POWER WINS INDY GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA, TIGHTENS POINT RACE
SONOMA, Calif. (Sunday, August 28, 2011) - Will Power trailed IZOD IndyCar Series championship front-runner Dario Franchitti by 47 points entering the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. He moves on to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 4 considerably closer.
Power pulled away early, didn't have any issues on pit lane, withstood the lone restart challenge and went on to become the first two-time winner in seven years of the event on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway road course.
With the bonus points for the pole start and leading the most laps (71 of 75), Power pulled to 26 points of Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who finished fourth.
"It was just a perfect race," said Power, who earned his series-leading fifth victory of the season. "This one is pretty important. I have been unbelievably motivated after a few bad races this season. I knew that Verizon Team Penske was better than this as a team and we came here with a good set-up, finished strong and we are on the right track now."
Power paced a Team Penske 1-2-3 finish as Helio Castroneves was second (the same order as at Edmonton in July) and Ryan Briscoe also tied his season high in third place. The last Penske Racing sweep was in 1994 at Nazareth (Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi). The last team to finish 1-2-3 was then-Andretti Green Racing in 2005 at St. Petersburg.
"The Team Penske sweep shows how strong our team is," Castroneves said. "I certainly wanted to win, but Will was in a class of his own. When you look at his lap times in practice and qualifying, you knew he would be strong."
Scott Dixon, who's third in the standings, finished fifth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
DAY 3 NOTEBOOK:
Two IZOD IndyCar Series competitors are racing with heavy hearts today after British karting guru Martin Hines died on Sunday morning at age 64. Hines, who helped launch the racing careers of Mike Conway and Martin Plowman, had been suffering with cancer.
"I'm devastated at the news that Martin Hines passed away last night. He gave me and so many British drivers like Lewis Hamilton their big break," Plowman said via Twitter. "He certainly lived life to the full! Still in shock, he was one of those guys u thought would never die..."
Added Conway: "So sorry to hear of Martin Hines passing away, helped me out in my early karting days. All my love to Luke, Tina and Tuesday."
Hines also played a role in developing many of England's top racing drivers, including David Coulthard, Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Davidson, Gary Paffett and Jason Plato.
INDY GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Will Power's fifth win of the season and the 14th of his Indy car career. He has wins in 2011 at Barber, Sao Paulo, Texas-2 and Edmonton.
Power won at Infineon Raceway for the second year in a row. He is the first Indy car driver to win for a second time at Infineon Raceway.
Helio Castroneves finished second, matching his season-best finish. He also finished second at Edmonton.
Ryan Briscoe finished third, his fourth podium finish in 2011.
This is the first 1-2-3 finish by a team in IZOD IndyCar Series competition since Andretti Autosport swept the first four positions at St. Petersburg in 2005.
The last time Team Penske swept the top three positions was in 1994 at Nazareth Speedway with Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr., and Emerson Fittipaldi.
INDY GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA POST-RACE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, winner Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma): "It was just an unbelievable team performance. It was the best weekend you could ever have. If it stays green, you're almost guaranteed to have a 1-2-3 finish, and that's what happened. I kept thinking that if it stayed green we would be in really good shape because we had the quickest cars out there. The entire Team Penske was very strong and did a fantastic job with the cars. I was happy for that last restart because I had a lot of traffic in front of me that I was lapping and I knew that would make it tough. I have been unbelievably motivated after a few bad races this season. I knew that Verizon Team Penske was better than this as a team and we came here with a good set up today, finished strong and we are on the right track now.
