New Track = New Race?

2012 GoPro INDY Grand Prix of Sonoma

Story by: John R. Andres/SMM Editor-in-Chief

Photos by: J.R. Andres and Randy Jones/SMM Staff Photographer

SONOMA, CALIF.- 2.385 miles of racetrack, a continuous black ribbon of asphalt with elevations and dips, with blind curves and a hairpin, tucked in amongst the gentle rolling hills of the Sonoma Valley. It's a picturesque setting enjoyed by most who challenge it but something was missing for the INDY guys and gals who weren't sitting in the pole position at the start of the race for the past seven years…a place to pass. It wasn't a matter of aerodynamics or tires or talent or power or in most cases luck. Wire-to-wire wins became commonplace, too commonplace. When the race began, you took your place in the queue and barring some mechanical failure, accident or pit stop error by one of the lead cars, there was little opportunity to advance your position. It was 75 laps of hanging on to the rear of the car in front of you. The racers weren't enthused about it and the people who filled the stands had to find other ways of occupying themselves until the checkered flag signaled the conclusion of the race. It wasn't a win/win situation for anyone and 2012 needed to be different.

It became clear with the advent of more power this year, improvements to the body of the cars themselves that added a side pod and rear bumper, which made side-by-side racing safer and more realistic, track accommodations were in order. The course changes (less than 8% of the total track configuration) included the lengthening of Turn 7, turning it into a full hairpin and the extension of the exit at Turn 9, providing an area for the drivers to set up a pass on Turn 11, which was lengthened 200 feet. Turns 1-6 remained the same. Positive input received from the drivers that tested at Sonoma prior to the race, indicated that closer and more exciting racing was at hand, ultimately benefitting the fans as well as the competitors without altering the uniqueness that is Sonoma.

Prior to Saturday's qualification session, 15 drivers were still in contention for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship with as little as 28 points separating the top four. By clinching his third straight pole for Sunday's race, Will Power moved ahead of the pack significantly while positioning himself for a possible third straight win in as many years. It would remain to be seen if winning the pole would bring about the same results for yet another year. Each driver still statistically in contention knew that maintaining within a minimum of 107 points of the lead for this race would enable them to hold their position in the chase at least until they set foot on the track at Baltimore, the next to the last race, with the final stop on the tour scheduled to take place in the middle of September at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. For the seventh straight year, it appears that the 2012 Series Championship will be headed down to the wire for a photo finish.

On Sunday afternoon, even with the track changes previously noted, it looked like the 2012 GoPro INDY Grand Prix was going to be a repeat of 2010 and 2011. Will Power's mastery over Sonoma was still intact and for virtually the first 66+ laps of the 85 lap contest. The Australian's Verizon Penske Chevrolet seemed unstoppable with a jaw dropping 8 second lead over Briscoe at one point. The remaining cars would occasionally trade positions but the lead Power and Briscoe had established put them squarely in the spotlight and for the most part, it seemed like a two-man race. That was until Power and Briscoe came in for their second regularly scheduled pit stops. As both were receiving tires and fuel, Sebastien Bourdais attempted a pass on rookie Joseph Newgarden at Turn 7 and wound up in the dirt unscathed. He then overcorrected and was hit from behind by Newgarden who slammed him into the rubber tire barricade and the k-wall bringing out the yellow flag. As he was about to exit his pit, it was discovered that Power's rear tire wasn't secure. He lost four seconds getting it tightened and Briscoe squirted by putting a number of lapped cars between them before Power could exit safely, giving the driver of the #2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet the lead.

Power did move up through the field in the few laps that remained but he never could muster enough to catch and pass Briscoe even though they were only separated by 0.440 seconds at the checkered flag. Power's lead in the INDY championship points race was increased, in large part, due to the misfortune of others. Contact between Dixon and Castroneves early in the race put them both at the rear of the pack (finishing 13th and 6th respectively) and Hunter-Reay who was racing well at the time was bumped from the rear, causing his engine to stall. He recovered but finished a dismal 18th.

