Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Race Recap: Penske Power Dominates in Sonoma

*In A Nutshell:* Penske Racing celebrated a strong showing from all their drivers, with Ryan Briscoe taking the victory. Though his teammate, Will Power, likely had the better race going, the timing of a full-course caution gave Briscoe the lead, one he held for the final 27 laps. Power finished second with Dario Franchitti taking the final podium position. Reubens Barrichello had a strong race, taking fourth, followed by Graham Rahal.

Ryan Briscoe snagged the lead when teammate Will Power got caught in the pits during a late caution and held on for the win in Sonoma. Photo credit INDYCAR/LAT USA.

*Key Moment:* The dust-up between Sebastian Bourdais and Josef Newgarden proved to be the difference maker in the race. The collision, which sent a skidding Newgarden head-first into the restraining tires, allowed Briscoe to take the top spot. Bourdais commented that he was unable to steer his car in interviews, and Newgarden was the unfortunate beneficiary of being in the way. Bourdais walked away OK, but Newgarden was reported to have injured his left index finger and will be evaluated upon returning home to Indiannapolis.

*Highlight Reel*

– For most of the race, little excitement could be found at the front of the field. Power led comfortably and by mid-point had a gap of almost 24 seconds on the third-place car. For Power, that kind of drive was precisely what he was looking for, but for those fans seeking a contested battle, they would have to look further back.

– And further back is where one found Helio Castroneves clipping his front wing on the first lap and battling back from being as low as 24th, to finish 6th.

– Scott Dixon raced hard with championship contender Ryan Hunter-Reay, but also clipped his front wing, dropping him to a 13th place result.

– Hunter-Reay suffered a troubling blow to his chances for the title when Alex Tagliani spun him out in late racing action. Tagliani has gained a ignominious reputation for reckless racing and this move did nothing to change the opinions of many. He coasted home in 9th, while Hunter-Reay finished a lap down in 18th.

– Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti both endured car failures to continue what has been unremarkable seasons for them both.

– There was some hope that Power would be able to engage Briscoe after the late re-starts, but Briscoe got away cleanly both times and it seemed that Power might have had issues with his push-to-pass feature on his car. Instead, Power was forced to drive defensively to hold off a charging Franchitti.

– This race ended a string of two straight without cautions.

– While the driver’s championship is yet to be decided, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturer’s title with Briscoe’s win.

– Simon Pagenaud officially clinched the rookie of the year award with his seventh place finish in Sonoma.

– Will Power clinched the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy, the award for the driver who scores the most points on the road course portion of the schedule.

*Notable Driver: Graham Rahal.* The argument could be made that Ryan Briscoe is deserving of this spot, as his year has been largely forgettable and this victory might give team owner Roger Penske reason to think about re-signing him. In addition, Reubens Barrichello’s climb in the race is worthy, but as a fromer F1 driver with loads of experience, at times these results are expected. But Rahal taking 5th was remarkable for a team that is likely to see changes after the season. With solid strategy and a strong late race re-start, Rahal finished with a solid result from a clean race.

*Quotes and Tweets:*

As I once heard a great broadcaster say, if we get “through the field” that means there’s not much else to talk about. #IndyCar- Curt Cavin ((at)CurtCavin)

Unlucky penalty 4 (at)sebsaavedra earlier but apart from that he is makin some seriously good moves out there! Aggressive with maturity #Indycar – Conor Daly ((at)ConorDaly22), GP3 Driver

Congrats to (at)Ryan_Briscoe today! Great driver and even better person! He deserves it.#IndyCar #indycar2012 – Parker Kligerman ((at)pkligerman)

“I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to win again. It has been too long.” _Ryan Briscoe_

“It was a pretty eventful race for the HP team. It seems like I was always behind the car that got spun. We got the Rookie of the Year award, and that’s pretty cool. It was one of our goals for the year, so we can check that box. We are now in fifth in the championship, so we are very proud of those accomplishments.” _Simon Pagenaud_

“I can’t win. If I go long on yellow, I get screwed by a yellow and if you go short, you get screwed by yellow. It’s tough. When you lead so many laps and have the quickest car. The delay on the push-to-pass cost me, too. I couldn’t engage it. It kept undoing every time I got on the power. Still a good day. Just disappointed to lead so many laps and I haven’t won in so long. Excellent for Ryan (Briscoe). His first win, and he’s a bloody good driver. He’s a had a tough time, but he’s definitely one of the fastest drivers in the series.” _Will Power_

“I’ve had wonderful support. The thing that I hear the most is “Welcome to America” and I feel welcome. There’s plenty more from me for sure.” _Rubens Barrichello_

“We got an unlucky break with (Sebastien) Bourdais when he got in trouble in front of us. Unfortunately Bourdais came right across the track and I had nowhere to go. I kept my hands on the wheel because it happened so fast and that’s when my finger got hurt. It’s the hardest hit I’ve ever had.” _Josef Newgarden_

*What’s Next:* The IZOD IndyCar series swings back east to visit the Baltimore city course in the penultimate race of the season. Power should be in a somewhat comfortable position as he dominated the race last year and is sitting atop the points standings, increasing his lead over Hunter-Reay from 6 to 36 points. Castroneves, a strong road course driver is 41 points adrift. The race will be aired at 2:30 EST on the NBC Sports Network and available on Sirirus/XM channel 94.

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