DARIO FRANCHITTI I (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "We finished the race. Congratulations to the Penske guys. They were brilliant in qualifying yesterday - in a different league - and they did the same in the race today. They've done a better job than we have and they deserve it. I spent all day staring at Ryan's back wing and I couldn't make anything happen even when he was getting held up in traffic. You're going to have days like this. We didn't make any mistakes though and we got a fourth place so we're going to improve things for Baltimore. We'll be working hard on that this week.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "It was frustrating. It was a tough day. Physically it was tough. It was tough to keep the car on the track. We didn't have the best balance with everything going on and we tried to get rid of the bump and steer through the middle…… Yeah, it was not the most exciting race, I think the restart and the start itself were about the only fun stuff for me that was going on. That's definitely how it works."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "During the beginning of the race, the car was incredibly loose which made it very uncomfortable. We came in for our second pit stop, changed the tires and took some front wing out, which really helped the car. It's not the result that we wanted for the GoDaddy.com car, but hopefully we'll come back and make up for it at Baltimore."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske, finished second): The Team Penske car was great all weekend. Immediately out of the transporter when we started practice, all three Team Penske cars were fantastic. I have to give credit to Will (Power) and the engineers for bringing us information from the test here last week. The last few races I have really struggled and my engineers were able to put their heads together and connect the missing pieces and we had a great result today. The Team Penske sweep shows how strong our team is and I am really happy for us. I certainly wanted to win, but Will was in a class of his own today and when you look at his lap times in practice and qualifying you knew he would be strong. I was really pushing it during the race and I thought with the help of traffic I may be able to gain on him. He saved enough push to passes for the end of the race to take advantage of it and he was the winner. We were both trying to save our tires but he had enough at the end to bring it home. I was really excited to try a battle to the end with Will and I, but he had the upper hand today and I am happy for him.
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "We made our day difficult starting at the back but I am very happy that the Telemundo car was the best its been all weekend. We definitely had a great pace especially in the middle of the race. Bruno (Couprie, race engineer) was telling me that we were one of the fastest cars in the field and the car felt that way so I am happy we improved. It would have been nice to do it in qualifying and make our day easier but we did the best we could. To finish eleventh was decent and we got decent points and are still fourth and are looking forward to Baltimore."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE ( No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): "It was a pretty decent effort today. On the first stint we were sort of the best of the rest. We gapped Conway quite well but we certainly lost touch with the top-five guys. It was on the last four or five laps of that stint that the tires started to really fall off so we lost some time there. Pantano had a really good strategy starting on the primary Firestone's and switching to the alternates and he got us on the exit of the pit cycle. From there we were just sort of running the pace and had some issues with some lapped cars at certain parts and that lost us some time. At the end of the day it didn't really matter because of the late caution. That was a crazy, crazy five laps because when these tires heat cycle they lose a lot of grip, there are a lot of marbles everywhere and there were lapped cars in the mix. We were racing Sebastien and Graham and we lost a place there on that so that was too bad. It's unfortunate that the lapped cars weren't moved to the back with less than 10 laps to go which is usually the rule. At the end of the day the last couple of laps were crazy but fun. It was fun racing with Graham there at the end. I want to give a huge thanks to the team because we didn't start this weekend off perfectly well and to have a top six qualifying and top-eight finish is something to be pretty happy with."
E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "Finishing in the top-10 today was not bad especially after the difficult weekend we had as a team. We never really found the full speed that we needed to run up front. It was one of those weekends where you need to try and stay strong which we showed today. We believe that our street setup suits the next race and so we will be looking for a strong finish. I want to thank the PDVSA - KVRT - Lotus for all their hard work this weekend and also my sponsors."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "It was a tough, long race. We were flexible about doing a two spot or three stop stragegy. Then early in the race the team made the decision to go with three stops. We had the pace however, things didn't quite work out with the strategy. The biggest problem we had was a lack of speed. We have to work really hard to find some. It was a disappointing finish. The KVRT - Lotus mechanics did a great job today. Before the start of the race we had a water leak and the crew had to change the radiator 15 minutes before the start of the race. They did a fantastic job and I just want to say well done everybody."
