Power wins, Dixon penalized at GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

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Will Power broke his winless drought dating to Brazil in May of 2012 with his first win of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season in Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

However, the win was overshadowed in controversy after the last round of pit stops. Scott Dixon, who was pitted behind Power in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing No. 9 stall, hit a tire that was being carried by one of Power’s crewmembers, and went into a second crewmember, on exit.

Dixon alleged that Power’s crew had moved into Dixon’s pit space and in fact jumped in front of the New Zealander on exit. Following a restart, Dixon was assessed a drive-through penalty for what was deemed a pit lane violation and fell to the back of the field. He ultimately finished 15th.

Dixon, Power and IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield all spoke to NBCSN in the immediate aftermath to express their side of the story.

From Dixon to NBCSN’s Kevin Lee: “He’s walked towards us on purpose, and that’s probably the most blatant thing I’ve seen in a long time. That was a bit of a (expletive) move to be honest. I’m pretty annoyed with that. I look forward to seeing what race control’s decision is all about. Race control’s consistency is horrible.”

Dixon and Barfield have hardly been friends in Barfield’s tenure that began ahead of 2012. Barfield admitted a blown call at the Milwaukee Mile race in 2012 regarding one of Dixon’s restarts.

Race winner Power to NBCSN’s Marty Snider in victory lane: “It’s hard to say but Dixon took a big hit there. I feel bad for him. But things like that have happened to us a lot the last two years.” Asked whether he felt it was intentional, in response to Dixon’s accusation, Power said, “I mean I’d be very surprised. I haven’t seen it yet, so it isn’t worth commenting on.”

Lastly, Barfield to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis: “Ultimately we have a duty to protect everyone in the pit lane. If someone uses less judgment when they leave the pit box, we have to make a statement by penalizing. There’s a couple of different angles, and the lines are a bit confusing.  The 9 car crossed right into the 12 car’s space, and that’s where the violation occurred. I feel good with the statement we made; we want to keep this pit lane as safe as we can.”

Beyond the contretemps, the rest of the top five was Justin Wilson in second, Dario Franchitti third, Marco Andretti fourth and Simon Pagenaud fifth. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished sixth ahead of points leader Helio Castroneves, with James Hinchcliffe, Simona de Silvestro and Sebastien Bourdais in the top 10.

It was a caution-filled race with a record seven interrupting the 85-lap race. Unofficially, Castroneves leads Dixon by 39 points with four races remaining.

IZOD IndyCar Series
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. – Results Sunday of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.385 mile Sonoma Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (3) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
2. (7) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
3. (1) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
4. (11) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
5. (10) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
6. (4) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
7. (5) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
8. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
9. (22) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
10. (12) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
11. (8) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
12. (14) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
13. (16) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
14. (15) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
15. (2) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
16. (18) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
17. (21) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 85, Running
18. (25) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
19. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 84, Running
20. (6) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 83, Runnin
21. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 81, Contact
22. (24) Lucas Luhr, Dallara-Honda, 81, Mechanical
23. (13) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 67, Mechanical
24. (17) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 56, Mechanical
25. (19) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 28, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 86.401
Time of Race: 02:20:46.8226
Margin of victory: 1.1930
Cautions: 7/21 laps
Lead changes: 7

Lap Leaders:
Franchitti 1 – 17
Hunter-Reay 18 – 23
Wilson 24 – 33
Dixon 34 – 45
Kanaan 46 – 50
Hinchcliffe 51 – 54
Dixon 55 – 69
Power 70 – 85

Point Standings: Castroneves 479, Dixon 440, Hunter-Reay 417, Andretti 409, Pagenaud 380, Franchitti 379, Wilson 361, Power 356, Hinchcliffe 350, Kimball 335

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Tony Stewart to race in Rico Abreu fundraiser at Calistoga

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) NASCAR is back at Sonoma Raceway and the defending race winner won’t be part of the field on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who scored the last of his 49 career victories here, is retired now and watches the Cup races as a team owner. He still plans to race this weekend.

Stewart will run at Calistoga Speedway in an event that is being largely promoted by Rico Abreu and his father, local businessman David Abreu.

The race used to be called the Wine Country Classic, but has been renamed the Boys and Girls Club Dirt Track Classic. David Abreu designed the event as a fundraiser for a facility to house after-school programs for local children in Calistoga.

“My dad and I have always wanted to promote a race to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club,” Rico Abreu said. “There is a need for it with our demographics and it accommodates hundreds of kids in our valley. It provides them a safe place to learn and grow.”

Rico Abreu, one of the nation’s top dirt track drivers, benefited from the program along with his two siblings in St. Helena.

Stewart, Abreu and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are among those entered in the Saturday night dirt track event to help draw attendance.

David Abreu, founder of St. Helena’s Abreu Vineyards, is hoping to raise $250,000 for an equipped clubhouse at the Calistoga Boys and Club location. He will give a famous “Macho Magnums” – 40 magnums from his Napa Valley 2010 collection – to the first $100,000 donor.

It will be Stewart’s first Winged Sprint Car start at the Calistoga half-mile. He did win a USAC Western Midget Series race in 1994. He also set the midget track record that same weekend and held it until USAC made its return to the venue in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to running the Calistoga Speedway since I haven’t raced there since 1994,” Stewart said. “I’m also excited to see all the improvements that have taken place at the track since the last time I’ve been there.”

Abreu is driving as well as promoting and fundraising. He’s competing Saturday night in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s and the King of the West-NARC 410’s.

“Having Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in competition will certainly be an exciting thing for all the fans in Nor-Cal,” said Rico Abreu.

