Power holds off Dixon, wins Infineon IndyCar race
Last year Will Power was laying in the hospital with a broken back after an accident in practice for this race, but one year later he is sitting on top of the world. The Penske Team stuck with him when he was down and today Power won his 5th IZOD IndyCar race of the year at Infineon Raceway and increased his point lead over third place finisher Dario Franchitti to 59 points.
Franchitti's Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon finished 2nd and pushed Power hard at the end only to come up short by 0.74 seconds.
It was Australian Power's 9th career IndyCar victory (including Champ Car) in 66 starts. Starting from the pole, Power led all but two of the 75 laps on the undulating road course 1 hour north of San Francisco. Team Penske has now won 7 of the 13 IndyCar races this season.
Power now has 4 oval races (Chicago, Kentucky, Motegi and Homestead) standing between him and the 2010 title. The Ganassi team has held an advantage on the ovals this year so Power is going to have his work cut out for him before he can celebrate.
"We feel confident going into the last four oval races," said Dixon. "Our Ganassi cars have been especially good on the 1.5-mile ovals."
Except for Power, the other two Penske cars of Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were not getting as good mileage on the softer red tires and the two Ganassi cars were able to move ahead and finish 2nd and 3rd.
Even Franchitti did not get the wear on his red tires and went to the harder blacks on the last stint. But they were slower and Dario had to let Dixon go with the hope he would beat Power for the win, but Power remained perfect, like he has been all weekend, and took the win.
"I knew Scott Dixon was catching me by about 0.3 seconds per lap before the last caution, but I was being smart and managing my tire wear up to that point," said a happy Power. "I could have pushed hard and opened a gap to Scott but then my tires would have been junk the last 10 laps. Instead it was Scott who wore his tires out trying to catch me and that enabled me to outrun him after the final caution over the last several laps.
"It was an awesome race...I was a little worried at the end, having to do 20 laps on used reds [alternate Firestone tires]. I think the yellow helped a lot with that - I had a bit of pickup on the tires, so I was really looking after them. The red tires had awesome grip at the beginning, but they went off quite a bit at the end of a stint. But that makes for great racing!"
Power dictated the pace for much of the 75-lap race, pulling out as much as a six-second lead at several points between the day's four caution flags, while behind him the Target Chip Ganassi duo of Franchitti and Dixon mixed it up with Power's Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe for the remaining top five positions.
FAZZT Race Team's Alex Tagliani also figured prominently in the early laps before fading with handling issues, while Justin Wilson and the Andretti Autosport duo of Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay all moved up late in the race. But no one had the speed to match Power. Contact involving Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon and rookie Bertrand Baguette at the green flag set Wheldon upside-down on the front straight, but he escaped the dramatic accident without injury.
A number of incidences occurred throughout the race including de Silvestro and Matos getting together, a Bertrand Baguette sandwich in Turn 11a resulted in a broken wing and suspension for him, Milka Duno, who drove her best race in a long time but had her usual spin or two, Hideki Mutoh spun in Turn 7, Helio Castroneves went off when he wore his red tires out, and Marco Andretti took out Simona de Silvestro when he missed his braking point in Turn 7.
Power celebrated his victory by toasting the fans with the customary wine goblet in Infineonâ€™s Victory Circle and then he received the road course championship trophy from racing legend Mario Andretti.
â€śItâ€™s quite an honor to receive an award from Mario Andretti â€“ one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport,â€ť said Power. â€śI want to win this overall championship. The Verizon team will keep working hard and weâ€™re determined to try and get at least one win on an oval this year.â€ť
As a result of today's finish, Power (514 points) now has a 59 point lead over Franchitti (455 points) with Dixon (419 points) behind Power by 96 points.