There was, after all, a lead change not at the track reconfiguration sights but on pit row. It took only four seconds to erase the wire-to-wire sure thing wins of the past. It's the dawn of a new era…



12Ryan BriscoeHitachi Team Penske Chevrolet508
21Will PowerVerizon Team Penske Chevrolet431
36Dario FranchittiTarget Chip Ganassi Racing Honda359
411Rubens BarrichelloBMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet3214
513Graham RahalService Central Honda3010
64Helio CastronevesPenske Truck Rental Chevrolet283
79Simon Pagenaud-RSchmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda265
815JR HildebrandNational Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet2411
98Alex TaglianiBarracuda Racing Honda2217
1016Tony KanaanMouser Electronics/GEICO KVRT Chevrolet206
1120Justin WilsonSonny's BBQ Honda1912
1224James JakesBoy Scouts of America Honda1821
135Scott DixonTarget Chip Ganassi Racing Honda174
1414Mike ConwayABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda1619
1523Sebastian SaavedraTeam AFS Chevrolet1527
1617EJ VisoCITGO/PDVSA KV Racing Technology-Chev.1420
1727Simona de SilvestroNuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing Lotus1325
187Ryan Hunter-ReayTeam DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet 122
1918Oriol ServiaPanther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet1213
2025Ed CarpenterFuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet1222
2121Charlie KimballNovolog FlexPen Honda1218
223Sebastien BourdaisTrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet1224
2322Josef Newgarden-RAngie's List/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda1223
2419Katherine Legge-RTrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet1226
2512Marco AndrettiTeam RC Cola Chevrolet1016
2610James HinchcliffeTeam Chevrolet107
2726Takuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda1015

Time of Race: 02:07:02

Average Speed: 95.74

Margin of Victory: 0.440

Lead Changes: 6 among 3 drivers

Caution Laps: 2 for 11 laps

Fastest Lap: 108.43 mph (Hunter-Reay)

Fastest Leader Lap: 108.18 mph (Power)
IZOD IndyCar Series Pole Award (Power) 111.116 mph

Lap Leaders:   Driver Standings (1-10):
Laps Car# Driver          
1-17 12 Will Power   1. Will Power 6. Ryan Briscoe
18-19 2 Ryan Briscoe   2. Ryan Hunter-Reay 7. James Hinchcliffe
20 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay   3. Helio Castroneves 8. Tony Kanaan
21-40 12 Will Power   4. Scott Dixon 9. Dario Franchitti
41-43 2 Ryan Briscoe   5. Simon Pagenaud-R 10. Graham Rahal
44-63 12 Will Power          
64-85 2 Ryan Brisco          

QUALIFYING RESULTS (August 25, 2012)

Position Driver Country Engine Time Speed
1 Will Power Australia Chevrolet 01:17.27 111.116
2 Ryan Briscoe Australia Chevrolet 01:17.43 110.881
3 Sebastien Bourdais France Chevrolet 01:17.74 110.431
4 Helio Castroneves Brazil Chevrolet 01:18.10 109.923
5 Scott Dixon New Zealand Honda 01.18.21 109.778
6 Dario Franchitti Scotland Honda 01:18.34 109.591
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay U.S.A. Chevrolet 01:18.33 109.605
8 Alex Tagliani Canada Honda 01:18.41 109.492
9 Simon Pagenaud-R France Honda 01:18.43 109.469
10 Justin Wilson England Honda 01:18.62 109.201
11 James Hinchcliffe Canada Chevrolet 01:18.78 108.975
12 Rubens Barrichello Brazil Chevrolet 01:18.97 108.713
13 Sebastian Saavedra Columbia Chevrolet 01:18.891 108.833
14 Marco Andretti U.S.A. Chevrolet 01:18.892 108.832
15 Graham Rahal U.S.A. Honda 01:18.898 108.824
16 Mike Conway England Honda 01:18.90 108.815
17 JR Hildebrand U.S.A. Chevrolet 01:19.09 108.556
18 Tony Kanaan Brazil Chevrolet 01:18.94 108.756
19 E.J. Viso Venezuela Chevrolet 01:19.39 108.142
20 Oriol Servia Spain Chevrolet 01:18.96 108.729
21 Katherine Legge-R England Chevrolet 01:19.64 107.808
22 Charlie Kimball U.S.A. Honda 01:19.02 108.648
23 Josef Newgarden-R U.S.A. Honda 01:19.74 107.666
24 Takuma Sato Japan Honda 01:19.28 108.297
25 Simona de Silvestro Switzerland Lotus 01:20.22 107.018
26 James Jakes England Honda 01:19.51 107.979
27 Ed Carpenter U.S.A. Chevrolet 01:19.68 107.751


