Reigning champ Pagenaud leads Saturday practice, looks to repeat Sonoma success

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Saturday’s morning practice at Sonoma Raceway yielded predictable results with all 5 championship contenders leading the pack, reigning Verizon Series IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud topping the laps with a clocked time faster than his own track record set in 2016. Pagenaud went on to win that race, clinching his first series titie.

Today’s 1:16.0329 lap was run in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevy  was the best of the weekend practices so far, and was just out in front of 4-time champion Scott Dixon’s best lap time of 1:16.1454 in the No. 9 NTT Data Ganassi Racing Honda. This was Dixon’s best showing in practice, not recording anything quicker than a P6 spot on Friday. He seems to have found something and dialed in a bit more in preparation for qualifying this afternoon.

Verizon IndyCar Series – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Practice 3 Results

Power saw his best go of the past two days, breaking the track lap record unofficially along with Pagenaud and Dixon and coming in P3 today with a 1:16.1609. 

The points leader Josef Newgarden also broke the track record in an unofficial capacity on Friday, but not today. This morning he ran the fourth best lap time of the session, slower than his best of the weekend. The No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevy was faster by .05 of a second in Friday’s afternoon session.

Verizon IndyCar Series – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Combined Practices (3) Results

Helio Castroneves, sitting 3rd in points, found himself P5 after practice today. It’s hard to say how he’s going to fair in the qualifying efforts as he’s also placed P3 and P8 in past sessions. Not sure what to expect because the driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevy has not been as consistent as his teammates in practice, but he could have been running different checks as well. If he lacked a qualifying simulation in that P8 finish on Friday morning, which is entirely possible, he might have more speed than we anticipate. I’d be surprised not to see him in the Firestone Fast 6.

Speaking of, here are your Qualifying Groups for today. That fun starts at 3:30p.m. PT / 6:30 p.m. ET here in Sonoma, CA and will air live on NBCSN.

 


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Photo credit: Shawn Gritzmacher, IndyCar