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.

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.