Will Power held off the field for a dominating performance at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. The Australian driver captured his fifth road course win of the year for Team Penske, and received the inaugural Mario Andretti road course championship trophy.
Power jumped out to a quick lead, as he and teammate Helio Castroneves jumped the field at the start of the race. Power said, “Helio and I talked about the start. We wanted to keep Dario [Franchitti] from second and it worked out.” This was especially important because of an accident before the start/finish line during the first lap of the race.
Dan Wheldon came around the last turn, and while attempting to pick up speed made contact with Bertrand Baguette. Wheldon’s car flipped upside down, the nose smashed along the inside pit wall, and he landed with his wheels in the air at the start of the front stretch. A scary moment was averted as Wheldon emerged from the car unscathed.
Wheldon described the event after being checked out by the infield care center. “I don’t know what happened. I was just coming up for the start of the race obviously, and it’s a shame because the National Guard car was really strong all weekend and we were hoping for a really good finish.
"It’s never a good thing to be upside down but everybody at Dallara and the IZOD IndyCar Series do an unbelievable job from the safety aspect of our sport.”
While there was plenty of action on the track on Sunday, little of it took place up front, as Will Power lead from flag to flag except for a lap while pitting. His performance was aided by his Team Penske teammates, who ensured that Power kept a gap between him and the competing Target Chip Ganassi cars.
Power crossed the checkered flag first, followed by Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Dixon made an attempt to chase down Power near the end of the race, but his faster red tires began to degrade, and Power was able to hold him off to win by .7432 seconds.
Many of the drivers commented about the excellent job Firestone did with the two types of tires today. The competitors believed that by having the alternate red tires fall off so dramatically that it lead to increased opportunities for good racing and passing. Dixon noted, “Tire degradation was great today. It caused the most action I have seen at Sonoma.”
The increased tire wear and setup differences also led to plenty of action throughout the field. While only three cars left the race due to damage, many cars had parts missing and wheel marks on their sidepods. Dario Franchitti joked, “I think Dallara will make a lot of money this week on spare parts.”
One major incident near the end of the race that bears watching was contact between Danica Patrick and Takuma Sato. Danica lost her front left wing part while trying to pass Sato. She believed the move may have been intentional because of contact between the two in the past.
After the race she said, “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 Sato at the end. It's hard when you have a good race but the results don’t show.”
Patrick managed to limp her damaged car to finish in 16th. This may be a story to watch as the cars turn their attention to the last four oval races of the season, which will bring close racing to the series.
The story of the day, however, was the dominance of Will Power, and his revenge at the track that ended his 2009 season. A wreck with Nelson Philippe during practice for last years event left Power with a broken back and an uncertain future. Roger Penske stepped up to put him in a car full time this year with Verizon sponsorship, and Power has rewarded his faith.
Power noted, “I watched this race from a hospital bed last year. I came back to win this thing because this track owes me.”
With the victory, Power now holds a commanding 59-point lead over second place Dario Franchitti. Dixon is 95 points behind, with the four remaining ovals to go. Power has never won on an oval, so the championship should prove to be exciting, especially since the Target cars have won at all of the remaining tracks.
The series continues its run to Homestead-Miami with next week’s race at Chicagoland speedway. The high speed one and a half mile oval has featured some of the closest racing in IZOD IndyCar history. Twenty-nine cars are expected to compete for the win at Chicagoland, and the racing should be intense. The action gets underway next Saturday night, under the lights, on Versus network.