After winning pole position Simon Pagenaud backed it up with winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma while also locking up his first ever championship while teammate and title challenger Will Power suffered clutch issues ending his title challenge.
Sonoma is known for its crazy starts specifically the first corner after the uphill section. Unlike recent years the grid stayed clean through the first corners. Trouble would hit later on in turn 7 when Tony Kanaan would get into Mikhail Aleshin causing both to go for a spin. Kanaan struggled to get away stalling while Aleshin would get away and continue. The safety crew would restart the Brazilians car getting him going before a caution was called.
More troubles would amount for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Max Chilton. Scott Dixon’s radio communications became limited due to Dixon not being able to hear his crew. Max Chilton reported that his engine was “cutting out” and that they were “sitting ducks”.
Mikhail Aleshin would be the first to pit on lap 9. Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson followed suit pitting on lap 9. The first of the title challengers Will Power would pit on lap 15. Pagenaud would pit the following lap.
Lap 37 saw Will Powers title chances take a giant hit as he slowed to a complete stop. At first, Power reported a gearbox failure, the problem was later diagnosed as a clutch problem. At the same time, Spencer Pigot would suffer a gearbox failure leading to him parking his car in turn one. Pigot’s parked car would bring out the only caution of the race.
During the caution, Scott Dixon’s radio issues would be solved during a lengthy pit stop that saw the reigning champ swap helmets.
Racing resumed on lap 42 with A.J Foyt driver Jack Hawksworth spinning into turn 7 adding to an already bad race. The spin cast even more doubt on the Brits future in the series.
Race leader Pagenaud made his last stop on lap 62 with Graham Rahal following the next lap. Due to Rahal staying out an extra lap he did not need to save fuel allowing him to close on Pagenaud. Rahal was never able to get the better of the Frenchmen.
Other battles that ensued were Andretti Autosport drivers Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Charlie Kimball. The only driver getting the better of the other was Hunter-Reay beating Rossi to the line after running out of fuel.
Pagenaud would finish off his masterful drive winning the race by 3 seconds over Graham Rahal. Pagenaud’s championship is Roger Penske’s 14th IndyCar championship in 50 years of being apart of the series.
“It’s unbelievable. I think I will realize it more tomorrow. What a race! There is so much emotion right now, to be honest, I don’t know if you can see it. I can’t find the words. My whole career has been about this, about today and getting to this point and to this level.” Pagenaud said after the race.
Will Power despite coming in 2nd in the championship still showed gratitude for his teammate. “I’ve raced him for 10 years and I’m happy to see him win a championship even though I finished second to him”.
Alexander Rossi clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors finishing 11th in the championship after a 5th place finish. Simon Pagenaud wins the road course championship while Josef Newgarden takes the oval championship. Chevrolet wins the manufacturer’s championship with ease winning 14 of the 16 races.
IndyCar returns March 12 at St. Petersburg until then the silly season is still going strong with a lot of seats yet to be filled and confirmed.
Fetured Image Credit – Chris Jones – www.indycar.com