Three-time IndyCar Champion, Scott Dixon, drove his familiar red No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet around the 12-turn, 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway elevated road course to victory in Sunday’s GoPro Sonoma GP. He had been one of the six Contenders for the 2015 Driver’s Championship, and was third in the queue for the Astor Cup, emblematic of the honor. Dixon led twice for 34 laps – the most of any driver in the 85-lap race, earning him a valuable bonus point. This was his third win this year and 38th of his indy car career, ranking him fifth on the all-time list.
Chip Ganassi & Scott Dixon, Scott Dixon & Astor Cup, and Chip Ganassi Team Crowd Surfing. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.
Coming into the race, both Dixon and Montoya had two victories. After his win, Dixon was tied in points, but the third victory was the tie breaker in Dixon’s behalf.
It was jubilation in Victory Circle, and to cap it, Chip Ganassi did his first-ever Crowd Surf into the eager arms of team and sponsors.
And informal reports were that the race crowd was great.
Dixon’s fourth championship puts him in with good company: Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, AJ Foyt, and Dario Franchitti.
Of the six Contenders, the second highest finisher was season-long points leader, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who finished sixth. Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet finished seventh. The two of them were running well until there was wing to wing contact in Turn Four, and Power spun. That incident was reviewed by the Stewards, but No Action was Taken. They each pitted for new wings. The third Penske teammate in contention was Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, who finished fifteenth.
Castroneves turned the fastest race lap of 1:19.4914/108.012 mph on Lap 5; and Power turned the fastest race leader lap of 1:19.5517/107.930 mph on the first lap.
Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda was second in the standings coming into the weekend, but had a bad day with tire management and being a target for other cars – including a former teammate, Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet, who rear-ended Rahal. Bourdais earned a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. Rahal finished eighteenth, and Bourdais came in twentieth.
Josef Newgarden/No.67 GoPro Hartman Oil Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing Chevrolet had a most disappointing finish after a very strong race. He pitted while running second, but had a car fire during the stop, the car wouldn’t restart, and although he was able to get back on course, he finished twenty-first, one lap down.
Gaby Chaves was the Sunoco Rookie of the Year, driving his No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb BHA with Curb-Agajanian Honda to a fourteenth place finish.
Oriol Servia filled in at the very last minute for the Andretti Autosport Honda entry to be driven by the late Justin Wilson. He admittedly hadn’t been in a race car in a long time, wasn’t in race trim, but so wanted to do it for Justin. He started nineteenth and finished twelfth.
Twenty drivers finished on the lead lap, and of the 25 drivers, only one retired. James Jakes/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crashed in Turn Nine on Lap 64. He was unhurt, but the car was not. His front brakes failed, and he hit the wall hard, and nearly toppled a tire barrier.
Other race leaders were pole sitter Power, who led twice for 26 laps; Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who led twice for 12 laps; Kanaan, once for six laps; Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda once for four laps; RHR-twice for two laps; and Kimball-once for a lap.
There were four caution flags totaling 14 laps: three for contacts and once for a slowing car-Luca Filippi/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet.
There were several incidents on track and a couple of questionable restarts, all which underwent Steward’s Review. Most had no action taken, but both Bourdais and Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda earned drive-thru penalties for Avoidable Contact. Bourdais for punting Rahal, and Hawksworth for hitting Carlos Munoz/No.2 AndrettiTV.com Honda in Turn 7 on Lap 70. The Pit Lane incident with Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden will undergo Post Race Review: Pagenaud for impeding pit exit and Newgarden for driving through another team’s pit stall.
An incident between Tristan Vautier/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Castroneves was reviewed for potential blocking. No Action Taken.
Rookie Roberto Gonzales/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was warned for blocking.
No IndyCar driver finished every race lap this season. Marco Andretti had that honor until last weekend’s race at Pocono when he crashed..
Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports for Chevrolet and Chris Berube, Chevrolet racing program manager, spoke about the monumental year for Chevrolet. Chevrolet had impressive stats behind its 2015 Manufacturer’s Championship. It won ten races; swept the podium six times; won every Verizon P1 award – 14 by qualifying, plus two on points due to rain; had the top two qualifiers in 15 of 16 races; and for the first time since Chevrolet re-entered the IndyCar series in 2012, had a 2015 sweep – Manufacturer’s Championship, Driver’s Championship, and Indianapolis 500 victory.
Berube said “We outran the bear and never had to park a car. Little bit of catchup time with parts at the beginning. There will be changes in the aero kit for next year – three volume box changes are allowed. We won’t say what changes it will be.” Campbell said “Our Chevrolet teams helped us with the development all the way through.” Berube added that “Chevrolet is prepared to meet its contractual obligations to supply a minimum number of teams. Whether we go beyond that or not, at this point we haven’t made that decision.When it comes to races like the Indy 500 we obviously pick up a lot of one race entries. I think we had a little bit more than half the field last year, but between us and Honda we typically split the field, which is kind of how we like to see it.”
SONOMA, Calif. – Results Sunday of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
3. (7) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (17) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 85, Running
6. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (18) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
9. (24) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 85, Running
10. (14) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 85, Running
11. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
12. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 85, Running
13. (10) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (21) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 85, Running
15. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (20) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
19. (25) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 85, Running
20. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 84, Running
22. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 84, Running
23. (23) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 82, Running
24. (13) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 80, Running
25. (22) James Jakes, Honda, 63, Contact
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: