SONOMA, Calif. – What had been a fairly dominant performance by Will Power in the opening half of the Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma has changed just before halfway in the 85-lap race (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
Power spun on Lap 41, just after a restart from the third full course caution of the race. He’d led 33 laps prior to that.
Mike Conway seized the lead with a pass on Tony Kanaan through and exiting Turn 2. At Lap 43, Conway led from Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato, all of whom got into their track position via off sequence strategies.
From the start, the race barely made it to Turn 2 before the first full course caution of the race. Contact between Sebastien Bourdais and Briscoe occurred in that turn, with James Hinchcliffe also getting caught up in the melee. Helio Castroneves needed to pit for a new front wing, and was among five cars who took the opportunity to pit on Lap 2 (Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato the others).
Power led away from fellow front row starter Josef Newgarden after the Lap 4 restart. On Lap 8, Graham Rahal and Castroneves pitted, with the latter’s an unscheduled stop for to change a portion of the right rear tire guard.
A number of drivers went onto off sequence strategies in the first stint while the leaders pulled away and pitted later.
Power boxed on Lap 17 from the lead with Newgarden pitting a lap later, on Lap 18. Carlos Munoz and Montoya also led in the pit cycle before their own stops, and Power resumed the point on Lap 20. Scott Dixon got ahead of Newgarden on the first cycle, once Dixon switched to reds.
On Lap 28, with Power out to a 11.2-second lead over Dixon, Carlos Huertas pulled off course with a mechanical issue at Turn 5 and that caused the second full-course caution of the race.
That brought some of the field into the pits and continued to shift the strategies. On Lap 31, Graham Rahal, who’d made it up to fourth by virtue of a good strategic call early, pitted along with Sato and Kanaan. It dropped the three of them outside the top 15 for the time being.
The restart occurred Lap 36 with Power leading Dixon, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay (who’d made it from 10th to the top five on the first lap) and Marco Andretti. Unfortunately that was only for a brief period before the third full course yellow of the race.
Pit stops jumbled the order once more – Dixon got ahead of Power and Newgarden among the leaders, but they fell outside the top five with the others. Conway and Sato pitted repeatedly during yellows to add more fuel.