Justin wilson (L) Will Power (C) Dario Franchitti (R)
Justin Wilson, Will Power & Dario Franchitti. Photo by Mike/Jeff Burghar

IZOD IndyCar driver, WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet, was full of smiles at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – after his first victory after a sixteen month dry spell. He was the tenth different IndyCar winner this season (the record of 11 wins was held by CART in 2000 and 2001.) Power is the only repeat IndyCar winner at Sonoma, with three victories. He turned the fastest race lap of 107.416 mph/1:19.9320 on Lap 74.

Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson. Photo by Mike/Jeff Burghar

Runner-up was JUSTIN WILSON/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who dogged the leader. He ran well and strong, leading for ten laps, and chasing Power at the end. If Wilson hadn’t spun early on, or gone out on the Firestone Primary Tire – Blacks, “he coulda been a contenda.”

Dario Franchitti
Dario Franchitti. Photo by Mike/Jeff Burghar

A dour DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda finished third, after starting on the pole. He said “I’m happy with a podium finish, but am upset at what could have been. I got pushed off on a restart near the end, and lost a place or maybe two.”

Franchitti did show a sense of humor, however. He said “The first little bit of the race was OK – we were leading.” He admitted to making a mistake in an overtaking pass, getting out on the dirt in Turn Six. “Scott got a run on me, and said if it had been anyone else I would have defended harder. But I let Scott go there.” Teamwork in action.

Will Power in Turn 2
Will Power in Turn 2. Photo by Mike/Jeff Burghar

Power talked about the wind challenges, saying the wind changed direction 180 degrees during the race. He led the last sixteen laps, after taking over the lead from SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda – in a controversial scenario, which no doubt will be debated ad nauseum. See Separate Story – War of Words.

Team Owner ROGER PENSKE said “The restarts were like a NASCAR race … guys moving, pushing.”

There were seven different leaders – a record. The previous record was five in 2005. Dixon led twice for 27 laps. Franchitti led the first seventeen, and Power led the last sixteen.

The top Rookie was TRISTAN VAUTIER/No.55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, finishing twelfth after starting fourteenth.

Rookie JAMES DAVISON/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda started last and finished eighteenth on the lead lap, in just his second IndyCar race … but hopefully, not his last.

Rookie LUCAS LUHR/No.97 RW Motorsports/SFHR Honda started twenty-fourth and finished twenty-second, retiring on the eighty-first lap with mechanical issues. “Well, first of all, I have to say it was a shame that we couldn’t finish because I think we had maybe a top 14-15 finish in it. Towards the end of the race, I was getting quicker and I just had a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot.”

The Manufacturer Points were tied coming into the weekend, with 105 each for Chevrolet and Honda. After the race, Chevrolet leads Honda, 114-111.

HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet extended his points lead to 39 ahead of Dixon – 479-440. The order of the top six remains the same: Castroneves, Dixon, RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.1 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet; MARCO ANDRETTI/No.25 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet; SIMON PAGENAUD/No.77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsport Honda; and Franchitti. The remaining four drivers are still in the top ten, just in different order. Power gained three positions, Wilson gained two, while JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/No.27 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet and CHARLIE KIMBALL/No.83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda each lost two places.

There were several dubious records broken during the 85-lap race. There were seven cautions for 21 of 85 laps, a new record. Five were for body contact, four of which were two-car accidents, and one which involved four cars. The other two cautions were for stalled cars.

It seemed to the Media that there was a record number of Drive Thru Penalties for Avoidable Contact – five. There also were two penalties for Pit Safety Infractions. EJ VISO/No.5 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet was an Equal Opportunity Offender. He received one of each penalty. The other drivers so assessed were SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/No.7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet, for hitting Wilson; TONY KANAAN/No.11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet for hitting JR HILDEBRAND/No.98 Bryan Herta Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian Chevrolet; SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA/No.6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet, for hitting Hinchcliffe; and RYAN BRISCOE/No.4 Panther Racing Chevrolet, for hitting Kimball.

Kimball had a character-building weekend. He started sixth. First he spun and stalled in Turn Two on the opening lap after being hit by another driver. At first it was thought he broke the drive shaft as he couldn’t get the clutch to work. It was then determined that by recycling the ignition he could restart, and off he went – one lap down. He later apologized for his Rookie Moment.

Kimball then charged through the pack, and got his lap back during a subsequent caution. He got as high as twelfth. Then he was caught out by Briscoe, and collected TAKUMA SATO/No.14 AJ Foyt Racing Honda and ED CARPENTER/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. That ended the day for Kimball, who finished twentieth with 83 of 85 laps to his credit. “Overall it was just a tough day. We fought our way through and gained a lap-back on a road course, so that’s pretty impressive. The car was that quick and we were able to make some passes.”

At times during the race, it seemed as though it was Bumper Cars, IndyCar style … Carnage with a race breaking out.

The announcers, not named for their protection, made some interesting comments. Viso was said to be a “victim of a black flag” after one of his two Drive Thru Penalties. Power was said to “need a win like a tiger needs meat.” They also had more than a lot to say about The Pit Stop – a lot of subjective opinions. Some took issue. To be continued.