Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud were able to make late moves to finish second and third respectively in today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
But only Pagenaud will be able to go to next weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway with a chance at the 2014 series championship.
Pagenaud is down 81 points to Will Power ahead of Saturday night’s MAV TV 500, which will have double points on offer. As for Hunter-Reay, he was eliminated from title contention despite finishing runner-up to winner Scott Dixon.
“Second…is not what we needed but, you know, it’s a pretty good day,” said Hunter-Reay, who is 92 points behind Power and needed to be within 88 after this next-to-last race of the year.
“It’s nice for sure. When you have the championship on the line, though, we needed Will to have two really bad weekends. Well, he had one and we needed to win today.”
Following his third-place effort, Pagenaud said that he didn’t see such a result coming after qualifying 15th yesterday.
“Sonoma is such a hard track to pass on, so we made the race in the pits really,” he said. “The pit stops were awesome and that’s what made us jump so many positions. Strategy was very frustrating, very tough for me because I had to save so much fuel.
“But we made it past [Mike] Conway in the last corner and [to finish] third, it’s fantastic. This morning, I never thought we would be third. I’m delighted and we’re going into Fontana with a chance to the title so, as you know, that was something that was very important to me.”
Following their podium celebration, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Dixon still had one bit of business to conduct.
Earlier in the week, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles announced on the series’ Facebook page that he’d take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Sonoma’s Victory Lane after being nominated by KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser.
The Sonoma podium finishers did the honors of drenching Miles, who sported a T-shirt promoting the series’ #IndyRivals campaign.