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org/

Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Sauber says it’s ‘soon’ to naming Kaltenborn’s successor

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Sauber F1 Team enters this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix without a team principal and trying to work ahead on its 2018 preparations, making it a tough weekend for one of Formula 1’s smallest teams.

Sauber team manager Beat Zahnder attempted to explain the team’s managerial structure this weekend in Kaltenborn’s absence and teased when he hoped a decision would be made regarding Kaltenborn’s successor.

“Jorg Zander, the technical director and myself, we’ve been entrusted to run the operation of the team this weekend but this is only temporary,” Zahnder explained during the FIA team principal press conference on Friday.

“It doesn’t change a lot for us because our job is to have two cars running as quickly as possible around the circuit and for me it’s a little bit more media work.”

Asked when he hoped to have a successor named, Zahnder replied, “I hope soon. We were talking to some candidates and I hope we can announce it sooner rather than later.”

Former Renault F1 chief Frederic Vasseur’s name has been floated this week, as have other former F1 team chiefs Dave Ryan and Jost Capito, after Colin Kolles’ name was floated earlier in the week.

Zahnder said he could not explain the insider workings of the team.

“I cannot, no. You’ve seen the official press statement from Mr Picci and it seems that Mr Picci and Mrs Kaltenborn had different views how to operate the company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only a race team, it’s a home team as well with 350 people or so, but I cannot give you more information because I’m not actively involved in that decision,” he said.

Sauber is still in the process of not only finishing this year but also preparing for its 2018 switch to Honda power. This is an important change and one that comes amidst the turmoil currently encapsulating McLaren and Honda’s turbulent relationship.

“We have started with the project and there is an exchange of information on the logistical side, on the set-up side and the garages,” Zahnder explained. “We have to organize computers and IT stuff and things like this so the work has started, yes.”

With the two McLaren Hondas set to start from the rear of the grid this weekend, Sauber can at least work to get into Q2 and get further up the order with its pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Gutierrez set to ‘explore the feeling of enjoyment in IndyCar’

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Esteban Gutierrez has a better peace of mind for his second Verizon IndyCar Series weekend this year, this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), than his first at Detroit earlier this month.

That’s because he’s now been confirmed for the remainder of the races that Sebastien Bourdais won’t drive, until Bourdais’ return to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and he has track experience at Road America from both Formula BMW races a decade ago.

“It’s a track that I enjoy a lot. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I have great memories from 2007 when I was racing Formula BMW USA,” Gutierrez reflected. “I was actually fighting my way from the back of the field in one of the races. I got up to second. We finished with a very small margin at the start/finish line. It was a very enjoyable moment, a great race that I have very close in my memory.

“Coming back quite many years after, 10 years after, I’m very, you know, excited to get into an IndyCar. Very powerful, very grippy, really nice racing car. You know, it’s really a nice experience to do every lap in this track.”

Gutierrez had a test day on June 14, which he wasn’t publicly identified for at the test but was always planned following his debut at Detroit.

“Obviously to throw myself into Detroit was quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar, with no testing, straight in the weekend. I think it was a very interesting experience,” he explained.

“Now that I come to Elkhart Lake with a test behind my belt before the weekend, it’s great. I’m really enjoying a lot. I’m very happy of where I am today, with the challenge I have ahead, with the future ahead.

“I would like to explore more that feeling of enjoyment here in IndyCar. I’m just going to go through it. I’m going to live every moment. I’m going to focus on the present and see what we can do in the future.”

And although his rookie teammate Ed Jones is only nine races into his own IndyCar career, Gutierrez says he’s already been able to learn a lot from him and from Bourdais.

“(There’s) quite a lot,” Gutierrez said he’s learned from Jones already. “And also from Sebastien. I’ve been in contact with him. Been in contact with few drivers to try to get some tips, to get a feeling of what are their thoughts, their experiences, to help me, you know, get quicker into the knowledge of the car, in general, and the series, and the competition here.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with him were related to the technical side of the car, in order for me to understand how the car is working, how the car is evolving through a weekend. It helped me a lot in Detroit. It’s helping me a lot here. Obviously we had the test which allowed us as a team to prepare better.

“Yeah, race by race, it will be clearer and clearer. But Sebastien is always there involved kind of following all the meetings, following the practice sessions, the qualifyings. Yeah, is great to be in touch. Sebastien is a great driver. I really been following him from the past. So, yeah, we’re here and trying to do my best to adapt quickly to the racing here.”

Both Gutierrez and Jones are IndyCar rookies and as such are feeding off each other to learn.

“It’s all about sharing information after each session. It’s about contributing,” he said. “Obviously he has more experience than me in IndyCar, and he has proven to be quite good here. So Ed, you know, we’ve been always together in the meetings. Obviously me trying to understand what is his way of working through the weekend with the setup of the car.

“In my case, I’m very open, because obviously I have no experience in IndyCar. So been always with a very open approach, trying to get as much information as I can, absorb everything, and learn as much as possible.”

Gutierrez briefly dovetailed into the Formula E contractual situation where he had driven with the Techeetah team. He said there was “really nothing to talk about” and that he enjoyed the experience, but said this was an opportunity he wanted to explore.

What he will be exploring for the first time next week is his first oval test at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday, and he’s excited about that.

“I’m aware that it’s completely different. Fortunately I will have a test on Tuesday to prepare, to get to know the reality of an oval, because you can review a lot of data, you can prepare on the theory, but always, you know, when you get to the reality of driving, it’s a complete different story.

“I’m really looking forward to Tuesday. I’m very sure that I will enjoy it, that I will enjoy that kind of racing. So, yeah, I’m excited to get to know — to expand my racing knowledge and to know how to race in ovals.”

For now he’ll get through this weekend and look to build continuity with the Coyne team and Jones as his teammate.