RaceDayScore IndyCar: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
RaceDayScore IndyCar: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

This article is part of our RaceDayScore IndyCar series.

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Location: Sonoma, Calif.
Course: Sonoma Raceway
Format: 2.4-mile road course
Laps: 85

Race Preview

Scott Dixon successfully overthrew the Penske Racing juggernaut that has dominated road courses so far this season by winning from pole two weeks ago at Watkins Glen. This win was Dixon's second of the season, but left Simon Pagenaud and Will Power as the sole remaining championship protagonists heading into this week's final race. Pagenaud is favored to take the title with a 43-point gap over Power in second, but Power will want to avenge the crash that took him out of contention at Watkins Glen and lost him ground in the title hunt. The drivers and teams now focus on the hills of Sonoma Raceway. The teams had a chance to test at the track between races, but the circuit is a familiar one to all. It has been a mainstay on the calendar since its first running in 2005. Dixon and Power each have three victories at the circuit, but all challengers are hungry to end the 2016 on a high note by visiting Victory Lane.

Key Stats at Sonoma Raceway

Number of previous races: 11
Winners from pole: 4
Winners from top-5 starters: 10
Winners from top-10 starters: 11
Lowest starting position to win: 9
Fastest race: 100.254 mph

Last 10 Winners at Sonoma

2015 - Scott Dixon
2014 - Scott Dixon
2013 - Will Power
2012 - Ryan Briscoe
2011 - Will Power
2010 - Will Power
2009 - Dario Franchitti
2008 - Helio Castroneves
2007 - Scott Dixon
2006 - Marco Andretti

Sonoma Raceway presents numerous challenges to IndyCar teams and drivers. The circuit is narrow, so passing comes at a premium. The best chance to pass a rival is to exit the flowing esses section with as much speed as possible to out brake opponents into the final hairpin turn before the finish line. The elevation changes and off-camber apexes make chassis setup critical, and mechanical grip is what all drivers aimed to maximize in the test session and will try to replicate again this week. Track position at a narrow circuit will always present an advantage, so teams will want to remain mistake-free on pit road and will try to time their stops for fuel and tires to gain positions in the pits versus on track. The two Penske teammates will have extra pressure upon them as they duel for a championship, and the first blows will land as practice gets underway Friday afternoon.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Simon Pagenaud - $11,500
Simon Pagenaud - $11,500

Tier 2 Values

Helio Castroneves - $10,800
Scott Dixon - $10,500
Graham Rahal - $10,400
Ryan Hunter-Reay - $10,200

Tier 3 Values

James Hinchcliffe - $9,900
Mikhail Aleshin - $9,400
Takuma Sato - $9,200
Sebastien Bourdais - $8,800

Long-Shot Values

Max Chilton - $8,300
Jack Hawksworth - $8,000
SPencer Pigot - $7,600

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Cash Game Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Simon Pagenaud - $11,500
Scott Dixon - $10,500
Ryan Hunter-Reay - $10,200
Marco Andretti - $9,000
Sebastien Bourdais - $8,800

The final lower-risk lineup option of the season is headed by championship leader Pagenaud. The Frenchman boasts two top-fives and three top-10s from five career starts at Sonoma, and another finish like those should be enough to earn him the 2016 championship title. Last race's winner Dixon is also a top choice this week having won both of the last two IndyCar visits to the Northern California circuit. Hunter-Reay will be racing this week with his new child and father-in-law on his mind. He has had a terribly emotional week, but is racing close to home and will want to perform at his best. He scored consecutive runner-up finishes to Dixon in the last two races here. Andretti has largely had a season to forget in 2016, but he's a past winner at Sonoma and has two top-10 finishes from the last three starts there. Sebastien Bourdais has been hit-and-miss in five Sonoma starts. He scored two top-10 finishes in that time and is coming off of a strong fifth-place finish at Watkins Glen.

Higher-Risk Tournament Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Will Power - $11,500
Helio Castroneves - $10,800
Alexander Rossi - $10,200
James Hinchcliffe - $9,900
Spencer Pigot - $7,600

Penske Racing's second championship protagonist heads the higher risk lineup due to his potentially needing take some risks on Sunday to secure the title. He has been one of the best drivers at Sonoma, however. He started from pole in five of the last six races at the track, and scored three wins. Castroneves' podium finish in Watkins Glen could help him turn around his recent finishes at Sonoma. He has one track victory from pole in 2008, but finished 18th and 15th in the last two races. Though Sonoma Raceway may be considered Rossi's home track he has never raced on it. The past week's testing session will have given him valuable experience as he works to replicate and improve upon his eighth-place finish in Watkins Glen. He also has two top-10 finishes in the last five races. While Hinchcliffe has been busy "Dancing With the Stars," he also repeatedly has said his primary focus is IndyCar. He has two top-10 finishes form four Sonoma starts along with four top-10s from the last five races. Watkins Glen for him was a race to forget, and he'll want to close the season on a high note. Pigot continues to turn heads upon arriving in the series. He finished 15th at Watkins Glen and was seventh at Mid-Ohio. Those two tracks are similar to what he faces in Sonoma, which indicates another top-10 could be in store.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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