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "We went on an alternate strategy right in the beginning of the race to get rid of the black tires. It went really well until I got stuck behind Carpenter and couldn't pass him. The Geico KV - Lotus guys did a good job with the strategy but it didn't pan out. After that we had a mechanical problem that ended my race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "Today was a good run for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing. After the weekend we've had, pulling off a top-10 feels pretty amazing. I think the No. 38 Service Central car was definitely one of the quickest cars today. If the caution did come out at the end, I think we would've had a great chance to catch (Sebastian) Bourdais and (James) Hinchcliffe. Overall, it was a really good day and I'm proud of the Service Central team. It feels very good to get a top-10 and gain some points."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "It was a tough day for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. I think we had the right strategy because the pace was pretty impressive when I had fresh tires. We were quicker than the guys we were racing. We had a gear box issue at the end and I wasn't able to down shift. I was lucky to get it back to pit lane and the Novo Nordisk crew fixed the issue. I think the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car will be quick at Baltimore; it's new for everyone, but I think we have a pretty good street circuit setup."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Penske Truck Rental): "It was a mess out there with the pit stops, but I was trying to keep Dario (Franchitti) behind me. I knew we had a good shot today at a 1-2-3 finish for Team Penske. That was our first goal today. I had a lot of traffic coming out in front of me and I just didn't want to make a mistake. I may have been a little more conservative than I needed to be, but I just didn't want to make a mistake out there. It has been two years now since the three of us have been teammates and we have been working so hard for this Team Penske sweep. We have come close a few times, but I tell you it feels really good now that it has happened. When the yellow came out towards the end of the race, I was so worried that this was our curse and that something was going to happen. We were able to keep it clean on the restart and keep the Target cars behind us. I want to thank everyone at Team Penske, Penske Truck Rentals and IZOD. There were a lot of IZOD supporters here this weekend and with my result I moved up in the Championship point standings so it was a great day for us.
HO-PIN TUNG (No. 88 Mouser.com Schmidt Dragon Racing): "I was following Alex (Tagliani) for a good number of laps and he was significantly slower than I was. I was trying to position myself where it would be possible to overtake him and he braked a lot earlier than the laps before in the chicane. So I looked up trying to avoid him and not hit him from behind, but unfortunately I took myself out of the race."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team @FollowAndretti): "The tires just really went off quickly today. I was just trying to keep the thing on the track most of the day. It wasn't easy as I was just trying to keep my position. At the end, we came in for new tires and attempted to make something of it. I was driving hard and passing people. On the final lap, I tried the outside in turn two and (Sebastian) Saavedra pushed me off the track and I held my ground. He spun around and punctured my tire. That was the day ended. Not a good finish for us."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "It was one of those days that we just had to hang in there. We came from 19th to 11th and just passed the cars on track. We didn't get any help from attrition at all. It was one of those days that we really it. We just had to race as best we could and get around people. It was a tough weekend. Now, we'll moved to the Baltimore street course and look for strong rebound. We have been good on the street course this year. It should be fun in the first race at Baltimore."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America): "Giorgio Pantano blocked me at the end. I don't know what the officials are going to say. I was going to dive in and he just blocked me. He pushed me over the rumble strip to finish the job. The team had good pit stops. It wasn't the fastest car, but we're making progress.
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team All Natural Snapple): "It was a disappointing day for the Snapple team. We just didn't have the car we needed in order to gain track position. Near the end we had to come to replace the nose, which put us back even further. From here, we'll move on and look forward to Baltimore."
ED CARPENTER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "It was a long, boring race today," said Carpenter. "There was a lot of green flag and a lot of running by our self. The stint before that last yellow, when I was running with Oriol, was really the only interesting part. There wasn't much attrition, and there didn't seem to be much passing throughout the day. It was a long day, but we survived. Unfortunately we didn't make up many spots, but it was just one of those races. I'm looking forward to Baltimore and seeing what we can do on a street course."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 4 at Streets of Baltimore. The race will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Baltimore 100 on Sept. 4 at the Streets of Baltimore.