Will Power and Simon Pagenaud

SAN FRANCISCO – Before they begin the battle to decide the Verizon IndyCar Series championship this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud joined forces to bring excitement to nearby San Francisco.

The championship-contending duo and their Team Penske Indy cars were joined an INDYCAR Experience two-seater -- carrying the Astor Cup and piloted by newly crowned Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones  -- for a parade down the city’s waterfront roadway, The Embarcadero, on Thursday.

“INDYCAR really put the pedal to the metal with this awesome show,” said Pagenaud, who leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by 43 points over Power. “San Francisco is obviously a very touristic place and we reached nearly every market today on The Embarcadero.

“But quite frankly, it’s a dream come true to be in this position fighting for the championship and being this close to the Astor Cup and being one of the last two guys fighting for it is pretty awesome and a great experience.”

Johnny CuetoThe event was the highlight of an eventful championship week in Northern California that saw the INDYCAR Experience two-seater traverse the Bay Area to give rides to the coaching staff of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, players from the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors and Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and as local media, among others.

“Anytime we can showcase ours cars is special,” said Power, one of four drivers who drove Indy cars across the Golden Gate Bridge in tribute to the late Justin Wilson prior to the 2015 season finale at Sonoma.

“Just rolling them outside the track draws a bit of attention. Then you start them up and even more people come. You drive them along and you could see people on the sidewalk looking in amazement as these wicked machines went by.”

Boudin Bakery, home of the original sourdough bread in San Francisco, also marked the occasion by baking a sourdough replica version of the Astor Cup with master baker Fernando Padilla offering Pagenaud and Power a bite of the trophy for luck.

“The bread was good,” Pagenaud said. “I don’t get to have bread every day anymore here in America. It was really good bread and it was the Astor Cup. I’d eat it all.”

But now the focus turns to the track and the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. The opening day of activity features two practice sessions on the 11-turn 2.385-mile road course slated for 2 and 5:45 p.m. ET. Both will be streamed on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

“I have to say (Sonoma) is a pretty good track for me,” Power said. “I’ve definitely done well and enjoy it. I’m very determined to win the championship. To do that, I feel like I need to win the race for the best shot.