Ryan Briscoe got his first win of the season today thanks to a pit stop under caution. It was his first win since the 2010 race at Texas. The Championship battle took center stage though, as each driver had his share of setbacks.
Power dominated most of the event, but failed to win the race after a problem during his final pit stop. He did earn two bonus points for leading the most laps, and another point for capturing the pole on Saturday. He was unable to get by his Penske teammate on the final two restarts.
Power and Franchitti completed the Sonoma podium, as Barrichello and Rahal rounded out the top five spots in what was an eventful finish to a thrilling event.
While Power had a good day, the other three Championship contenders didn’t fare so well. Castroneves got into the back of Dixon on just the second lap of the race. Dixon spun, but was able to keep it running. He lost about 12 positions, and Helio was given a drive through penalty for making avoidable contact. On top of that, Dixon also broke a front wing later in the race, and received a drive through penalty himself for running over his own air hose on his final pit stop.
Hunter-Reay had been running in the top five all day, when he was spun by Tagliani with just 11 laps remaining. Tagliani and Franchitti were battling for fourth going into the hair pin, when Alex locked up his brakes and slid into the rear of Ryan. As a result, he slipped from third to 20th.
Castroneves did rally for sixth, while Dixon came home in 13th and Hunter-Reay finished 18th. Despite finishing second, Power added 31 points to his Championship lead.
The biggest caution flag came when Bourdais and Newgarden got together going through the “S” turns. It was a huge crash that destroyed both cars. Bourdais had been running in third place all day, but simply made a mistake and got slightly off course. When he came back onto the track, he collected Newgarden and they both went flying into the outside tire barrier. Luckily, both drivers were able to climb out of their destroyed race cars.
Heading into next weekend’s race at Baltimore, Power holds a 36 point lead over Hunter-Reay, and a 41 point advantage over third-place Castroneves. Dixon sits in a distant fourth. Last year in Baltimore, Power won from the pole, leading 70 of the 75 laps. He has clearly established himself as the Championship favorite heading into the final two races.
Sunday’s race was all about drivers making mistakes. Castroneves, Bourdais, Dixon, Tagliani, and Power all made some major ones. Ryan Briscoe didn’t make any, and that is why he and Roger Penske were sipping wine after the race in victory lane.
Power clinched the Road and Street Course Championship, while Pagenaud clinched the Rookie of the Year Award after finishing seventh. Chevrolet also clinched the manufacturer’s Championship.
It will be a quick turnaround for the IndyCar Series, as they head to Baltimore next week. The Grand Prix of Baltimore is September 2, and will be aired live at 2pm ET on NBC Sports Network.