Leading a race-high 27 laps of Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Scott Dixon appeared headed to his fourth IZOD IndyCar Series race win of 2013 – and the fifth consecutive win for Honda and Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing organization – until he made contact with a tire being carried by a Team Penske crew member while exiting his pit stall during the final round of pit stops on the 64th of 85 laps.
The impact knocked over the crewman for race rival Will Power, and two other members of the team, but no serious injuries were reported. However, the contact resulted in Dixon receiving a “drive-through” penalty, requiring him to drive the length of pit lane at reduced speed, dropping him to a 15th-place finish. That cost Dixon what would have become the lead in the Driver’s Championship, while Power went on to record his first victory of 2013.
It also lost Honda the lead in the IndyCar Series Manufacturers’ Championship. Dixon remains in second place in the Drivers’ Championship, but falls 39 points behind leader Helio Castoneves with four races remaining, while Honda is three points behind Chevrolet in the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Starting alongside his pole-qualifying teammate Dario Franchitti, Dixon slotted into second place at the start and ran behind Franchitti through the first round on pit stops on Lap 18, in what quickly developed into a contentious, incident-filled race that saw a race-record seven caution flags. Moving in front of Franchitti after the first round of stops, Dixon took the lead on Lap 30, and continued to maintain his advantage over the field – except during routine pit stops – until the final round of stops and incident in pit lane on Lap 64.
With Dixon penalized, Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson challenged Power through the final nine laps, including one final restart on Lap 80, but was unable to complete a pass. Still, his second-place result was the best of the season for the Honda-powered veteran, as Wilson survived a Lap 6 spin after being hit by E.J. Viso. Wilson spent the middle third of the race going “off sequence” in his pit strategy to gain track position, then stretched his fuel during the laps prior to his last pit stop to rejoin the battle for the race win, taking the checkers just over one second behind Power.
Franchitti also remained in the lead group throughout the race, but lost some ground while running on the Firestone “black” primary tires, before regaining his lost positions and finishing third, following a change to the alternate “Red” tires at his final pit stop.
The IZOD IndyCar Series now packs up and rapidly heads across the continent to the East Coast for next weekend’s Baltimore Grand Prix, September 1, on the 2.4-mile temporary street circuit around the city’s Inner Harbor.
Justin Wilson (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara) started 7th, finished 2nd, best finish of 2013 and 3rd podium finish of the season: “It’s great to be back on the podium again with the Boy Scouts of America Honda. Everyone at Dale Coyne Racing has worked so hard to get a result. We’ve had some ups and downs, and have run some really good races only to end up finishing eighth or tenth. So that was a little frustrating earlier this season, but it is nice to get back up here and turn things around. I definitely thought we had a chance at the win, but got squeezed out on the last restart. It was just hard racing, and we had it all day long.”
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 2nd, finished 15th after late-race penalty for a pit lane safety violation: “Watching the [television] replay, it looks like he’s [the Penske crewman] walked straight into our car. If you watch most pit guys, they try to get out of the way of other people, but it looks like he’s trying to get me to turn more [sharply] and just walked into us. It’s pretty annoying because we had a good car all day long and if they want to try and win like that, then that’s pretty bad. I’m looking forward to meeting with Race Control to hear what that was all about.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"After such an exciting and eventful race, it’s just a shame that it came down an official’s call to decide the outcome after Scott [Dixon] ran such a masterful race. But we continue to demonstrate the strength of the Honda engine and the capability of our teams as this close battle for the IndyCar Manufacturers’ Championship looks like it will go down to the wire at the end of the season. Congratulations to Justin [Wilson] and Dario [Franchitti] for their strong runs all day and podium finishes. Now we’ll go on to Baltimore and continue to fight the good fight.”