Scott Dixon would make the pass on Mike Conway with three laps to go to take the lead and never looked back en route to scoring the victory in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. It marks the second victory of the season for the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion and the 35th victory of his career.
“It was tough,” Dixon commented. “There were so many strategies going on and then they were close. So excited. This is big for our team. We’ve had a pretty rough year so far, so happy to get the win.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay would get by Conway the next lap to move into second, bouncing back after failing to finish the race at the Milwaukee Mile.
“It was going our way for a little bit there, picked our way through there on the start,” Hunter-Reay said. “We had a good car in moving away thru traffic. That last set of tires, seemed to be miss the pressures there and had an imbalance there with the tires and had nothing for Scott there at the end.”
Simon Pagenaud would round out the podium after passing Conway through the final corners to remain third in points, now 81 points behind Will Power.
“I didn’t feel that we could be that good, but it turned out to be a good day,” Pagenaud said. “Strategy was very frustrating – very tough for me but we made it, passed Conway on the final corner. I’m delighted and now go into Fontana with a chance at the title, which is important to me.”
Takuma Sato and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five, followed by Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Marco Andretti, Justin Wilson, Will Power and Sebastian Bourdais. Power looked to have the strongest car in the field, leading early, however got back mid-field in the process of strategy. Trying to make his way back up through the field, Power would lock up the tires trying to stay tucked to the inside of Newgarden off the hairpin, resulting in a spin.
“It took me by surprise,” he commented. “I was just really tight with a car on the outside of me and didn’t want to get up there. Thought I’d do a few celebratory donuts to show for the youngsters. That’s racing – was able to make a good there.”
He would then go for a second off-track excursion on lap 54 in turn nine. He would hit pit road about six laps later, and from then on, worked at gaining spots throughout the field to conserve as many points as he could, including a three-wide move on the last lap through the final tight corner with Wilson and Sebastian Bourdais.
“It looked like an easy target with Justin struggling – I saw the opportunity and went for it,” he said. “It got a little hairy there with the wheel being ripped out of my wheels but was able to hold on. I couldn’t believe it. That was a hairy last corner.”
Power will now head into the final event of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season next Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway with a 51 point advantage over Helio Castroneves. Castroneves had a rough day, finishing 18th after getting involved in an incident on the opening lap of the race in turn two. There’d be contact between Ryan Briscoe and Bourdais, causing Briscoe to get sideways, leaving Castroneves nowhere to go. Castroneves’ team would change front wing, as well as fix sidepod damage, and tried to get off strategy during the race to make up ground.
“It’s a pretty disappointing finish, to be honest,” Castroneves said. “The Hitachi Chevy was really fast all weekend and to get hit so early on in the race was really tough. That certainly put us behind, fixing the damage in the front and back of the car and it was tough to recover. So now, we are 51 points behind in the championship heading to the finale at Auto Club Speedway, and with the double points there anything can happen.
“We are not giving up. We will keep on it and give everything we have next weekend to try and reach our goal. We are still in it and we know what we need to do now over the 500 miles.”
After leading late in the race, Conway would end up 14th as he ran out of fuel, just a few feet before the line, on the last lap.
“I thought we’d be able to make it – I was hitting the numbers, a little faster some laps, slower others,” he said. “I used an overtake to try and hold off Dixon there and still thought that we’d be okay for a podium. It then died going into 10, picked up a little there and then died again. Just disappointing, but still a good strategy to try and win by the team. Thanks to Ed Carpenter Racing for the opportunity and hard work this year.”
Graham Rahal also tried the same strategy as Conway, also coming up short after leading late in the race and having to pit with four laps to go. He would then suffer a speeding penalty, resulting in a 20th place finish.
“I thought it finally was going to happen. When we had to pass people, we could go by them,” Rahal said. “They told me the fuel number – the yellow map – which was way down in power, way down in boost – and were still able to still pass people. Then dad started counting down laps and I thought ‘okay, we may do this’ and then it ran out there. It may not seem like we’re going to win one, but we’re going to win one.”