RYAN BRISCOE/Team Penske Racing Chevrolet won the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma Sunday, his first victory since Texas 2010. Starting second, on the front row with his Penske teammate, points leader WILL POWER, Briscoe took over the lead during the first caution when Power was caught in the pits. The Margin of Victory was 0.4408 of a second.
It was Briscoe’s seventh career victory. According to researcher MARSHALL PRUETT of SPEED TV.com, it’s been 813 days since Briscoe last won a race, a fact that weighed heavily on him and the Penske team. Briscoe admitted it’s been a time since he did a burnout, (so he should be excused for not executing a perfect ALEX ZANARDI maneuver.)
“It’s big,” said Briscoe. “I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to win again. It has been too long. I look forward to drinking the red wine. Great battle with Will at the end there. I’m really excited and I hope to be able to work on my burnouts a little bit more in the future.”
Power led three times for 57 laps, earning two Bonus Points, and clinched the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship. He extended his points lead from five to 36 points ahead of RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, who had bad luck more than once during the race.
Third through fifth were DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; RUBENS BARRICHELLO/KV Racing Technology Chevrolet-who calls himself an old Rookie; and GRAHAM RAHAL/Service Central Honda.
Power leads the Driver’s Championship standings with 422 points. Second through fifth in the standings are RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet-386; HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske Chevrolet-381; SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-386; and Rookie SIMON PAGENAUD/Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda-337.
Chevrolet clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship, with two races to go. This year was the first season with three engine manufacturers involved with the new DW12 car. Chevrolet won eight of the 13 races run so far in 2012. Accepting the honors from IndyCar CEO, RANDY BERNARD, were JIM CAMPBELL, US vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet and MARK KENT, director of racing for Chevrolet.
Eight drivers are still mathematically eligible for the Drivers’ Championship.
Briscoe led three times for 27 laps and the only other race leader was RHR for one lap.
The race was processional up front for the first 65 laps or so. Leader Power was caught in the pits with a problematical tire change when the first caution was thrown for the bang-up accident between SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet and a lapped JOSEF NEWGARDEN/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.
Bourdais had been running a steady third for a long time. He got caught in some marbles causing him to spin off and then cross the track and into the Turn Eight tire wall, leaving the unfortunate Rookie nowhere to go. Newgarden injured his left index finger and will be re-evaluated when he returns to Indianapolis. Bourdais was not hurt.
Ten laps later, ALEX TAGLIANI/Barracuda Racing Honda spun RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet. Tag continued but RHR was initially unable to restart, even with a push. Tagliani was given a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. Then RHR was hit with a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact with EJ VISO/KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.
After the race, a determined Hunter-Reay made his way to Tagliani and had words. Afterwards, when asked by TV commentators about what was said, RHR said “It can’t be said on television.”
Then ORIOL SERVIA/Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda was penalized for avoidable contact with MIKE CONWAY/AJ Foyt Enterprise Honda.
Taliani finished ninth, the last car on the lead lap. Conway was fourteenth, Viso-sixteenth, Hunter-Reay-eighteenth, and Servia finished nineteenth.
SIMONA de SILVESTRO/Lotus-HVM Racing, the only driver running a Lotus engine, started last and finished seventeenth, gaining ten positions. “I guess P-17 is Okay; I think it was all we could get. We’re still getting passed like we’re standing still on the straightaways, but I think it was a good weekend.”
Twenty-one of the 27 starters finished the race. Two retired due to an accident, and four had mechanical DNF’s.
One thing upon which many drivers agreed that the Push To Pass setup did not work. Expressions of dislike were strong and frequent. Franchitti was outspoken. “The delay has to go. The drivers all expressed that to Beaux (BEAUX BARFIELD, IndyCar President of Competition and leader of the Drivers’ Meeting). It’s not working.”