SONOMA, Calif. (Friday, Aug. 23, 2013) - Even though there were no points on the line during the opening day of practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the championship contenders didn't see it that way.
There are 20 drivers mathematically eligible for the title entering the 85-lap race Aug. 25, and the top two in points -- Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon -- were fast out of the gate on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course.
Dixon, who has won three of the past four races in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and is 31 points behind the front-running Castroneves, topped the time chart with a best lap of 1 minute, 18.3145 seconds in the 45-minute afternoon session.
Castroneves was .3549 of a second behind in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car. Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is third in the standings, was third overall with a lap of 1:18.6814 in the 45-minute morning session.
"Year after year the championship comes down to the last race and we'll just carry on and try to get the most points out of each race," said Dixon, a two-time series champion who won at Sonoma in 2007.
Added Castroneves: "It's wide open; anything can happen."
Three rounds of qualifying, which awards a point for earning the Verizon P1 Award, are Aug. 24. Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, set the track record of 1 minute, 17.2709 seconds in qualifying in 2012.