Power Wins, But Controversey Rules Sonoma
Barfield issued seven penalties in Sunday’s race that featured a race-record seven caution flags for 21 laps of yellow in the 85-lap race. But even such a large number of penalties did not satisfy every driver as many still voiced their displeasure afterwards.
And now, back to the race.
It was obvious that one of the big stories this season was Power’s long winless streak. His last victory came at Sao Paulo in 2012 – 25 races to go.
Here was a driver expected to win a championship but couldn’t find victory lane until Sunday.
“It’s huge,” Team Penske president Tim Cindric said. “We needed that as a team and for Will to get the victory is very important. As for Helio, we take it one race at a time and hopefully we end up in the right spot.”
Dixon led the race two times for a race high 27 laps followed by Franchitti, who was at the front of the field for 17 laps. Power led the final 16 laps after he inherited the lead when Dixon had to serve his penalty.
Power’s Dallara/Chevrolet finished 1.1930-seconds ahead of Justin Wilson’s Dallara/Honda. Franchitti was third in another Dallara/Honda with Marco Andretti’s Dallara/Chevrolet fourth and Simon Pagenaud’s Dallara/Honda rounding out the top five.
Oh what a relief it is for Power.
“It is,” the winner admitted. “I’m actually very happy for my guys. I think we all expected to be a little bit more competitive. Not that we haven’t been, we’ve just had some bad things happen to us.
“I’m very happy. I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve been in the back of the pack. I’ve learned a lot about restarts. When you have a tough year, you really start searching, looking. You pick up things. Really feels like next year I’ll come back more a complete driver. “
After finishing third Franchitti talked about his icy reaction to Power as the two drivers ignored each other in Victory Lane.
“What the hell is it up to me to repair it for? I was the victim in that one,” Franchitti said of the incident on the restart. “These things happen. It’s happened before, both ways, whether it was me doing it, Will doing it. We’ll figure it out eventually.
“You know, I’m pretty pissed off right now. Yeah, Will was pushing hard. It wasn’t some crazy, really mad thing. But, you know, I was driven off the track and nothing was done about it. So I’m more mad at race control for not doing anything as usual than I am at Will really.”
Power seemed perplexed his long-time nemesis, Franchitti, had reason to be upset.
“I mean, we barely touched,” Power said. “I’m surprised. That’s just racing. I’m surprised at his displeasure. Dixon did exactly the same thing to me when roles were reversed on the first restart. Dario seems to have a short memory because in Detroit at the first corner, he hit me a lot harder and I lost a bunch of positions.
“It’s just racing. He’ll cool down. Double-file restarts, what do you do? We’re side-by-side. Cars are going to touch. It’s not like I KO’d him into the wall.”
With the victory, Power moved from 11th in points to eighth. He is 123 points out and remains mathematically in the point’s race but for all intents and purposes he won’t be the champion in 2013.
This is strange for a man who has been in the thick of the battle for the past three IndyCar championship fights only to fall short in the final race of the season.
“Yeah, in one way it’s more relaxing because you can be more aggressive,” Power said. “Like Roger was saying, Helio had to kind of look after himself. But of course I would love to be in the battle right now. We just have had one of those years where things don’t flow. But it’s slowly coming on here.
“Obviously that’s next year’s mindset. This year is to make sure Helio wins the championship. We’re going to help him any way possible for the next three races.”
And while the incident on pit lane was a huge points swing for Dixon who could have cut Castroneves’ deficit to six points but now trails by 39, Penske downplayed its significance.
“I think the difference, we were (31), now we’re 39, so it’s (8) points — not anything catastrophic,” Penske said. “That’s racing. To me, I didn’t call it. I wasn’t involved in it. Obviously when you have a pit crewmember going up in the air… If you look at it, our pit crew actually lifted the tire up, went behind the car.
“To me, I think judgment there was made by whoever makes that call. We certainly didn’t. You know, those are the way things go.”
And the man who continues to lead the title did what he had to do and that was stay out of trouble. He didn’t have a car that was going to win the race so Castroneves brought it home safely in seventh and that puts him in prime position as the series heads to Baltimore for next Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore.
“We tried to do everything that we could,” Castroneves said. “I’m happy that Will (Power) got his win. He was really aggressive and pushing as hard as he could. He deserved it. I’m happy for him and happy to extend the points lead. I can’t believe it. With all that happened to us in the race, I’m extremely satisfied for the Hitachi Team Penske boys.
“Four more to go. Let’s keep going.”