The sun shone for the half-hour Warm-Up session for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway, leading up to the afternoon GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was final fastest in 10 am PDT session, with a lap of 1:19.0566/108.606 mph. Josef Newgarden No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, and Rookie Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing moved up to third at the last moment.
Fourth and fifth were Ryan Hunter Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet and Ryan Briscoe No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. All but Aleshin had led earlier on.
Other leaders included: Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda; Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet; and Justin Wilson No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Was it coincidence as at the moment Newgarden moved to the top of the charts with less than five minutes to go in the session, the news was being distributed about him being signed for next year to race with the new CFH team, with a one year contract and a second year option? The new team combines the merger of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing.
So now we have a team name and at least one driver. Now to learn what will be the engine package, and if Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway will also continue to race in the split formation, with Carpenter on ovals, and Conway on road and street courses.
Newgarden starts on the front row for the afternoon IndyCar race, his third time on the front row this season.
All cars went out very quickly, with Rookie Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com Andretti Autosport Honda the last out of the chute.
The official IndyCar comment on the unexpected two-day schedule for the IndyCar race at the three-day Sonoma Raceway weekend: It’s to shorten test time. For the 2015 schedule, which will be released sometime after the end of this season, there will be more two-day weekends like next weekend’s season finale MAVTV race at Auto Club Speedway, which will be preceded by an all day open IndyCar test.
In the morning Warm-Up for the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires,
Rookie Luis Razia No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian was fastest at 1:28.4565. For the race, Championship Contender Gabby Chaves No.5 Belardi Auto Racing starts second behind Rookie Jack Harvey No.42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian. Even if Harvey wins Sunday’s race, Chaves could win the Championship based on all his runner-up positions. Stay tuned.
Director of Chevrolet Racing, Mark Kent, and Derrick Walker, IndyCar Director of Competition, met with the Media to discuss Chevrolets third consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer Championship since Chevrolet came back to the open wheel series after a seven-year hiatus.
Kent said “It has not been easy, and it’s really the result of great partners, great teams, great drivers, and great technical partners. It’s just like everything General Motors does, we’re in racing to win, and we try to develop the best race cars. We’re also trying to develop the best production cars in the world, so we always strive to do the best, and we’re looking forward to next season and trying to make it four in a row.”
Walker said “There could be some tweaks to the 2015 Mfr Championship,” and Kent added “We really like the current formula so I don’t know who’s going to be in that meeting with you, but we really like the way it is right now, Derrick.”
Chevrolet and Honda both now use twin-turbo charged direct-injected V6 engines – the power plant that Chevrolet has had from the onset, and Honda this year when mandated by IndyCar.
Also this year the number of allowed engine changes during the season was decreased to four, to reward durability and reliability as well as performance. The changes came about after many conversations between IndyCar, Chevrolet and Honda, and what we all wanted to do. We all wanted to achieve a championship that actually meant what it was all about. Ten points to the manufacturer for each of its four engines going the limit of 2500 miles.Those going over their allotment were penalized ten points. Walker said “The system would be tweaked between seasons, but it’s a fine line between regulating performance and reliability. It a little bit more just to try and make it even closer to what we need. But it’s tough to draw the line and say one actually constitutes the final result, but I think the formula we’ve got right now, Chevrolet certainly did what it took to actually win under those circumstances, and performance and reliability were what it was all about in my opinion.”
Kent added “I think our reliability of the Chevrolet engine has been one of the key elements of us clinching this championship here today.”
Kent was proud of the fact that a driver from every Chevrolet organization has won at least one race. “We won our first race and we won the last race, but in between it’s been an absolute dog fight. Honda has been a very formidable opponent.”
Kent agreed with Walker that both Chevrolet and Honda welcome any other engine manufacturer, and on the other hand, Walker said “Underneath the surface, there is a fierce competition between manufacturers.”
Walker said that “There are ongoing discussions with two manufacturers, but anyone joining the series is a long way out. It takes a two-year ramp up. We have to make our product attractive so they want to participate.”
Having won the Manufacturer’s Championship. now Kent is absolutely looking forward to Chevrolet’s chances to also clinch the Driver’s Championship. “Absolutely. If you look at our score cards every year, we race to win championships. We race to win the manufacturer’s championship and the driver’s championship. Teams put a lot of faith in us as an engine manufacturer, so if we can in turn help them out with the driver’s championship, it’s a great feeling. We hope we come out of here with a big enough points lead that I can give my ulcer a break here and not have to worry about it between now and next weekend.”