Penske sweeps Indy race, Danica says goodbye
WILL POWER won his second straight Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Danica Patrick said goodbye, TJ Woodward said hello (with flowers), Roger Penske said "how sweet it is," (or words to that effect) after his boys had a perfect 1-2-3 sweep, and the seventh annual Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma went into the record books with a little something for almost everyone.
That included Woodward, who paid extra for an "Insider" experience at a special Danica fan conference and the chance to present her with flowers. Woodward, who lives in Sonoma, loves both NACAR and Indy and wears Danica on his right arm, from shoulder to elbow in living color, along with her tattooed autograph.
Danica's Infineon-Indy swan song came on the heels of news she was abandoning open-wheel racing for the bump-and-grind of NASCAR. During a Friday press conference, America's most popular woman racer said of NASCAR's close encounters, "I really enjoy it. I really do. It's tough to do in an Indy Car. You don't want to be touching wheels. In a stock car, if someone messes with you, you just hit them back. It doesn't really ruin your day."
Danica's last day at Infineon wasn't ruined but, on the track at least, it wasn't a notable success. Qualifying wasn't good to her, her best time left her toward the back of the pack and she finished only slightly ahead in the 21st position.
Team owner and racing powerhouse Roger Penske, on the other hand, had a spectacular day. His three drivers - Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe - qualified 1-2-3, and that's how they finished, with Power taking his second straight pole and win. Power led all but four laps, with Castroneves and Briscoe
taking two each of the balance. The three rotated the 2.3-mile road course like a train, avoiding mistakes and accidents with flawless driving. There was, in fact, only one yellow flag in the entire race (for three laps) and, unlike the kind of carnage Patrick will encounter in NASCAR, just one damaged car.
Pre-race festivities included a salute to the nation's armed forces, some of whom unfurled an immense American flag. There were sailors and pretty Infineon girls, a flyover by the Patriots aerobatic jets, giant, red motorized shopping carts from racing team sponsor Target and perfect sunny weather.
In the winner's circle Power took a flying leap off the side of his car into a cloud of confetti and then happily raised the winner's ceremonial (and huge) wine goblet filled with Sonoma Valley cabernet.
"To start 1-2-3, and to finish 1-2-3, what a dream weekend," said Will Power.