Controversy reigned supreme on the otherwise dry hills of Sonoma as a late race penalty dished out to Scott Dixon while leading robbed the Kiwi of a sure victory, handing victory to Will Power.
Dixon was administered a drive-through penalty after inadvertently clipping Will Power’s right-rear mechanic, who was concluding his normal pit stop routine on Power in the bay directly ahead.
At the time, the mechanic was carrying the wheel he had just removed on his left hand side, on which Dixon’s car made contact. The impact sent the mechanic into Power’s rear-jack operator but didn’t affect Power’s stop as he was leaving his pit stall at the time, and emerged just behind Dixon.
Some pundits accused the Penske mechanic of deliberately walking too close to the Ganassi car – a claim that was quickly dismissed by Dixon’s chief strategist Mike Hull.
Upon leaving his stall, Dixon was suffering from a bit of wheel-spin which was affecting his most direct trajectory out of his pit box and causing the rear of his car to swing a little more toward the Penske crew than Dixon may have liked. It was a very close call, and different replay angles were capable of leading a reasonable, unbiased person to form opinions supporting both sides.
At the time of the incident, Dixon held a commanding grip on the race and was heading for a near certain victory. Had this result eventuated, the Kiwi would have slashed his points deficit to Hélio Castroneves to just 8 points heading to this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore. Following the drive-through penalty, which also occurred soon after a caution period, Dixon plummeted through the field and eventually finished in 15th place.
It was a harsh call by many standpoints, and Dixon was clearly not impressed, but pragmatic and although of the belief the Penske mechanic could have done more to avoid contact being made, did not outright accuse Team Penske of any malice and just hoped IndyCar officials would maintain a consistent viewpoint on future instances.
Speaking of Castroneves, the Brazilian ran strongly for most of the day, however, he was clearly maintaining a conservative race and just trying to finish, maximise his personal points haul for the day and avoid losing the points lead altogether to his Ganassi rival.
The issue capped off an incredibly dramatic race which saw seven caution periods – five of which happened before Lap 30. Turn 7 – the near-180-degree hairpin at the northern-most point of the circuit, proved to be the most problematic corner, with many ambitious overtaking moves attempted throughout the day. Some were successful – plenty were not! – and for the utterly unfeasible, drive-through penalties were issued to offenders including EJ Viso and Tony Kanaan, while another culprit, Sebastien Bourdais, suffered several broken front wings.
Over the course of the day, caution periods were caused by Charlie Kimball (spinning off course), EJ Viso (avoidable contact with Justin Wilson), Simona de Silvestro (hit by Bourdais), JR Hildebrand (hit by Tony Kanaan), James Jakes (hit and ran off-course), Josef Newgarden (ran off course) and Sebastian Saavedra (crashed after tangling with James Davison).
Additionally, Ryan Briscoe made clumsy contact with a recovered Kimball later in the race up the inside of Turn 7, costing the Panther Racing driver his front wing and pitching hometown hero Kimball into a spin. While trying to right himself, Kimball hit Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter, who were approaching at the time. All three were push-started by the Holmatro Safety Team, although Sato would later retire with a mechanical issue.
After all of the cautions were said and done, Will Power managed to hold off a charging Justin Wilson, who had made a remarkable recovery and timed his pit stops to perfection to regain a lost lap suffered as a result of contact with Viso early in the race.
Polesitter Dario Franchitti delivered a strong race but was unable to hold off Power and Wilson, both of whom passed the four-time series champion at different restarts towards the end.
Taking the chequered flag for the first time since Brazil 2012, Power said he was surprised it had taken so long into the season for his first win of 2013, and that it felt great to return to Victory Lane. Justin Wilson brought home his Dale Coyne entry in a strong second place ahead of Franchitti, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud, who all had uneventful afternoons.
2013 IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Final Classification (85 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske||85||2:20:46.8226|
|2.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 1.1930|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 3.4036|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 4.1266|
|5.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||85||+ 4.7042|
|6.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 5.1074|
|7.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||85||+ 8.5383|
|8.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 9.0231|
|9.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||85||+ 9.2858|
|10.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||85||+ 11.2082|
|11.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||85||+ 12.0359|
|12.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||85||+ 15.1056|
|13.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||85||+ 17.7606|
|14.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||85||+ 18.5207|
|15.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 20.2165|
|16.||JR Hildebrand||Barracuda Racing||85||+ 20.7611|
|17.||Ryan Briscoe||Panther Racing||85||+ 29.4788|
|18.||James Davison||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 43.7768|
|19.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|20.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||83||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||81||Accident|
|DNF.||Lucas Luhr||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||81||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||67||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||56||Mechanical|
|DNF.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||28||Mechanical|