INDYCAR: Power looks to solidify title hopes

Hornish joins NBCSN booth for Sonoma and more‏

Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Power hopes to solidify title hopes at Sonoma

2. No. 12 Verizon Team Penske crew earns performance award

3. Hornish joins NBCSN booth at Sonoma

4. Of note

1. Power hopes to solidify title hopes at Sonoma: Will Power arrives at Sonoma Raceway boasting three victories and three pole starts on the 2.385-mile road course in the past four years.

With that history and a 39-point championship advantage, the Team Penske driver should be brimming with confidence entering the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 24 - the penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

"Sonoma is just a very technical racetrack. It's a place where you have to really hit your marks and be precise. For whatever reason that fits my driving style perfectly," said Power, who was runner-up to then-teammate Ryan Briscoe in the 2012 race. "Plus, I've been fortunate to drive really good Verizon Chevrolets while at Team Penske. That always helps. After the test at Sonoma a couple of weeks ago, it seems like we'll have another fast one this weekend."

Power has totaled a field-high 362 points on the 11 road/street circuits and 240 points in the five oval races (teammate Juan Pablo Montoya leads with 275 points).

"Certainly we are in a good position going into the last two weeks of the season. We have a lot of confidence in our ability as a team at Sonoma and Auto Club Speedway, but there is still over 150 points on the table with Fontana being a double-points race," Power added.

"Our path is easier now, but it's by no means easy."

His mental ease would be soothed by leaving some baggage at the natural-terrain circuit on the way to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for the Aug. 30 MAVTV 500 finale.

Power was atop the 2010 and 2012 standings with two races to go and finished second in the championship both years. In fact, the driver who has led the championship with two to go has failed to close in five of the past eight seasons. Sam Hornish Jr. (2006), Scott Dixon (2008) and Dario Franchitti (2011) are the exceptions.

Six drivers are eligible for the series title, and anyone enters the MAVTV 500 more than 88 points arrears is eliminated.

"I think you have to turn up to every track, doesn't matter what it is, and know that you have a chance to win," said Power after his Milwaukee victory Aug. 17. "I just think that's how you become a champion. I'm very determined for that to happen this year."

Power teammate Helio Castroneves, who has finished second or third in five of his 12 full Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, is second in the standings. Simon Pagenaud is 92 points back, followed by 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (-108), Montoya (-114) and 2013 champion Scott Dixon (-130).

How the title contenders have fared at Sonoma Raceway

*Will Power, No. 12 Team Penske - Three wins and second place, three poles in five starts.

*Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske - One win, five top-five finishes in nine starts.

*Simon Pagenaud, No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports - One top-five finish in three starts.

*Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport - No top-five finishes in seven starts.

*Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 2 Verizon Team Penske - First IndyCar start; won 2007 NASCAR race.

Championship with two races left the past five years

2013: Leader - Helio Castroneves (513). Second - Scott Dixon (-8). Third - Simon Pagenaud (-50)

Champion and final margin - Dixon by 27 points over Castroneves

2012: Leader - Will Power (422). Second - Ryan Hunter-Reay (-26). Third - Helio Castroneves (-41)

Champion and final margin - Hunter-Reay by 3 points over Power

2011: Leader - Dario Franchitti (507). Second - Will Power (-5). Third - Scott Dixon )-77)

Champion and final margin - Franchitti by 18 points over Power

2010: Leader - Will Power (552). Second - Dario Franchitti (-17). Third - Scott Dixon (-83).

Champion and final margin - Franchitti by 5 points over Power

2009: Leader - Ryan Briscoe (550). Second - Dario Franchitti (-25). Third - Scott Dixon (-33)

Champion and final margin - Franchitti by 11 points over Dixon

2. No. 12 Verizon Team Penske crew earns performance award: The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske crew won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest with a total pit lane time of 76.775 seconds as driver Will Power won for the third time this season.

It is the team's fifth award this season, and the fifth overall for Team Penske. The Verizon Team Penske crew will receive their $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 24.

3. Hornish joins NBCSN booth at Sonoma: Sam Hornish Jr. says he's a "bigger fan" of IndyCar racing now than when he was competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, which will provide an interesting backdrop when the three-time series champion joins the NBCSN telecast for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma this weekend.

Hornish, who competed in three Verizon IndyCar Series races on the challenging California road course, will provide commentary along with another Indy car champion, Paul Tracy.

Brian Till is the lead announcer for the live race (4 p.m. ET Aug. 24) and qualifying (7:30 p.m. ET Aug. 23) telecasts.

It will be the initial IndyCar broadcast for Hornish, who has contributed to NBCSN's "NASCAR America" this year and previously contributed to NASCAR Nationwide Series practice and qualifying telecasts on FOX Sports 1 and "SpeedCenter" on SPEED (the predecessor to FOX Sports 1).

"(NBCSN does) a really good job of keeping it fresh with Townsend (Bell) and Paul," said Hornish, who caught up with Till during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race last weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "With Paul and me, there's a lot of knowledge of racing that will go into it. I still have a lot of feelings that the IndyCar guys feel as far as the pressures in the championship, keeping emotions in check and what you want out of the race. I think that's one of the things had makes me credible is still living the life of a professional race car driver."

Hornish, who won Verizon IndyCar Series titles in 2001 and 2002 for Panther Racing and '06 with Team Penske, is competing in a limited Nationwide Series schedule this season. In seven starts, he has a victory at Iowa Speedway and three other top-five finishes for Joe Gibbs Racing. He was the series' championship runner-up in 2013.

"This is an opportunity to get my feet wet," said Hornish, who earned 19 victories among 47 podium finishes in 116 races over eight seasons. "You also walk that fine line of when are you more the TV guy than you are the actual driver. While I really enjoy what I'm doing, I'm looking forward to getting back to an IndyCar race."

4. Of note: The three Mazda Road to Indy Series will conclude their 2014 season with doubleheader events at Sonoma Raceway. Three drivers - Florian Latorre and Jake Eidson of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and R.C. Enerson of Team E - could win the USF2000 title; either Spencer Pigot of Juncos Racing or Scott Hargrove of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing will be crowned the Pro Mazda champion; while Gabby Chaves of Belardi Auto Racing, Zach Veach of Andretti Autosport and Jack Harvey of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are the contenders for the Indy Lights title ... Power, the championship points front-runner, has an average finish of 1.25 in his past four races at Sonoma Raceway. He hasn't qualified lower than third in his five races. ... Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will visit the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., this week.

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The next Verizon IndyCar Series event is the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by the NBCSN (Local Cable providers, Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (Local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213), the Verizon INDYCAR 14 App and www.indycar.com.