SONOMA — Nothing like a little controversy.
Will Power picked up the victory in the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, but not before a late incident in the pits.
Scott Dixon led the race heading into what was to be the last pit stop. Dixon, pitting directly behind Power’s car, left his pit stall and clipped a tire being carried by one of Power’s crew members, sending him flying into the air.
The hose the crew member was carrying flew into another crew member, sending both men crashing to the ground.
After IndyCar Race Control reviewed the incident, it penalized Dixon with a drive-through penalty, ending his chance at a win and of seriously cutting into series points leader’s Helio Castroneves’ advantage.
Race Control’s Beaux Barfield explained the series’ decision to penalize Dixon.
“If we have somebody that uses less than great judgement when they leave their pit box and we have an incident, then we have to make a statement by penalizing and we’re going to make that call,” Barfield said. “The (pit box) lines that we are using . . . you can see the difference between the Target and the Verizon signs on the wall.
“If you look at that when (Dixon) is leaving, he clearly crosses into the pit box of the No. 12 car’s space and that’s where the violation occurred. . . . That made it easy for us to make the call. There are a couple of different (video) angles, and clearly (Dixon) crosses right into (Power’s) space and that’s where the violation occurred. He was in (Power’s) box for a good half-car length.”
Dixon’s opinion of the incident was a little different.
“It looks like he walked straight into our car,” said Dixon, who wound up finishing 15th. “You could see where the other car in front of us was pitted and he walked into us on purpose. That’s probably the most blatant thing I’ve seen in a long time. If you watch most pit guys, they try and get out of the way of other people.
“It’s pretty annoying because we had a pretty good Target car all day long and if they want to try and win like that, then that’s pretty bad. I had a straight line heading out of the pits and he just walked right into us. You also look at the calls people make and what they did in Race Control, so I look forward to hearing what that was all about. The consistency . . . is horrible.”
Controversy aside, Power picked up his first win of the season and third overall in the Wine Country after winning back-to-back races in 2010-11.
“I’m actually very happy for my guys,” Power said. “I think we all expected to be a little bit more competitive. Not that we haven’t been, we’ve just had some bad things happen to us. I’m very happy. I’ve learned a lot this year.
“I’ve been in the back of the pack. I’ve learned a lot about restarts. When you have a tough year, you really start searching, looking. You pick up things. Really feels like next year I’ll come back more a complete driver.”
Justin Wilson ended up finishing second, with Dario Franchitti (third), Marco Andretti (fourth) and Simon Pagenaud (fifth) rounding out the top five.
“I’m really pleased with how the team executed,” Wilson said. “At one stage I was scratching my head saying ‘If this doesn’t turn out well. . . . When you pit three laps after a caution, it usually doesn’t work.’ But it did. The team did a great job.
Franchitti, who started from the pole and led the first 17 laps, was pleased finishing third, though his day didn’t quite go as planned.
“The first little bit was okay, we were leading,” Franchitti said laughing. “The Target car was very strong up front. The strategies went off a bit, we got shuffled back. It was getting pretty interesting on some of those restarts.
“Third place, I’ve got to be happy with that. But I’m still a bit grumpy for not only our missed opportunity today, but also for Scott. ”
Notes: Including Dixon’s there were seven penalties enforced, all leading to drive-throughs. . . . There were a total seven different race leaders, with Dixon being the only driver to lead the race twice. . . . Seven caution flags for 21 of the 85 laps led to the race’s average speed being lowered to 86.401. . . . Defending champion Ryan Briscoe wound up finishing 17th. . . . Power became the 10th different IndyCar winner this season in 15 races, with four to go. . . . Castroneves’ points lead is now 479-440 over Dixon, who, had he won, would have cut it down to less than 10.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.