RankDriver NameTimeSpeed
1Will Power01:17.53110.739
2Scott Dixon01:17.97110.116
3Ryan Briscoe01:18.06109.981
4Dario Franchitti01:18.21109.769
5Sebastien Bourdais01:18.25109.722
6Helio Castroneves01:18.25109.718
7Ryan Hunter-Reay01:18.59109.245
8Graham Rahal01:18.59109.144
9Tony Kanaan01:18.694109.105
10Justin Wilson01:18.696109.103
11James Hinchcliffe01:18.70109.089
12Marco Andretti01:18.738109.044
13Simon Pagenaud-R01:18.739109.043
14Charlie Kimball01:18.81108.943
15Sebastian Saavedra 01:18.89108.822
16Alex Tagliani01:18.97108.720
17Rubens Barrichello01:19.01108.656
18Mike Conway01:19.18108.427
19Katherine Legge-R01:19.19108.417
20JR Hildebrand01:19.24108.351
21Oriol Servia01:19.27108.312
22James Jakes01:19.27108.309
23EJ Viso01:19.46108.049
24Takuma Sato01:19.47108.030
25Simona de Silvestro01:19.74107.672
26Ed Carpenter01:19.79107.597
27Josef Newgarden-R01:19.82107.559

Klay Thompson Named Grand Marshal
of GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson has been named Grand Marshal of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Sonoma Raceway, Sept. 15-17.

Thompson, a shooting guard for the reigning NBA Champions, was selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft by Golden State with the 11th overall pick. In 2014, he and teammate Stephen Curry set a then-NBA record of 484 combined three-pointers in a season, earning the pair the nickname the "Splash Brothers". 

Thompson is a three-time NBA All-Star and a two-time All-NBA Third Team honoree. In 2015, he helped lead the Warriors to their first NBA Championship since 1975. Thompson then helped the Warriors return to the NBA Finals for a third straight year in 2017, winning his second NBA Championship.

In his role as Grand Marshal of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Thompson will take part in pre-race activities on Sunday, Sept. 17, give the official command of, "Drivers, Start Your Engines" and wave the green flag. Thompson will also enjoy a high-speed lap around the road course with racing legend Mario Andretti in a two-seat Indy car. This will mark his first visit to a motorsports event.

“I am beyond excited to be Grand Marshal for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma,” said Thompson. “I have heard so many good things about this race, and I can’t wait to see everything up close in person.”

Thompson is extremely active with Warriors community outreach programs and has been recognized off the court for his efforts in the community. He received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November 2014 and the Alvin Attles Community Impact Award in April 2015 in recognition of his efforts to make a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth in the Bay Area.

“Klay is a core member of one of the greatest sports teams in Bay Area history. He's a true champion and we're excited he will be with us to help crown the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion this Sunday,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, including preferred parking, garage access, pit and pre-race passes, visit or call 800-870-7223. Kids 12 and under are admitted FREE all weekend and parking is FREE.


GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Verizon IndyCar Series Season Finale

WHEN: Sept. 15-17
CIRCUIT: 12-turn, 2.38-mile road course
2016 WINNER: Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske)
INFORMATION: 800-870-RACE (7223),
SOCIAL MEDIA: @RaceSonoma; #GoProGP

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2017 Major Events
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Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival
June 2-4

Toyota/Save Mart 350
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NHRA Division 7 drag races, presented by Korbel 
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Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals
July 28-30

MotoAmerica Series presents the Championship
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GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Sept. 15-17

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Sept. 29-Oct. 1

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