Today's attendance, on a picture perfect weather day, was the largest IndyCar crowd in track history. The series now moves to Chicagoland Speedway next Saturday night for the first of four straight 1.5-mile ovals to end the season.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, winner, Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma): "What a perfect weekend. It was an awesome race. (Scott) Dixon certainly had a good pace at the end there but I had a bit of pick up on my tires. I just have to thank the Verizon guys and Roger (Penske) and Tim (Cindric) for giving me this opportunity. A year ago I was lying in the hospital after taking a ride in a helicopter and watching the race in there, so to come back and win it from the pole is just fantastic. I've said it all season, I wanted to come back here and win this race. (About going to ovals): "I'm going for it. I want to win the championship and I want to win an oval before the year is out and this overall championship."
ROGER PENSKE (Team owner, Penske Racing): "Will and the Verizon team did a terrific job today and they have been great all season long. To win here at Sonoma after last year is a testament to Will's toughness and his determination. We were able to wrap up the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship and both Will and the Verizon team are focused on winning the overall title this year as well."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing finished second): "The unfortunate part is that we really only get one set of stickers for the race with the red tires. They were night and day quicker so we had to take used at the end. It's a big day for Team Target. Second and third is a great result. We really needed to be ahead of the 12 car, and I pushed it as hard as I could at the end. I just couldn't even get close enough to have a look. He was definitely hooked up and saving his tires earlier in the day. It's still a good result. We're happy to come from sixth all the way to second."
DARIO FRANCHITI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished third: "We did the best with what we had today. We took a gamble on blacks at the end and it didn't work for us, unfortunately. Scott (Dixon) was definitely quicker on reds and I let him go there, hoping he was going to hunt down Will (Power). Scott really tried to get past him. There was such a speed difference on the blacks that we couldn't get close to them at the end."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, finished 14th): "It was a tough day; unfortunately the first set of tires went away more quickly than we anticipated. We lost a few positions and then coming into Turn 11 on lap 18, I'm not sure who punted me, but I got hit and got a flat right rear tire. After that we were just trying to recover. We got back up to P15, and then I was punted by Mutoh in Turn 7 which put us to the back again. I'm really proud of our team that we fought back to get a 14th place finish which helps us for the championship. Three incidents in one race left us too much to do to get the result that we wanted which is unfortunate."
MARIO ANDRETTI: (About Power's title): "Right now, he's on a roll and God bless him. It's wonderful to see." (About the overall title): "Even though he has the points lead, you don't rest. And that's the beauty of IndyCar. To win the overall championship, you have to be proficient on all sides of what it has to offer. That's what I really enjoy about the series since it started having the mix (in 2005) of ovals and road courses. As a driver, that always was the ultimate challenge." (About the award named in honor of him): "It's special that the fans voted on it and it's a real compliment at this stage of my life. It's wonderful that the oval trophy is named in honor of A.J. He was the yardstick for so many years and when I came on the scene that's the guy we were gunning for. That was the man. If you can't beat him, you'll never win a race. In the future, I will certainly enjoy watching young drivers in pursuit of this trophy. Throughout my career, there was a thrill in knowing and feeling that fans were connecting with me."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 de Ferran Dragon Racing, finished 21st): I'm very disappointed. We had a top-10 car, but the tires really went off really bad on the last stint. It got very difficult to hold off Sato and he was able to pass me inside on turn 11. When I moved in behind him (Bertrand) Baguette dive bombed me and broke my suspension. We were in a position to collect some points, but that's how it goes some times."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, finished eighth): "Qualifying really seals your fate at this track. This race just doesn't feature a lot of passing. In the car today, it was pretty monotonous. Hopefully, the fans got a good show at some point. But, we're getting out of Sonoma with a top 10. We really wanted to give all our guests here this weekend a performance worthy of their great support. We're capable of it, but it just wasn't meant to be this weekend."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Dr Pepper Cherry, finished seventh): "We started on a different strategy, so I started with an older set of tires and I suffered for it big-time on the first stint. But, I knew it was going to pay off, having a brand new set for our last stint, and it did -- probably not as much as I wanted it to, but we did what we were supposed to do. Ryan and I worked really well here this weekend and while I can't say it was an awesome day, it was a good day. We'll take what we know now for the road courses and get better for next year."