Scott Dixon captures Sonoma race win and 2015 IndyCar championship (VIDEO)

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SONOMA, Calif. – IndyCar’s “Ice Man,” Scott Dixon, repeated his 2014 win at Sonoma Raceway, and stealthily stole the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the process.

He did so on a tiebreaker in the most dramatic of fashions, both tied on 556 points with three wins to Montoya’s two. It’s Dixon’s fourth championship (2003, 2008, 2013) and his 38th career win. The win is also Chip Ganassi Racing’s 100th in IndyCar.

Through a mix of strategy and misfortune that struck his title rivals Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power, and with Graham Rahal having an off day, Dixon came from 47 points back in the double points season finale to win the title.

Dixon beat Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, with Briscoe holding off Montoya for fifth and the final position he needed to win the title.

The race was always going to be something of a strategy affair with tire fall off present throughout the race, and a mix of different strategies emerging.

A key moment emerged early when Dixon beat Will Power and Josef Newgarden off a round of pit stops, even though there were 12 cars running off sequence ahead of them who did not pit on Lap 35. Dixon was net leader at that point.

While only one yellow occurred in the first 38 laps, and Sebastian Saavedra emerged as a surprise race leader, the race – and championship – took a dramatic turn just before the halfway point.

Montoya and Power collided in Turn 4 on Lap 39. Montoya clipped Power, left front to right rear, although Power later admitted in a post-race interview he took fault for not realizing Montoya is there.  Either way, it dropped them both outside the top 20 in the race, and put them both on the comeback trail.

Saavedra led past halfway before Tony Kanaan took the lead on Lap 45 at Turn 7.

The race took its ultimate turn once Dixon took the lead on Lap 51 for the first time, leading Josef Newgarden, before the final pit stop sequence occurred close to Lap 60.

Dixon pitted on Lap 62 for what would be the final time. Newgarden, who had been second, fell out of contention courtesy of a pit fire and a long stop.

The race took another turn following a heavy accident by James Jakes on Lap 65 at Turn 9, with Jakes indicating a brake failure occurred on his car.

Another yellow occurred when Jack Hawksworth contacted Carlos Munoz at Turn 7, leaving the Colombian beached.

Another notable championship moment occurred when Sebastien Bourdais crashed into Rahal on Lap 78, going into Turn 7. Bourdais was issued a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

Montoya was then 3.4 seconds behind Briscoe for fifth, needing to pass the former Ganassi and Penske driver to secure the championship. While he clawed the gap to 1.2 seconds, he did not pass him.

Dixon won the title on a tiebreaker, with Montoya now having lost a title on one after winning one over Dixon’s old teammate Dario Franchitti in 1999.

Afterwards, Dixon and team boss Ganassi crowd-surfed.

The reality of what they’ve achieved on-track will take even longer to sink in.

RESULTS

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

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
3. (7) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (17) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 85, Running
6. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (18) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
9. (24) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 85, Running
10. (14) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 85, Running
11. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
12. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 85, Running
13. (10) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (21) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 85, Running
15. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (20) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
19. (25) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 85, Running
20. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 84, Running
22. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 84, Running
23. (23) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 82, Running
24. (13) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 80, Running
25. (22) James Jakes, Honda, 63, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 94.117
Time of Race: 2:09:14.2620
Margin of victory: 6.1115 seconds
Cautions: 14
Lead changes: 10 among 7 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Power 1 – 13
Hunter-Reay 14
Kimball 15
Andretti 16 – 19
Saavedra 20 – 21
Power 22 – 34
Saavedra 35 -44
Kanaan 45 – 50
Dixon 51 – 61
Hunter-Reay 62
Dixon 63 – 85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 556, Montoya 556, Power 493, Rahal 490, Castroneves 453, Hunter-Reay 436, Newgarden 431, Kanaan 431, Andretti 429 and Bourdais 406.

Risi Competizione confirms multiple race absence from IMSA

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The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE will miss several upcoming IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, starting at Watkins Glen International next weekend.

The team has plans to return to the GT Le Mans class later this year, but hasn’t said when.

Risi’s absence was first indicated when IMSA released the Watkins Glen entry list earlier this week. It takes the sole Ferrari in class out of it for a handful of races; the pair of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella had a best finish of third so far this season.

“Following an extremely challenging first half of 2017, most recently at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I have decided to withdraw the Risi Competizione race team from part of the 2017 IMSA season in order to consolidate resources and to reflect on future racing programs,” Team Principal Giuseppe Risi said in a release.

Risi’s crash at Le Mans was with a separate 488 GTE chassis, not its full-season one.

But the IMSA full-season one sustained back-to-back hits at Long Beach and Circuit of The Americas. Then, the brand new car took a beating after Matthieu Vaxiviere came over on top of Pierre Kaffer’s No. 82 car going into a chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

Kaffer was sore but OK and is in Road America this weekend for Pirelli World Challenge GT action, where he competes in the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS.

Rossi tops opening practice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alexander Rossi led the opening 45-minute practice session for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport.

