As the 2012 IndyCar season creeps closer to a close, there are more than a few drivers who will be looking to boost their rankings with a win at the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Will Power will hope for another trip to victory lane to keep the competition for his No.1 ranking at bay, but names like Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon will be determined to close the points gap.
Names like Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Marco Andretti no longer find themselves near the top of the IndyCar rankings—as in years past—leaving other names to take their place.
Only three races remain before this season comes to a close though, and both old and new faces will be looking to finish strong. Here is the complete guide for everything you need to know about the upcoming Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Where: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, California
When: Sunday, Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Listen: IndyCar.com or Sirius Satellite Radio (Channel 94)
Starting Order: Qualifying will be held Saturday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET. To listen the qualifying round live, go to IndyCar.com.
Full Event Schedule (Via IndyCar.com)
Practice: Friday, Aug. 24 at 5:50 p.m. ET, IndyCar.com
Practice: Saturday, Aug. 25 at 1:50 p.m. ET, IndyCar.com
Qualifying: Saturday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar.com
Warmup: Sunday, Aug. 26 at 12 p.m. ET, IndyCar.com
GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma: Sunday, Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Drivers to Watch
Hildebrand might not have any race victories to his name this season, but he is currently ranked No. 13 in the standings and will be showing his Bay Area colors at Sonoma. The Sausalito-born driver will be racing in a No. 4 car themed after the NFL's San Francisco 49ers come Aug. 26.
The car honoring the local NFL team will certainly turn a few heads come race day, but Hildebrand will be looking to evoke that same reaction en route to his fourth top-10 finish in the past seven races.
Only six points separate Hildebrand from Tony Kanaan's sixth place spot on the leader board, and a hometown win would be huge for the Panther Racing driver.
Make fun of his full name all you want, Power has been a force to be reckoned with all season long, and that won't change at Sonoma.
Power is coming off a second place finish at the Honda Indy 200 back on Aug. 5, which marked his second straight top-five finish. Considering he is No. 1 on the leader board paired with his recent performances, Power could very well capture first place on Aug. 26.
Power realizes that will not be an easy task however, telling Debbie Arrington of the Sacramento Bee:
We're trying to put it all together. This has been the most competitive season since I've been [in IndyCar]. We have five guys going for the championship. It could go down to the last race.
A No. 1 finish in California would put Power in the proverbial driver's seat, heading into the last month of the season.
It hasn't been the most dominant of Castroneves' 11 seasons in the IndyCar series considering his current rank of third is more than 20 points behind Power, but that doesn't mean he can't play the upset and win this race.
The veteran driver recently won the Honda Edmonton Indy on July 22, where he led for 22 laps in the race. He also won the first race of the 2012 season: the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Castroneves has had moments of brilliance this season, most recently finishing in the top-10 in six of the last seven races. Call it foolish, but a gut feeling says the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has one more victory in him this year.
Prediction Winner: Will Power
Castroneves does have one more win left in him before 2012 comes to a close, but it won't come in Sonoma. Power is riding on a wave of momentum and realizes just how huge this victory would be for his hopes finishing the season No.1.
Dixon and Power finished right after one another at the Honda Indy 200, and while that may happen again at this race, it will be Power who finishes before one his biggest competitors this time around.