The Grand Prix of Sonoma isn’t until September, but 12 of the sleek racers, including a car driven by last year’s winner Josef Newgarden, staged a preview test run Monday at Sonoma Raceway.
Twelve drivers from seven Verizon IndyCar® Series teams took part in the one-day session. It was the first Indy Car test of the year on Sonoma’s 12-turn, 2.38-mile road course.
The Verizon IndyCar Series kicks off its 17-race 2018 season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. on March 11. This year’s schedule consists of a total of six events on ovals, six on permanent road courses and five on temporary street circuits. The Sonoma, September Sept. 14-16, is the season finale.
“It was a lot of fun last time we were here, but you get so focused forward on what’s next, you’ve got to try to figure out how to do it again,” said Newgarden, of Team Penske.
“It’s fun to drive the car again. It moves so much now, you’ve got to get your head around how to drive it,” continued Newgarden. “Guys really have to be on their toes pretty aggressively this year.”
Monday’s test run was the debut of a sleeker and bolder look for the cars, reminiscent of Indy cars of the past.
“It’s fun to drive the car again,” continued Newgarden. “It moves so much now, you’ve got to get your head around how to drive it,” continued Newgarden.
“Guys really have to be on their toes pretty aggressively this year,” he said.
Tony Kanaan, who won in Sonoma in 2005, said the changes will get some getting used to. “By the time we come back here in September, we’ll have learned a lot of things, but today is definitely the beginning.”
The test session also served as the first-ever Sonoma Raceway test for a number of teams and drivers, including first-year IndyCar teams Harding Racing and Michael Shank Racing, as well as rookie drivers Jordan King, Robert Wickens and Matheus Leist.
“This is my first time at the track and my first time to Sonoma, so we’re learning,” said Wickens, who joins fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “The morning wasn’t the smoothest, but we’ll keep chipping away at it and see how we go. It’s going to take some adapting and getting used to, but right now it’s great.”
“I love the elevation here,” Wickens said. “It’s fast, it’s flowing and a completely different track at the top than at the bottom.”
For tickets to the Grand Prix of Sonoma, call 800-870-RACE (7223) or visit SonomaRaceway.com. Packages are now available, including the popular Total Access pass: a race-day reserved-seat ticket in any section and a Garage/Pit/Pre-race pass, for $99.