Sunday saw a new IndyCar champion crowned in the form of Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. The Penske driver had a near-perfect run to cement a championship which he never really looked like losing after finishing in the top two in the first five races of the season.
A strong mid-season resurgence from Pagenaud’s team-mate, 2014 champion Will Power, brought him somewhat back into contention, and with double points for the finale (IndyCar must be the only people who saw what F1 did in 2014 and thought ‘Hey! What a great idea!) he was by no means out of it.
The Penske quartet qualified 1-2-3-4, reinforcing the dominance they’d displayed on road and street courses all season, with Pagenaud securing the extra point for pole. After the first round of pit stops Power had moved up to second, but what was already becoming a long shot became a virtual impossibility when Will Power was left powerless to attack after a sudden loss of power effectively lost Power the championship. He eventually rejoined the race (it had turned out to be a clutch issue) but was some eight laps down.
In the race itself Pagenaud continued to lead, though towards the end he came under increasing pressure from Graham Rahal. It looked like Rahal had the pace to win, but the combination of Sonoma’s fast, flowing undulations and the turbulance-inducing aero kits meant that he never really got close enough to mount a serious attack.
Further back, Indy 500 winner and former Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi looked to put pressure on Montoya for 3rd before having to save fuel. Ironically he ran out of fuel coming out of the last corner, allowing team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay to pass him for 4th. It was still enough for Rossi to secure Rookie of the Year honours in what has been an impressive debut season.
Helio Castroneves finished in 7th to secure 3rd place in the championship and complete a 1-2-3 for the Penske in the final standings.
Pagenaud crossed the line to win the race and the championship, and celebrated by powersliding around the track the wrong way and doing some donuts, even using some of his remaining push-to-passes to generate a bit of a extra crowd-pleasing tyre smoke.
IndyCar now heads into it’s lengthy winter break, during which time the silliest of all silly seasons will be played out, with seemingly every driver on the grid rumoured to be joining every team.