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 NHR/Quick Trim, finished ninth): "The race went pretty well for the Quick Trim team. We certainly had our ups and downs. I thought the first stint was really promising for us when we got up in the top-10 in one stint. I think we were probably the quickest of the group that we were in at that point but we went to blacks and really started to struggle and couldn't get it sorted out. We struggled through that stint but got out of it okay. Then we put the red Firestone's on and I thought it would be a lot like the first stint. I thought that even though we didn't have the ultimate pace of (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (Tony) Kanaan and some of those guys, I thought that at the end of the day when everybody else started to fall out of the saddle we could catch up. Unfortunately it just didn't work out that way. The guys did a good job in the pits and everybody worked extremely hard. This was definitely not an easy weekend. I think we all have to be pretty pleased with the end result. Now we've got Chicagoland next week and it's a place that we know we could have potentially won the race last year. There's no reason we can't do it this time."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished fourth): "Will Power is a machine. Congratulations to him for bringing Team Penske another victory. Our No. 6 car was really good today. We were able to make up a position and we fought hard with the Ganassi cars all day long. I had a great afternoon here at Infineon today - the stands were filled and the fans were great, so thanks to them too. Again, good job to Will."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, finished fifth): "Awesome day for Team Penske and Will Power is incredible. My hat is off to him. He did a great job of managing his tires and staying in front of the Ganassi guys. The No. 3 car was fantastic until the tires started to go away towards the end of the run. My guys gave me great stops and as usual it was a solid run for us. Once again, how about that Will Power?"
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, finished 12th): "It was a long day for the Venom car. We decided early to go off sequence and we were running second for a while. I think it would have been an interesting day if our strategy had been able to work out. The caution came out a few laps earlier than we would have liked and we had to start over with a new plan. Then I made contact with a couple of cars later in the race; there was no major damage but it affected the car's handling for sure. Things just didn't go our way today."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, finished 16th): "That was a frustrating way to end a tough weekend for the GoDaddy car. I had a solid car throughout the race and really thought that I was going to finish in the top 10, but I got caught up with (Takuma) Sato at the end. It's hard when you have a good race but the result doesn't show."
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, finished 11th): "It was a very hard race today. The whole weekend we didn't have the car we wanted. My KV Racing crew worked really hard this weekend and, in the end, we nearly had a Top 10. We tried to gamble with an early pit stop. But the yellow flag came a little too late for us. I was trying to get some impossible fuel mileage today. So I was about three seconds a lap slower to save as much fuel as possible. Finally, I had enough fuel to go to the end and I could push. With that, I was able to overtake six cars in the final five laps. I was hit several times today and I was glad we could finish 11th. Now, we go to the oval tracks again next week at Chicago. I finished third there last year. So I am ready to go."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, finished 17th): "The car was good at the beginning and I managed to keep my position but after 15 or 16 laps I struggled with tire wear and it was getting harder and I couldn't keep pace. I came in early and put black Firestone's on. During the last stint I had contact with (Alex) Tagliani and lost many positions there into Turn 7. And on a restart I had contact with (Mario) Moraes into Turn 7 again and lost some positions. I feel bad for the team. The car was capable of a top-10 finish but I just couldn't make it happen."
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology, finished 19th): "It was one of these races where too many things can go wrong. At the start of the race, we changed our strategy from the rest. We wanted to get some open track and push hard to gain time. But we has some issues that hurt our chances to make a charge today. The black tires were not as fast as the reds and we lost a lap to the leaders. That really hurt any chances we had. The track was pretty consistent today but we didn't have a good day overall. We learned a lot this weekend. Now, we can move on to Chicago and race on the ovals again."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus - KV Racing Technology): "It was a difficult weekend for our team as we couldn't find the speed we wanted. However, in the race, we were able to start getting things together. I had many exciting side-by-side moments and with 15 laps to go I was running 10th. However on the final restart, it looked like we had a mechanical problem causing me to lose over two seconds a lap. I had to run wide and tangled with Danica causing me to do a quick pit stop. It was a shame we had to end like this, but overall we can take some positives with us from this race."
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