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.

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.