SONOMA, Calif. – Will Power won at Sonoma Raceway for the third time in four years Sunday, earning his first victory of the IndyCar season when he took advantage of a late penalty to Scott Dixon for injuring three members of Power’s pit crew.
Dixon led until he received a drive-through penalty with 15 laps to go for clipping a tire in the left hand of Power’s tire holder when Dixon left his pit directly behind Power’s Team Penske Chevrolet.
The tire holder went flying into another crew member, and a third member was injured by an air gun. Dixon thought Power’s crew got in his way on purpose, leaving him angry and confused by IndyCar’s latest call against him.
“That’s probably the most blatant thing I’ve seen in a long time,” Dixon said. “You watch most pit guys, they try to get out of the way of other people, so that was a bit of a (classless) move, to be honest. ... If that’s the way they want to try and win, that’s pretty bad.”
Dixon finished 15th and lost ground on overall IndyCar leader Helio Castroneves, who finished seventh.
Power scoffed at the notion any gamesmanship occurred in his first victory since early last season in Sao Paulo. He’s the only multiple IndyCar winner in Sonoma, where he’s been dominant since he broke his back in a crash in 2009.
“It reminds me of so many things that’s happened to us in the last three years, so we’ll take it,” Power said. “I would be very surprised (if it was intentional). I haven’t seen it. It’s not even worth commenting on. ... I really thought we’d win before (now), but we just kept at it and worked hard and were fast all weekend.”
Justin Wilson was second, and pole winner Dario Franchitti was third -- although the Scot was furious at race control, saying Power drove him off the track with no penalty. Castroneves finished behind Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Dixon’s brush with Power’s crew highlighted an uncommonly eventful race in Sonoma, a twisty road course that usually doesn’t allow much drama. With strong wind and dust all over the course, the race featured a record seven cautions for various collisions and stalls. Sebastian Saavedra crashed heavily into a barrier with four laps to go.
Andretti also drew the ire of Roger Penske for making contact with Penske driver Power late in the race. Penske charged over to Andretti’s car immediately after the race for an argument featuring wild gesticulations by both men until the normally taciturn Penske abruptly turned and walked away.
The decisive incident occurred when Dixon attempted to leave pit row while Power was parked right in front of him, deep in his own box. Power’s rear tire holder had the tire dangling from his left arm while Dixon attempted to get around him, and the resulting contact sent two crew members sprawling while the tire bounced away.
“The guy turned his back and carried the tire into Dixon’s side,” Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Mike Hull said. “He walked into us, so if that sets the precedent, in the next race, that means somebody can walk into us with a tire in their hand.”
All three crew members said they were fine to continue after a bit of ice.
Dixon’s penalty dropped him 19 seconds behind Power into 21st, and Power carefully maintained his lead for a victory on the same course where he was seriously injured four years ago, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.
Dixon has been burned by IndyCar’s curious penalty decisions before. In Milwaukee last year, IndyCar acknowledged it looked at the wrong replay and got the decision wrong when it ordered Dixon to serve a drive-through penalty for jumping a restart.