Pits for Power’s 3-peat as teammate Briscoe wins Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
On a sunny Sunday in the Valley, everything seemed to be falling into place for Will Power and his Penske Racing team to win their third straight GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
But, when the 85-lap IZOD IndyCar Series event on Sonoma Raceway’s newly modified 12-turn, 2.31-mile road course ended, it was just the Penske Racing team, and not series-leading driver Power, with the three-peat.
With only 21 laps to go, Power had been running at the head of the pack when ran into a series of problems. It started when he came in to the pits and a slight miscue cost him key seconds that led to being caught behind slower cars when he returned to the track. A two-car accident brought out the yellow-flag and created a no-passing procession for the next several laps. That let Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe hold the lead. When the green flag fell and the racing resumed, Briscoe and Power were first and second, but Power couldn't close the gap. That was partly because Briscoe drove flawlessly in the final laps, and partly because Power's "push-to-pass" boost system failed to activate.
Push-to-pass is a feature giving drivers 90 seconds of extra turbocharger boost in intervals up to 15 seconds. But Power couldn't get his system to work, and he was already less than a fan. At the Mid-Ohio Indy race, he had similar problems and he told Autoweek magazine, "I think it was stupid, honestly ... You'd hit it and get in the corner and it would unclick itself. It was useless. Honestly, I didn't find it useful at all."
Whatever the ultimate cause, Power couldn't retake the lead, and Briscoe made the most of the opportunity, driving to his first Indy Grand Prix victory in Sonoma, and becoming the seventh different winner in the eight years Indy has come to the Valley.
Preceding Briscoe and Power (2010, 2011) as Indy champions in Sonoma were Tony Kanaan (2005), Marco Andretti (’06), Scott Dixon (’07), Helio Castroneves (’08), and Dario Franchitti (’09).
The final major racing event at Sonoma Raceway will be the new FIA World Touring Car Championship, with its first-ever race on American soil slated for Sept. 21 through 23. That event will be highlighted by two 30-minute sprint races on Sunday, Sept. 23. Manufacturers include BMW, Chevrolet, SEAT and Volvo.
The 24th season of Wednesday Night Drags on Sonoma Raceway’s world-famous drag strip will run every Wednesday evening through Nov. 14, along with the motorsport of drifting, and the equally popular “Top the Cops” program.
“Top the Cops” is designed to help take illegal racing off the streets and bring it to a safe, legal and controlled environment, allowing high school students the opportunity to drag race against law enforcement officers, who will be driving their squad cars.