Photo: Chris Jones/www.IndyCar.com
Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) came into Sonoma as the season points leader, with Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) second. Dixon began the race on the front row, but behind teammate Dario Franchitti, who took the pole. Castroneves’ Penske teammate Will Power was third on the starting grid, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) right next door in P4. Castroneves started fifth.
Cross-pollination between IndyCar and sports cars continued (see Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports): it was Ryan Briscoe’s last start of the year for Panther Racing, as he’ll finish out the year in sports cars, but was also American Le Mans Series LMP1 points leader Lucas Luhr’s IndyCar debut (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing). Talk also continued regarding integrating an Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course event into the 2014 season.
The Top 5 all held their positions at the start, with a full-course caution emerging during Lap 1 as Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing) stopped just off track following a computer failure during a collision with Castroneves and lost a lap. Hunter-Reay took third from Power on the restart, with Castroneves also getting by and pushing Power down to P5.
A second full-course caution came out during Lap 7 (of 85) as Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing) got turned by E.J. Viso (Andretti Autosport) in the Turn 7 hairpin and stalled. He restarted in time to not lose a lap. Power retook P4 on the restart, with Viso given a drive-through penalty for his contact with Wilson. Franschitti had built his lead to 1.4 sec by Lap 15.
Yellow flag number three came out due to an incident on the same part of the track, with Sebastien Bourdais (Dragon Racing) tagging Simona di Silvestro (KV Racing Technology) on turn entry. Both Ganassi and both Penske cars pitted under caution, with Hunter-Reay staying out. Kimball passed Hunter-Reay on the Lap 19 restart to get back on the lead lap.
J.R. Hildebrand (Barracuda Racing) got tapped by Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology) going through 7 on Lap 22 and brought out caution Number 4. Hunter-Reay pitted, turning the lead over to Wilson with James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport) second. Hinch left the course shortly after the restart, returning Dixon, Power, and Franchitti to P2-P4.
Debris on the track forced a Sonoma-record fifth full-course caution during Lap 30. Dixon took the lead on the restart, with Power passing Wilson one lap later and standing 1.7 sec behind Dixon during Lap 37. Wilson pitted from third the following lap, leaving the Lap 39 Top 5 as Dixon, Power, Franchitti, Castroneves, and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport).
Dixon and Power were running 1-2 when they made their final pit stops under the race’s seventh caution on Lap 64. Dixon, whose pit stall was right behind Power’s, was giving a drive-through penalty for contact with one of Power’s pit crew on exit. Power led the rest of the way to secure the win, his first of the season.
Wilson finished a season-high second, with Franchitti coming in third, Andretti fourth, and Pagenaud fifth.