Scott Dixon passed a low on fuel Mike Conway with three laps to go to win the GoPro Sonoma Grand Prix IndyCar race. Graham Rahal was leading but burning a lot of fuel with a poor race strategy and had to give up the lead with three laps to go.
It was then that Dixon pounced and went from third to first as he passed Conway in Turn 1 while Rahal fumed on pit road.
Simon Pagenaud was third ahead of Takuma Sato and Juan Montoya while Conway ran dry at the line and coasted across to a 14th place finish.
The win was the 35th of Dixon's Indy car career, putting him in a tie for fifth place on the all-time Indy car victory list with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser.
Dixon, who started third in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, led Ryan Hunter-Reay across the finish line by 1.1359 seconds.
Championship leader Will Power was 9th after spinning and gained points over teammate Helio Castroneves who could only manage an 18th place finish.
Back to Rahal. He avoided a multi-car collision on the start and moved from 14th to 12th. He pit out of sequence on Lap 8 and climbed up to run fourth before his second stop where he pit under caution with Sato and Conway, but those two topped off two additional times before green conditions which helped them later.
Rahal climbed back into fourth when the majority of the field pitted during a caution for Saavedra and later passed Briscoe, Kanaan and Conway to take the lead on Lap 64 of 85 which he held until Lap 81 when he had to pit for 2.2 gallons of fuel. Due to extreme fuel conservation, the fuel setting he had been running in didn’t have Pit Lane Speed control and he was given a drive through penalty for speeding when he entered the pits for his splash of fuel and served it on Lap 84 of 85 which ultimately resulted in a 20th place finish, another race thrown away by poor strategy.
Power takes a lead of 51 points over Castroneves and 81 points over Pagenaud to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval for the season-closing MAVTV 500 on Aug. 30. A total of 104 points are available in the final round of the Triple Crown series.
Power, who started on the pole and led a field-high 33 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was scored 10th after rebounding from a spin on Lap 40 that cost him eight positions to 20th.
"It took me by surprise when I spun. That's just racing," Power said. "I would have liked to have had a better finish, but the Verizon Chevy team will look to Fontana working towards the championship."
Castroneves, whose No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car was involved in contact on Laps 1 and 36, finished 18th. He entered the race 40 points behind Power.
"This is just big for our team," said Dixon. "It was tough because there were so many fuel strategies going on and they were just slightly off. I didn't know who could make it and who couldn't."
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the MAVTV 500 on Aug. 30 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The race will be telecast live at 9 p.m. (ET) by NBCSN. The IMS Radio Network will also carry the race live on its network affiliates, including Sirius 213 and XM channels 209, IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR 14 App.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was tough. There were so many strategies going on and they were just slightly off so I didn't know who could make it, who couldn't. Conway, I think, pushed hard to start with but then, obviously, at the end it looked like he needed to save some fuel. This is big for our team, we've had a pretty rats year so far but strategy was perfect. It was a little mixed up, but so happy. We have a huge amount of Target people here this weekend. About 400-500 people. Big should out to them." (About not feeling well this weekend) "I've been a little under the weather but, as you said. Some people actually did better when they are not feeling so well. We were close all weekend. As soon as the car rolled off, the Target team is has been very strong. Man, I'm just so happy, just so happy to end on this note and thanks obviously to all the fans out here this weekend. It's a big race for us in wine country and love coming here. I hope everybody's safe after that big rock and roll last night."
