Sonoma, Calif. (August 26, 2012) – Ryan Briscoe took the lead from teammate Will Power with 20 laps left in Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma and went on to score Team Penske’s fourth victory at Sonoma Raceway in the last five years.
The win was Briscoe’s first since Texas Motor Speedway in 2010 and it marked the third time since 2005 that Team Penske has claimed the top two finishing positions at the Northern California track. Power’s runner-up finish extended his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers’ standings as he is now 36 points ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay with two races remaining in the season.
With Helio Castroneves’ sixth-place effort, Team Penske posted three of the top-six finishing positions, completing a dominant weekend for the winningest team in the history of open-wheel racing.
Briscoe and Power combined to lead 84 of the 85 total laps and ran 1-2 at the front of the field for 82 laps overall.
Briscoe’s No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet captured the lead when he beat Power to the blend line at the exit of pit lane one lap after Power had pitted but was caught behind traffic after a full-course caution. After he had earned second-, third- and fourth-place finishes in his last four starts at Sonoma, Briscoe was able to hold on to score his first victory at newly-configured track.
"It's big. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to win again,” said Briscoe. “It has been too long. Especially here in Sonoma, I've always done so well at this track and I got my first ever pole position here and we've been top-five every year pretty much for the last five years so it's great to finally get the win. I look forward to drinking the red wine (on the victory podium). Great battle with Will at the end there. He definitely had some bad luck in the pits, but we were there all day.”
Briscoe, who led 27 laps on the day, held off Power on two late-race race restarts to claim his first victory of the season by 0.4408 seconds.
“I didn’t know where (Power) was (on the restarts),” said Briscoe, whose first victory at Sonoma also clinched the 2012 Manufacturer’s Trophy for Chevrolet. “I just knew I had to keep pushing as hard as I could. I just wanted to win the race, but I wanted to do it cleanly. I was in his spot on the outside (of the front row) at the start of the race, and I knew it was almost impossible to stay out there and get the lead. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have too much wheelspin on the restart and get a clean run up into Turn 2.”
Power led 57 of the first 63 laps around the 11-turn, 2.31-mile road course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske machine. But Briscoe beat him back onto the racetrack after his pit stop following the race’s first yellow caution flag, but Power’s runner-up effort extended his points lead by 31 as championship contender Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered contact and spun late in the race before coming home in 18th place. The finish clinched Power’s third-consecutive series Mario Andretti Road Course Championship.
“It’s still a good day,” said Power, who can potentially claim the IZOD IndyCar Championship with a victory next weekend at Baltimore. “It’s just disappointing to lead so many laps and have the fastest car and not win. But it’s excellent for Ryan. He deserves to win. He’s a bloody good driver. He’s had a bit of a rough time the last couple of years, but he’s one of the quickest guys in the series.”
Castroneves finished sixth, as he remained third in the championship battle and 41 points behind teammate Power. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion rallied from an early pit lane drive-through penalty for contact with Scott Dixon that dropped him far back in the field to earn the sixth-place finish in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet.
“First of all I’m very, very happy with the result of finishing sixth especially after the circumstances that we had,” said Castroneves, who earned his tenth top-10 finish in 13 races this season. “It was an amazing result for the Penske Truck Rental guys. I’m extremely happy being able to collect more points, but not so happy with the early-race incident.
Certainly I did not try to pass Scott. I did not want to ruin my race and especially anyone else’s race. But at the end of the day you need to just keep pushing. I felt that we had a better car than sixth, but again today’s sixth was like a victory.”
The victory at Sonoma is the sixth race that Team Penske has won in 2012, tying the team’s total from 2011.
“We've run here a lot, we've got a pretty good setup (and) the teams do perform each time we come back. The chance to test here a couple of weeks ago was really a plus for us because we got the cars the same, and I think everyone was on their best behavior from the standpoint of working together.” said team owner Roger Penske, who recognized the significance of Chevrolet securing the manufacturer’s title in its first season back in IndyCar racing.
"I think to have Chevy come into the series was a big plus. We have three engine manufacturers now, and there's a lot of competition, good competition between the brands. To come from Detroit and have Chevrolet in the race with the engines has been terrific, and certainly the reliability has been excellent.
I think the speeds for both engines has been very competitive. I think the league has done a very good job in monitoring each engine and be sure it's a level playing field. To me, the Chevy relationship goes back a long time when we had the first Chevy Indy engine (and) to me this is just a repeat. To see them when the manufacturer's championship in their first year is very rewarding."
Source: Penske Racing