was an inspiration to many people in the paddock.
“Justin was a great driver – a winning driver – but more than that he was just a fantastic human being. There is no other way to put it,” he continued. “My wife, Liz, worked with him for a couple of years so we became mates during our time together in the sport. This really hits home for both she and I. No one had a bad thing to say about Justin. No one. He will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his family. We are all thinking about them.”
“”We lost an amazing human being in Justin Wilson and we will all miss him to no end. We’re all going to be thinking of him and the Wilson family this weekend in Sonoma, and honoring Justin by doing what he loved to do – which is race,” added Dixon. “Sonoma is huge for us from the standpoint that it’s Target’s biggest race too. It’s a fantastic race and it’s been very exciting there the last few years.
“For us to win last year was really cool. It was kind of our turnaround on the season to try to regain some strength on what started out to be a pretty slow start to the year,” he said. “I’m excited that Team Target is still in contention for the championship, with this being a double-points race. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating with a lot of wine in victory circle for a championship and a race victory.”
“The racing world lost a friend, a competitor and a brother in Justin Wilson,” added Newgarden. “We will be racing with heavy hearts this weekend in Sonoma, but Justin would have wanted everyone to continue doing what they love and getting back behind the wheel. That’s what we will do and we will race in honor of Justin. Hopefully we have an exciting race for everyone to watch and we will make Justin proud.”
It was announced Wednesday that tribute T-shirts and decals in Wilson’s honor, with the entirety of proceeds going to the late driver’s family, are now available online and will also be available at the racetrack this weekend.
The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma takes place Sunday, October 30.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.