BOBBY UNSER (Racing legend): "Scott Dixon is a very, very good driver and records are made to be broken. I've been watching Scott race for years. I've been watching Scott since he started racing Indy cars when he was real young and he was successful almost immediately. He's truly a great driver and drives with a lot of vigor. I am happy for Scott and at his young age I am sure he'll get another win or lots to pass our 35 Indy car wins we now share together. Scott's a racer, he truly know how to drive a car, for sure. I just wish Chip would give him a stock car, sprinter or midget to race in, I am sure he'd win in those too. I am betting he'd win in anything he runs, if given the chance."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): "Sonoma is such a hard track to pass on so we made the race in the pits really. The pit stops were awesome and …that's what made us jump so many positions. Strategy was very frustrating, very tough for me because I had to save so much fuel but we made it past Conway in the last corner and third, it's fantastic. This morning I never thought we would be third. I'm delighted and we're going into Fontana with a chance to the title so, as you know, that was something that was very important to me."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We had a really good car, so I was able to move through traffic when I needed to. That last set of tires on there — for some reason we missed the pressures on them. They went high. I'm not sure what happened but just had an imbalance and had nothing for Scott. I was able to keep his pace. We passed the cars we needed to, got through there and with one lap we kind of ran out of steam. Unfortunately, second, like you said, is not what we needed but, you know, it's a pretty good day. It's nice for sure. When you have the championship on the line, though, we needed Will to have two really bad weekends. Well, he had one and we needed to win today. The guys did a great job. We have everybody from DHL here and it's just a good team effort today."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a pretty difficult day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team. The start of the race was messy. Everybody went for it and braked real late. Cars got shuffled around and were going in every direction. I ended up sideways, hit Briscoe and lost the engine. I got re-fired, but the car was really banged up and difficult to drive. We still had good pace and the team came up with a really good strategy. Things were looking pretty good, we were moving up. Then on one of the restarts I got a run on the inside of my teammate (Sebastian Saavedra) and then Helio (Castroneves) came on the inside of me to make it three wide. When Sebastian turned in, there was enough room for me, but not for both me and Helio. I was in the middle and got sandwiched. At that point all the damage on the car started to pile up, but I was still running okay…as weird as that sounds. At that point I was back to last, which is a shame, because we were on a good strategy. We moved up when some guys pitted for fuel, then we picked up a couple of places at the end when some guys ran out of fuel, but ultimately 11th was all we could salvage."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's a pretty disappointing finish, to be honest. The Hitachi Chevy was really fast all weekend and to get hit so early on in the race was really tough. That certainly put us behind, fixing the damage in the front and back of the car and it was tough to recover. So now, we are 50 points behind in the championship heading to the finale at Auto Club Speedway and with the double points there anything can happen. We are not giving up. We will keep on it and give everything we have next weekend to try and reach our goal. We are still in it and we know what we need to do now over the 500 miles."
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I am disappointed with the day. I really wanted to finish the race and try to gain a few positions from where I started but the car gave up and I had to retire. The first lap incident was crazy but I made it through and gained a few positions. The team did a great job all weekend and I just wish I could have finished the race. I have to put today aside and focus on having a good race next week."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers KV AFS Chevrolet): "It was an interesting race from the back. I had a great start and managed to avoid a big incident in turn two and then gained nine positions. I was pretty happy with the Automatic Fire Sprinklers – KV AFS car and the crew did a great job. Unfortunately on the restart I got in a bit of an accident with my teammate, when Helio Castroneves pushed him out, and that's something that really hurt my race as I was fighting for a top-10 spot with Pagenaud. Coming from the back, I had some great passes, we just needed one more lap as a lot of cars needed fuel and I could then of had a top-five, but that's racing and I look forward to getting back on track and doing it again next weekend."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a good weekend for the Verizon Chevy. I knew we had a really good car and that's why I was a bit upset that we weren't able to start up front yesterday. If we could've been in the top five, even in the top 10, I think we could be talking about a different result here today. But, unfortunately, I put us in a bit of a hole in qualifying. This Chevrolet was really, really fast today. I passed a lot of people and had a blast. We are no longer in the title fight, but we are going to Auto Club Speedway next weekend with one goal and that's winning the race."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "It wasn't the day we planned for, obviously. On the first lap going into Turn 2, Scott (Dixon) just really didn't give me enough room. He didn't do anything intentional, but he pinched me right down to the curb. I tried to get out of his way; he had plenty of track to the left but decided to use all the track I was trying to use and ended up spinning us. At a track that's as track-position dependent as this one, that absolutely murdered our day, and he gets away scot free. It's kind of disappointing. Helio (Castroneves) got caught up in that, too. It's just tough, you know? The United Fiber & Data crew and I rebounded really well from practice to qualifying on the second row, and our day was done two corners in. We did what we could to battle back to 12th, but it's tough back there. It was a track position kind of day… tough break, I'm really disappointed. Again, it kind of sums up the year that we've had."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): "We got caught out by a yellow flag… it was a really frustrating day. The Snapple car had position, but we couldn't really take advantage and capitalize on it, so we're a little disappointed."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): "Another race to forget. Again I was involved in the little confusion at the start, and it cost me a lot of positions. After that, our strategy unfortunately didn't pay off at all. It's really hard to pass here, and it was just an awful day after that mistake. We have to rebuild for Fontana and finish the championship in a good position."