The young American has always liked this track, as this was one of the tracks he had past experience on prior to his debut season in IndyCar.

At the 4.014-mile circuit, Rossi posted a best time of 1:43.3285, clear of three Team Penske Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon completed the top five.

“It’s early; it’s a good way to start,” Rossi told IndyCar Radio after the session. “We’ve known we had a fast car. We just haven’t executed. We want our first win under our belt.”

Only the top 10 drivers down to Helio Castroneves in 10th were within one second, at 0.9964 of a second.

Eighth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay brought out an early end to the session with an off-course excursion, beached at Turn 14. He was OK but the session ended a minute or two early.

Robert Wickens, in his first official Verizon IndyCar Series session filling in for Mikhail Aleshin at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, was 20th at 1:45.6823. That was within a tenth of the returning Esteban Gutierrez at 1:45.6257, for Dale Coyne Racing.

Wickens’ teammate James Hinchcliffe was sixth in this session. Meanwhile Gutierrez’s teammate Ed Jones debuted a new Walter Payton tribute helmet; Payton was Dale Coyne’s former business partner and had his first IndyCar race as co-owner here. The late Chicago Bears running back was, of course, one of the best running backs in NFL history. Jones’ decision to wear a Bears helmet in Elkhart Lake, not far from Green Bay, is a brave one!

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt updated Aleshin’s status when speaking to IndyCar Radio during the session.

“Supposedly, he’s on a flight. He got his visa from Paris. He’s supposed to land in Chicago tonight. We’ll see,” he said.

“Yeah up until yesterday morning we thought Mikhail would come in yesterday, and cruise normal fashion. Then his passport didn’t show up. We didn’t know if a day, two or three days. Called half a dozen guys. It was a bit of a scramble. We already had Robert’s seat, so that was convenient. Who could get here the quickest and get in the car. He hasn’t driven here in 10 years. But he’s getting up to speed quickly.”

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Liberty planning evolution, not revolution, with future F1 calendars

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GENEVA, Switzerland – Formula 1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey says that the sport’s owner, Liberty Media, is focusing on evolution instead of revolution when it comes to forming race schedules in the coming years.

Liberty completed its takeover of F1 back in January, with Carey replacing Bernie Ecclestone at the helm of the sport.

Widespread changes have been expected as Liberty looks to increase F1’s footprint and reach in key markets such as the United States, with a number of new races expected as a result.

A first provisional calendar for the 2018 season was published on Monday, featuring the 21 races expected, up one from 2017 after the addition of France and Germany, and the loss of Malaysia.

When asked by NBC Sports if 2019 would be the first F1 calendar that Liberty could put its stamp on, Carey responded by saying he believed it was already clear on the 2018 schedule.

“I think that stamp exists today. I think we’re very proud of the calendar,” Carey said.

“We view this as our calendar. I might expect over time the calendar will evolve a little bit, but most of the races we have are multi-year.

“You’re not going have in any one year, you’re not going to have a dramatic change because most of the agreements are multi-year agreements.

“I think very much this is a calendar we feel good about, and I would say it’s our calendar. It’s not anybody else’s.”

Carey said that a total revamp of the calendar was not realistic given the contracts for races that are already in place, a well as important factors such as the August summer break that gives teams a chance to shut down for a couple of weeks during a busy season.

“There are realities to deals we have in place. Some races are in historical places that are important, and there’s a reason they’re historically there,” Carey said.

“They’re places and races we’re very proud of that want to be in a particular time of the year, and obviously that’s important for us if they’re there. So I think in saying we’re burdened with some construct we inherited, I don’t look at it that way.

“There’s a logic to this calendar. European races are largely clustered in this period from mid May to early September. You’ve got your traditional August break. I think for us, our focus, I said in Montreal, we feeling good about the calendar.

“I think we believe we can continue to improve it, but I think there will be an evolution, not a re-doing. I think our focus is really making the races everything they can be.

“I think this calendar issue probably gets more weight and focus and people try to make more out of it than it is. I think our biggest priority is making these events, we have 21 events we have this year, everything they can and should and we hope they be.”

Alonso, Vandoorne get grid drops in Baku after power unit changes

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McLaren Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne are set to start this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the last row of the grid after the FIA confirmed that both will receive a 15-place drop from their qualifying position.

Alonso and Vandoorne are yet to score a single point through the opening seven races of the season amid ongoing difficulties for engine partner Honda, whose power unit has lacked both performance and reliability so far this season.

Alonso’s struggles continued in practice in Baku on Friday as he was forced to park up at the side of the track during FP2 with an apparent engine issue, adding to McLaren’s ongoing plight.

The Spaniard said in McLaren’s race preview that he expected to take a grid penalty for changing a number of parts on his power unit, with the drop being officially confirmed by the FIA on Friday.

Both Alonso and Vandoorne will take a 15-place grid drop from their final qualifying position on Friday, meaning they are likely to start from the final row of the grid.

The only other driver with a grid penalty in Baku is Carlos Sainz Jr., who will drop three places as punishment for causing a collision at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.