Pagenaud or Power: Who Will Bring the IndyCar Championship Back to Team Penske?

wp-1474125914910.jpgHere we are again, at the end of another Verizon Indycar Series season. For the 11th year in a row the IndyCar Championship will be decided by the last race. Based on how close Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are in points, 43 to be exact, it may even come down to the very last lap.

There is not one simple scenario to say, “Will will win if this happens,” or “Simon will win if this happens,” because there are a multitude of mathematical probabilities.

The number of those probabilities will lessen today once qualifying is complete and we know where Power and Pagenaud will start the race on Sunday. And that’s because we will know if either one of them has earned a bonus point from gaining a Verizon P1 Award. Keep in mind that Power has earned five poles at Sonoma Raceway, in his last 6 starts. Simon Pagenaud, while never earning a pole here, has earned six poles this season and has led the field to green seven times.

The reason for that, you ask?

Rewind to the season opener back in March, on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Will Power qualified on pole but due to health conditions, he was not cleared to drive in the initial race of the year. Pagenaud qualified beside him in P2, and the entire field moved up one position since Oriol Servia would start in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevy. If Simon were to earn the pole today, for the season finale on Sunday, it would mean that he will have led the field to green for half the races in 2016. Pretty remarkable.

While Power clearly has a better record at Sonoma Raceway with three wins to his name and five poles, the Penske teammates have had the same number of wins this year (4) and Pagenaud trumps him on those pole positions, with Power only earning two compared to Pagenaud’s aforementioned six.

This is not the first time that the two have gone head-to-head in a season finale. Back in 2014 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the two were joined by Helio Castroneves to vie for the Championship. At that time, these three were not teammates. Castroneves and Power were part of Team Penske but Pagenaud was finishing what would be his last season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Power addressed this briefly, both drivers agreeing that it’s pretty much business as usual and there’s no need to change things up now, since what they’ve done thus far has gotten them to this position:

“I guess at the end of the day we’re just both racing hard to get the championship. Everyone else is out of the equation, too, so that makes it different, as well. I was definitely further away last year when I had a shot at it. But we have a realistic shot this weekend. Everything’s got to fall into place.”

This year, they have already promised a Championship to Roger Penske – the question is who will deliver the Astor Cup to The Captain once again? Will Pagenaid get his first career Championship or might we see Power become a two-time Champ? Pagenaud commented on being involved with this kind of achievement for Team Penske, no matter how things pan out individually:

“… (I’m) just excited to be here, excited to be in this fight, excited that we’re able to, with Will and our teammates, bring another championship for Team Penske in the 50th year anniversary of the team. I think it’s very important to Roger and the entire organization. It feels great. Now it’s about racing…”

It will be a moment to remember, and while you can expect to see one heck of a party at the conclusion of the race, according to Will Power, we should not expect to see a stage-diving Roger any time soon!

Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Go Pro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway:

Friday, September 16th:
Practice #1 – 11:00 – 12:15 p.m. PT / 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. ET
Practice #2 – 2:45 – 4:00 p.m. PT / 5:45 – 7:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, September 17th:
Practice #3 – 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. PT / 2:00 – 2:45 p.m. ET
Qualifying: 3:05 – 4:20 p.m. PT / 6:05 – 7:20 p.m. ET (NBCSN live)

Sunday, September 18th:
Warm Up – 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PT / 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Go Pro Grand Prix – 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. PT / 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN live)

All three practice sessions will be livestreamed.
Practice #3 will be broadcast on NBCSN on tape delay at 2 p.m. PT / 5 p.m. ET.
Qualifying and the race will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
All links to livestream and IndyCar radio coverage is available here.

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