SONOMA — Australia’s Will Power (Team Penske Verizon #12) survived a rough and tumble afternoon both on the track and in the pits to pick up his third victory in four years in Sunday’s IZOD Indy Car GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway.
Power’s victory was the 19th of his career, but his first since the Sao Paulo Indy 300 in April 2012.
“We have had a lot of hard hits and I’m happy for all the guys. I think we all expected to be a bit more competitive this season,” said Power. “This is phenomenal. It is great for our confidence and we are back to our winning ways.”
England’s Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing #19) posted his best finish of the season by coming home 1.19 seconds behind Power in second and Dario Franchitti (Target/Ganassi Racing #10) completed the podium in third.
“It is great to be back on the podium again. Everyone here has worked so hard to get a result,” said Wilson. “It has been frustrating, but it is nice to finally turn things around a bit.
Power trailed New Zealand’s Scott Dixon (Target/Ganassi Racing #9) with just 15 laps to go in the 85-lap race, but Power inherited the lead when Dixon was forced to serve a drive through penalty for an incident that occurred during the leader’s final round of stops on lap 71.
Dixon, whose pit was directly behind Power’s pit, was attempting to beat Power out when he clipped a tire that was being carried off by one of Power’s crewmen. The tire holder went flying into another crewmember, while a third member was injured by an air gun.
“It looked like he walked straight into our car. That was probably the most blatant thing I have seen in a long time,” said an irate Dixon. “It’s pretty annoying because we had a pretty good car and if they want to try and win like that, then that is pretty bad.”
The late race penalty dropped Dixon to 15th in the final results and dealt him a severe blow to his 2013 title hopes.
Dixon came into Sonoma trailing Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves by just 31 points in the season standings, but while he remains in second place in the standings, Dixon now trails Castroneves, who finished seventh at Sonoma, by a 479 to 440 point margin with just four races remaining.
Team owner Roger Penske didn’t agree with Dixon’s assessment.
“I think they are overplaying it as far as I am concerned. I think you should look at the tape. Someone got hit and went up into the air,” said Penske. “These things are pretty clear in the rule book. If a team member gets hit, there is a drive-through.”
There was plenty of mayhem on the track as well with a steady string of incidents bringing out a total of seven full course cautions, for a total of 21 laps run under the yellow, during the race.
“Yeah it was pretty rough. There were some close calls out there,” said Wilson. “I think everyone seemed to come in here with a bit of frustration and they decided to take it out in the race, so it was busy out there.”
Power was in agreement and felt that the restarts and driving within his limits were key in his victory.
“There were a lot more yellows than anyone anticipated so I really had to survive a lot of restarts and that kept putting us in good position,” explained Power. “It is a tough track. It is all about understanding where to overdrive and where to underdrive. This is a real driver’s track.”
The IndyCar series next heads east to Maryland for the Baltimore Grand Prix next weekend before concluding with the MAVTV 500 at California Speedway in Fontana on Oct. 19.