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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Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski