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Sonoma Raceway notebook: IndyCar title on the line Sunday

Drives enter Turn 1 during the IndyCar Series auto race, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Watkins Glen, N.Y. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PETER FOURNIER,

Race weekend for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma is almost here. Several IndyCar drivers have a chance to claim the championship in a race that features double points awarded to finishers — and with the current point standings’ top two spots separated by just three points.

The race weekend technically starts on Friday, but fans who already have purchased tickets are invited to attend a six-hour IndyCar test session Thursday.

The test session will feature the full IndyCar field for Sunday’s race and is available to anyone with tickets to this weekend’s race. Those who purchase tickets at the track on Thursday can watch the test session, too.

In addition to watching the test session, fans can walk through the paddock and attend lunchtime press conferences with select IndyCar drivers. Lunch will be available for purchase at the Raceway Café, too.

To purchase tickets to the race, visit SonomaRaceway.com or call 800-870-RACE (7223).

RECONFIGURED TRACK

IndyCar does not use the same track configuration at Sonoma Raceway as NASCAR does.

The bigger stock cars use the bus stop dog-leg turns on the far north side of the race track known as turns “4a” and “7a.” The nimbler open-wheel race cars use the wide-open turns of the carousel, which enters at turn 4 — before the beginning of the bus stop — and goes through the middle of the racetrack and turns 5 and 6. It exits near the end of the bus stop at turn 7.

Instead of entering arcing turn 9, the IndyCars head straight and enter a small, low-speed chicane before going into turn 10 and going into a tighter hairpin turn 12, instead of the wider turn 11 hairpin the stock cars go through.

The race will go 85 laps on the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course and will be broadcast on NBCSN. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 3:30 p.m.

NORCAL DRIVERS

Sausalito’s J.R. Hildebrand and Nevada City native Alexander Rossi — the winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500 — will also race this weekend in Sonoma.

Hildebrand has a best finish of eighth at the road course in 2013 and Rossi finished fifth in his only start at the track so far in his career last year.

CHARITY AUCTION

Fans can purchase collectibles and unique experiences from the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities via an online auction.

Among the experiences for auction are a ride around the track with several IndyCar drivers, including Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves.

Among the collectibles up for auction are a Roger Penske-signed canvas photo, a 2018 IndyCar two-seat racing experience and 1.5-liter bottle of cabernet autographed by A.J. Foyt.

For a full list of auction items, visit www.sccauctions.com by noon today to bid on the items.

The charity is also selling tickets to a “Let’s Go Karting” raffle.

The raffle offers the winner a day on Sonoma’s Raceway ¾-mile professional karting track, along with up to 20 people.

Drivers must be 13 years of age or older and at least 4-foot-10 to race. Tickets for the raffle are $5 each or a book of 5 can be purchased for $20.

Tickets can be purchased this weekend at the track’s Ticket Pit Stop behind the main grandstand or by visiting www.speedwaycharities.org/events/sonoma/lets-go-karting.

The winner will be chosen on Oct. 5 and doesn’t need to be present to win.

OUTLAWS AT CALISTOGA

The World of Outlaws karting series will visit the northern end of Napa Valley on Friday and Saturday for the Wine Country Outlaw showdown.

Tickets start at $45 for a one-day ticket, and a pit pass can cost $50 or $55 for a one-day pass. For more information, visit www.woosprint.com for full ticket information.

NO DRAGS

There will be no Wednesday Night Drags or Sonoma Drift this week as the racetrack prepares for the IndyCar weekend.

SINGING THE ANTHEM

Country music singer RaeLynn will sing the national anthem before Sunday’s race.

One of the newer artists on the county music scene, RaeLynn’s debut album has been ranked as one of Rolling Stone’s “Best Country and Americana Albums of 2017 so far.”