IndyCar: Strategies jumble order after Power’s dominant Sonoma first half

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SONOMA, Calif. – What had been a fairly dominant performance by Will Power in the opening half of the Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma has changed just before halfway in the 85-lap race (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Power spun on Lap 41, just after a restart from the third full course caution of the race. He’d led 33 laps prior to that.

Mike Conway seized the lead with a pass on Tony Kanaan through and exiting Turn 2. At Lap 43, Conway led from Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato, all of whom got into their track position via off sequence strategies.

From the start, the race barely made it to Turn 2 before the first full course caution of the race. Contact between Sebastien Bourdais and Briscoe occurred in that turn, with James Hinchcliffe also getting caught up in the melee. Helio Castroneves needed to pit for a new front wing, and was among five cars who took the opportunity to pit on Lap 2 (Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato the others).

Power led away from fellow front row starter Josef Newgarden after the Lap 4 restart. On Lap 8, Graham Rahal and Castroneves pitted, with the latter’s an unscheduled stop for to change a portion of the right rear tire guard.

A number of drivers went onto off sequence strategies in the first stint while the leaders pulled away and pitted later.

Power boxed on Lap 17 from the lead with Newgarden pitting a lap later, on Lap 18. Carlos Munoz and Montoya also led in the pit cycle before their own stops, and Power resumed the point on Lap 20. Scott Dixon got ahead of Newgarden on the first cycle, once Dixon switched to reds.

On Lap 28, with Power out to a 11.2-second lead over Dixon, Carlos Huertas pulled off course with a mechanical issue at Turn 5 and that caused the second full-course caution of the race.

That brought some of the field into the pits and continued to shift the strategies. On Lap 31, Graham Rahal, who’d made it up to fourth by virtue of a good strategic call early, pitted along with Sato and Kanaan. It dropped the three of them outside the top 15 for the time being.

The restart occurred Lap 36 with Power leading Dixon, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay (who’d made it from 10th to the top five on the first lap) and Marco Andretti. Unfortunately that was only for a brief period before the third full course yellow of the race.

Pit stops jumbled the order once more – Dixon got ahead of Power and Newgarden among the leaders, but they fell outside the top five with the others. Conway and Sato pitted repeatedly during yellows to add more fuel.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.