In a Nutshell: The box score reads in a ho-hum fashion. The drivers for Ganassi Racing held the top two positions after qualifying, with Will Power from Penske Racing sitting third. Those are the big names from the big teams. The tally when the race ended showed Will Power taking first, Justin Wilson, from the lesser funded Dale Coyne Racing, earned second, and Dario Franchitti finished in third. See, kind of ho-hum. The mercurial Marco Andretti, who came across as petulant all weekend, raced to fourth, and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton, finished out the top five.
Key Moment: While Turn 7 affected the race all day, bringing about multiple cautions, pit road created the key moment. Scott Dixon, leading the race at the time, pitted with Power behind him. Dixon’s crew serviced the car, Dixon took off – and in doing so clipped one of Power’s crew members. Replays showed an interesting point of debate, as the crewman seemed lackadaisical in carrying his tire back to the box, and that Dixon may have done nothing wrong. The lines on the track, however, are painted for NASCAR reasons and are not the ones for this series, and indicate that Dixon may very well have pushed the limits. Either way, Dixon received a pit road penalty, moving him from first and dropping him to his eventual 15th place finish. While it’d be easy to say the snafu, whichever way one sees it, gave the victory to #12, Power still had to endure two more restarts to reach the checkered flag first.
- Scott Dixon, after watching the replay of his pit road incident said, of Power’s crewman, “That was a bit of a dick move.” The Kiwi had all the reason to be upset with what likely cost him a victory and possibly the championship. The startling thing was that he wasn’t more animated and throwing vitriolic words all over Napa Valley.
- Beau Barfield, the director of competition for INDYCAR, offered his own perspective on the matter by stating that Dixon showed, “less than great judgment.” Barfield also explained that the view that he had showed that Dixon drove through Power’s box and that he was clearly at fault. The decision to penalize Dixon may very well end up deciding the championship.
- A quick thought. Whether or not Dixon was in the right or wrong, and whether or not Power’s crewman acted intentionally, Barfield let it be known that the people on pit road must be protected. There’s nothing wrong with that.
- Helio Castroneves may have had one of the luckiest races of the season. Mired in a mid-pack position, he continually escaped problematic positions and was able to finish a respectable seventh. Throughout the race he bumped and rubbed with a number of drivers but kept the wing on and suffered no serious damage. Once again he finished in the top ten, something he has done all season and is the reason he is atop the points standings.
- Ah, Takuma Sato, how your season has derailed. Remember, about four races into the season, Sato was leading the points. Since then, the season has gone up like the Fukushima Plant. OK, it hasn’t been THAT bad, but it hasn’t been good, and the Sonoma race showed that it’s not just him but his team as well, as he suffered an early mechanical failure that put him laps down before the race had gotten going.
- Perhaps E.J. Viso should ditch his Verizon smart phone, ditch the Interwebnet, and not read the papers (those still exist?). Viso started the race the like a driver feeling the pressure and banged his way through the field in the opening laps, making Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson his victims. And for all his efforts, he still wound up 14th – not exactly a resume builder.
- Panther Racing let it be known that Oriol Servia will drive the #4 for the remaining races, leaving Ryan Briscoe to wander in driver limbo. The silly season could get interesting with Juan Pablo Montoya and James Hinchcliffe also out there without contracts.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay languished in the back part of the field for most of the race. He’s trying to maintain a position the championship and it looked like the hopes of repeating were over. Yet somehow he took sixth position. Though he’s 62 points behind Castroneves, he’s still not out of it with he and his team showing the mettle that helped him last year.
Notable Driver: It’s hard not to give Justin Wilson the nod for this one. His team played a different pit strategy, here’s looking at you Viso, and used it to keep Wilson in contention as the race aged. By being able to race with Dixon and Power, Wilson demonstrated that he had a car that was capable of procuring the win, but was unable to get into P1 in the late stages. His second-place finish is worth noting.
From the Twittersphere:
Light offerings from the world of 140 characters after this go round, but here are a few.
Scott Dixon @scottdixon9
All I can say is bad sportsmanship. You can’t avoid someone walking at you. No one on pit lane does that! There’s a common etiquette.
Dario Franchitti @dariofranchitti
Happy with a podium finish but a upset at what could have been, got pushed off on a restart near the end and lost a place or maybe 2…
Dario Franchitti @dariofranchitti
On a positive note there’s lots of drivers mad at other driver/team owners/officials. 2 see how it turns out tune in next Sunday
Ryan Hunter-Reay @RyanHunterReay
Rough day to say the least. Went w/a strategy that didn’t pan out unfortunately. Had to claw back from last to finish 6th. Thx for the msgs!
What’s Next: The series gets busy again next weekend after having a scant schedule the past two months. Bouncing to the East Coast, the drivers will tackle the street course for the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Coverage of the race begins on September 1 at 2:00 EST on NBCSN. There’s but four races left in the season.
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