Team Penske has long been regarded as the standard bearer of excellence in Indy Car racing and on Sunday the team turned in one of the most dominating performances in the history of the sport by posting a 1-2-3 finish in the IZOD Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway
Australian Will Power started from the pole and led all but four of the 75 laps, only relinquishing the spot briefly during pit stops. He was followed to the checkered flag by teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe to post the first Team Penske podium sweep since 1994 at the MID-Ohio road course.
“It was an unbelievable team performance today,” said Power, who now has five wins this season and 14 in his IndyCar career. “It was just a perfect weekend.”
Power had the race comfortably in hand until the lone yellow caution of the day came out with just nine laps to go when Ho-Pin Tung, of China, made contact in turn #9 on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn road course, setting up a dash to the finish over the final seven laps.
Power was able to get the jump over his teammates on the restart and gradually pulled away for a 3.24-second margin of victory over Castroneves.
“I certainly wanted to win, but Will was in a class of his own today,” said Castroneves. “I was excited to have a chance to do battle with him at the end, but he had the upper hand today and I am happy for him.
Rounding out the top five were Team Target Ganassi teammates - Scotsman Dario Franchitti, the defending series champion and New Zealand’s Scott Dixon.
“This one is pretty important,” said Power. “Now we have a legitimate chance at the championship.”
Indeed, the victory was a huge shot in the arm for Power’s chances of winning the 2011 IZOD IndyCar title.
He came to the wine country trailing Franchitti by 47 points, but with the win and bonus points for the pole start and leading the most laps, Power shaved 21 points off Franchitti’s lead to pull within 26 points heading into the final four races on the 2011 schedule.
“They were brilliant in qualifying – in a different league -- and they did the same in the race,” said Franchitti. “I spent all day staring at the rear wing of the Penske Truck Rental car (Briscoe) and I couldn’t make anything happen even in traffic.”
The series now heads east to Maryland for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix next weekend, then makes stops at the Twin Ring Motegi road course in Japan and Kentucky Speedway before finishing at the Las Vegas Speedway on Oct. 16.