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I think the positive to take away from this weekend is that we secured a solid top-10 result on one of our more difficult tracks over the last couple of years. We've made big strides in what we're doing and the direction we've gone. Today I think the temperature hurt us quite a bit. It was a hot day and it just didn't suite what we were doing very well. We were much better in the morning when it was cooler and we just weren't as strong when the temperature went up and also as the track got slower from dust and wind pickup. It just got slower all afternoon and we just got worse and worse and it didn't cater to what we were doing setup wise. We ended up sixth, I think we had the potential to be inside the top-5 but sixth is a solid top-10 for us. The tire degradation is what was bad. We were out to lunch on that and I think that was all attributed to temperature. We were strong in some aspects but it just didn't play out for us today."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Well, that was a really unfortunate finish here at Sonoma. The No. 8 NTT DATA Chevrolet was just so fast all weekend and we were so strong coming into this race. That incident on the first lap that caused us to have to change my rear wing just completely screwed up our whole race. It's frustrating for me and I know it's frustrating for the whole NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing team when we have these types of days. On a more positive note, I'm so happy for Dixon and his win today."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Very happy. It was a great effort by the whole ABC Supply team. We had another unlucky morning–after the warm up we had to change the engine. The guys did a tremendous job to change it in such a short time and give me a competitive car. Unfortunately we caught debris in the first accident and we had to change the nose and tires. We stayed on the lead lap and kept topping off fuel to make a slightly different sequence of pit stops from everyone else. Larry and the engineers made good calls on strategy and it worked out really well. The crew did a great job on the stops. Unfortunately on the last stop, we were leaving when Marco was coming in [pitted in box ahead of Sato] and I had to stop to avoid hitting him. Nevertheless I overtook a few cars on the track, our strategy worked and the Honda engine did a great job in the end. Everyone is very happy."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): "The National Guard car was great today. We fought hard and obviously we passed the guys that we needed to pass when we needed to pass them and got to the front. Unfortunately we came up short again. Man, I don't know when things are going to break for me. We'll just have to keep working hard, keep our heads down. I think the car has some speed. We've got one more race to get National Guard a win and I hope we can do it. For a second I thought it (a win) might happen. The team didn't say anything to me for a while and I thought ‘Shoot, I might have gotten the mileage. They were just counting down the laps to go and the next thing I know, the light comes on and I've got to pit. All around its disappointing but that's the way it goes. We were taking extreme measures (to stretch the fuel), we were running a yellow (situation) map and running with all kinds of stuff off to try to get an extra bit of fuel and we got what we needed to get. It just wasn't going to be enough. I said to the team in the strategy meeting "Guys, a double, triple, or homerun doesn't do anything for us now. Only a Grand Slam does.' But we missed."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): "It's frustrating that the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet finished the race the way it did. I think there was some error in the fuel system or something just wasn't right on that last stop, but we'll figure it out. Once again, the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys did a great job and a big congrats to Dixon and the 9 team for getting the win here today. We've got an opportunity next week with the 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway to finish out the year with a win. We ran really well there last year, and I can't wait to take the Chevy power there this year."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): "We just tried to play a little bit with our strategy to see if it was going to work and unfortunately it didn't turn out in our favor today. It was a gamble, and if it would've worked we could've been up there celebrating with Dixie. I'm really happy for the guys on the 9 car, especially with all of our Target guests here. It was just one of those days for us that you just have to take and move on."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It was a tough day because we weren't the best on our tires. I knew this would be key in having a good race and I wasn't able to make them last. I pushed as hard as I could but the end results is frustrating. We had a good strategy and in the end, moving up from 16th to ninth isn't the worst result in the world. The team did a great job and if things had fallen a bit differently, I think I could have finished a little bit higher. We have a quick turnaround to next weekend where I hope I can have a better performance."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I was doing all I could keep Scott (Dixon) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) behind me. The team knew that Graham (Rahal) had to pit for fuel. I could see that the boys behind me were a little quicker and I was trying to save as much fuel as possible too. It was tricky but I thought I was making a good job of it. I was hitting my fuel number through the last stint. I thought it would be good but I suppose the lap when I used the overtake button to keep back Scott came back to cost us. There wasn't much more I could do at that point and I thought I could hang on for a podium g sh. But when I got to turn 10 on the last lap, the engine just died. It picked up a little into turn 11 but finally just shut off in the corner. It was a tough way to finish the year with the Ed Carpenter Racing team with the Fuzzy's Vodka car. I really want to thank Ed and his guys, the Fuzzy's boys., Chevrolet and our suppliers for a great year. It was a very good year. Two wins for me and one for Ed so far. I would love to see Ed win it next week in Fontana too."
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, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
2. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
3. (15) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
4. (20) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
5. (19) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
6. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
7. (12) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
8. (13) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
9. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
10. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
11. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
12. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
13. (8) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
14. (17) Mike Conway, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
15. (18) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
16. (22) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
17. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
18. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
19. (9) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
20. (14) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
21. (11) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 84, Running
22. (21) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 28, Mechanical
Winners average speed: 94.026
Time of Race: 2:09:21.8064
Margin of victory: 1.1359 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 11 laps
Lead changes: 10 among 8 drivers
Point Standings: Power 626, Castroneves 575, Pagenaud 545, Hunter-Reay 534, Dixon 523, Montoya 519, Kanaan 443, Bourdais 437, Munoz 435, Andretti 424