IndyCar title could come down to final race

After a gut-wrenching few days following the death of Justin Wilson, IndyCar teams will gather at Sonoma Raceway for the final race of the season.

Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya leads the season standings heading into Sunday afternoon’s race with a 34-point lead over second-place Graham Rahal, who is 47 points ahead of Scott Dixon in third.

While the championship point lead is substantial, it is not insurmountable — especially with the final race at Sonoma paying double the usual number of championship points for each position.

It won’t be easy, but either Rahal or Dixon (who won the race a year ago) are capable of taking the top spot away from Montoya, who has led since winning the season-opening event in St. Petersburg.

Rahal led the race in the late stages a year ago but came up a little short. He told me last weekend that he and the team feel very good about their chances for success at Sonoma. The title chase will go right down to the end of the race — which is how it should be.

What both Rahal and Dixon must deal with, however, is recent Penske domination at Sonoma.

Montoya will have the full resources of the four-car team at his disposal. Penske drivers have won four of the last five races at Sonoma — three of them by Will Power the other by Ryan Briscoe. Power has also scored the pole position in four of his five starts at the Northern California track.

Sonoma is a challenging track that features high speeds, technical sections, a couple of good passing areas and elevation changes in the heart of California wine country. It’s one of the most beautiful settings you’ll find.

Of course, the thoughts of everyone will also be on their fallen friend Justin Wilson, who died Monday after injuries suffered last weekend at Pocono Raceway.

It’s a difficult conflict of emotions to be excited for the chance at a championship while still feeling the emotions from the events of the past week. Whichever driver winds up as the champion, it will be a celebration with heavy hearts.

Many will wonder how you can be back at a racetrack only days after witnessing the tragic events that cost a friend his life. But it’s what they do, and it helps all to accept and deal with what happened. It’s also the best and most appropriate way to honour Wilson.

The world never stops turning and life goes on and these people that work tirelessly at a sport with an enthusiasm like no other are special. It’s not just the drivers, but also every member of each team, the series and track staff and volunteers that do what they do because their passion for racing is in their soul. I am both proud and grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community.


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