Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has claimed victory in an action-packed penultimate race of the 2014 season at Sonoma Raceway. It is the New Zealander’s second win in three outings, which keeps his incredibly slim hopes of defending his championship crown alive heading into next weekend’s finale at Fontana.
It was something of an omen when a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck just a few miles away from the undulating Napa Valley circuit on the morning of the 85-lap race. By the end of the race, its final classification barely resembled the starting order from qualifying the day before, where points leader Will Power emphatically claimed pole position.
Just seconds into the race, disaster struck the Australian’s teammate and chief championship rival, Hélio Castroneves, who was one of a number of drivers caught out in a pile-up as the pack jostled for Turn 2. The Brazilian completely missed his braking mark and hit the back of the luckless James Hinchcliffe at the right-hander’s apex, tipping both into a spin. On the outside of the corner, Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Briscoe also managed to tangle, slithering into the run-off but somehow able to continue.
Power had, meanwhile, converted his pole position into the lead, and he dominated proceedings early on until he had a clumsy spin at the Turn 7 hairpin shortly after a Safety Car interruption. The Australian planted his right foot and spin his Penske around in a haze of tyre smoke, but he had lost plenty of ground in the process.
He fought his way back up to ninth with a last-lap lunge on Justin Wilson, only for the move to be declared null and void when officials ruled he’d made the pass just fractions of a second after the corner was declared a yellow-flag zone.
The final laps saw several changes of the lead as many runners found their fuel tanks running almost empty. Dixon inherited victory from Mike Conway with two laps to go; the Englishman had himself just re-taken the race lead Graham Rahal before both drivers found their fuel alarms going off.
Dixon managed to haul his Chip Ganassi Racing entry across the finish line, just 1.1 seconds clear of former series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Simon Pagenaud rounded out the podium for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing.
Conway should have finished in the top-three, but his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet spluttered to a crawl as he exited the final corner; he rolled over the finish line in fourteenth place.
With teammate Castroneves only managing to salvage an eighteenth-placed finish, the result extended Power’s championship lead to a healthy 51 points over the rest of the field. With a maximum haul of 104 points up for grabs next weekend at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway, Power looks set to finally break his championship duck.
2014 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Sonoma – Race Result (85 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||2:09:21.8064|
|2.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 1.1359|
|3.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 6.3078|
|4.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||+ 11.8110|
|5.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 12.7305|
|6.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||+ 13.5367|
|7.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 15.8048|
|8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 20.1054|
|9.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 21.6233|
|10.||Will Power||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 22.1936|
|11.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology Honda||+ 22.4321|
|12.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 23.1572|
|13.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 23.2277|
|14.||Mike Conway||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||+ 26.9930|
|15.||Jack Hawksworth||Bryan Herta Autosport Honda||+ 37.0303|
|16.||Sebastián Saavedra||KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda||+ 37.7440|
|17.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 37.9876|
|18.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 39.6511|
|19.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 42.4797|
|20.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||+ 43.5335|
|21.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||– 1 lap|
|DNF.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||28 laps|
Image via Motorsport.com