WILL POWER/No.12 Verizon Team Penske won the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, becoming the first repeat IndyCar winner. It was his fifth victory this year and fourteenth in IndyCar.
Power said “I said before the race if we finish where we started, it would be perfect. It was two thumbs up.”
Second and third were Power’s Team Penske teammates, HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske and RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Penske Truck Rental, the same order in which they qualified.
This weekend was more than just another red letter day for Team Penske. It was the first time Penske finished 1-2-3 in indycars on a road course since 1994. And Team owner ROGER PENSKE had a win from BRAD KESELOWSKI in the Bristol NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Saturday night. “Thanks to Will, and the other two, who had a good run. We had a good setup this weekend. But we have a lot of work ahead of us – we have a championship to win.”
Points-wise, Power picked up all three IndyCar bonus points by Lap 40 – two for pole position, and one for most laps led. He also turned the fastest race lap of 80.8194/102,584 mph on Lap Two. Power has narrowed the points gap to 26 behind leader DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi, who finished fourth. Power said “Now we have a legitimate shot at the championship.”
Franchitti’s Ganassi teammate, SCOTT DIXON/No.8, finished fifth. Franchitti said he spent the entire race staring at Briscoe’s Penske Truck Rental rear wing ahead of him.
The same top five remained in the top five positions for nearly the entire 75-lap race. Pit stops briefly switched the order, but not for long. Briscoe was the only other leader, twice for four laps when Power pitted.
Some people thought it wasn’t the most exciting IndyCar race. However, Franchitti said “It was lacking in passing, but most corners were an adventure. I wasn’t just cruising around. I was really on the ragged edge for pretty much the whole day really.”
Castroneves chimed in.” I do feel the fans we have here are much more knowledgable about the track variations and the challenges. So it doesn’t become that boring.”
The race ran 1:47.29.7619, the average race speed was 96.408 mph, and Power’s Margin of Victory was 3.2420 seconds.
The only caution came on Lap 65 when HO-PIN TUNG/No.88 Mouser.com/Schmidt Dragon Racing went hard into the Turn Nine tires and had to be towed – three laps under yellow.
On the restart, it went smoothly, with just two infractions. SIMON PAGENAUD/No.78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing passed the leader and was given a drive through penalty. He finished sixteenth. The other penalty was to Rookie GIORGIO PANTANO/No.22 TranSystems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for blocking, which sent him to the end of the lead lap. He finished seventeenth, the last car on the lead lap.
Two drivers increased their position nine places – RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda went from P19 to tenth; and Rookie SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA/No.34 Bogata Es Mundial Conquest Racing climbed to P14 after starting twenty-third.
The weather was toasty warm 77 degrees F with a desultory breeze. Firestone reported track temperature at 117 degrees F.
For the start of the race, 18 of the 28 cars had red option tires, and more so in the front half of the field. Near the back of the field, the harder black tires were chosen.
MARCO ANDRETTI/No. hit Rookie J.R. HILDEBRAND/No.4 National Guard Panther Racing on Lap 55, causing a right rear flat for Hildebrand, and front wing damage to Andretti. Both pitted for repairs, and resumed racing. Neither improved much after that. Andretti pitted five laps later for nose cone replacement. Hildebrand finished P23, and Andretti P24. Hildebrand still leads the Rookie standings, ahead of CHARLIE KIMBALL/No.83 who finished twenty-sixth.
TONY KANAAN/No.82 GEICO-KV Racing Technology dropped out on Lap 39 due to a broken throttle cable. He said it was too bad and he felt bad for the guy who drove the No.82. “I was put out of my misery.” TK was listed as finishing last, the first car out. He then headed to the announce booth to add his knowledgable and colorful commentary to the VERSUS broadcast team.
DAN WHELDON, who won this year’s Indianapolis 500, hasn’t raced since. He and his team owner, BRYAN HERTA, are the official test team for the new IndyCar. They never had planned to run more than the one race this season, unless the right situation arose.
Wheldon did work in the TV booth at a race after Indy, but not this weekend. For the most part this weekend he was in stealth mode, although he was seen having a serious conversation with MICHAEL ANDRETTI.
Next week IndyCar races at the inaugural street race in Baltimore.