Sunday, August 22, 2010

Will Power Gets Satisfaction at Sonoma

Photo Credit: Steve Swope

Putting the cap on the road and street course racing presented in the 2010 season of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of Sonoma provided the last opportunity for some oval racing-challenged drivers to carry momentum into the series' final four races.

Right from the start, top qualifiers in the field shot into a single-file formation even before they reached the start/finish line. The scurry to this single-file pack went routine until after the first dozen cars. In the most terrifying incident of the race, the #4 car of Dan Wheldon was sent upside down after making impact with the #34 piloted by Bertrand Baguette. After the IndyCar safety team returned the car upright, Wheldon was able to step out of this immobile race vehicle thankfully uninjured. 

As the race resumed on lap 4, pole sitter Will Power began to assemble another dominant IndyCar race out front of the Grand Prix of Sonoma. As Power retained the top spot Alex Tagliani, who started this race in a season and IRL career-high 4th place, began to lose the handling early on his FAZZT Race Team #77 car. Starting the Grand Prix of Sonoma on the faster but softer Firestone red tires, Tagliani rapidly ran out of grip causing the French-Canadian to backslide down the running order IZOD IndyCar race. Compounding problems for the #77 machine, Alex Tagliani would suffer a tire puncture after contact with another car. Requiring an earlier than expected pit stop by the FAZZT Race Team crew, Tagliani returned to the race track 1 lap down. Placed back on the lead lap thanks to his opponent's pit stops, Alex Tagliani's once promising start to the Grand Prix of Sonoma changed his race plans into recovering lost positions. The #77 FAZZT Race Team car would finish 14th on the day.

Experiencing a one-time high in the race, J.R. Hildebrand competing in his second IZOD IndyCar Series race for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing #24 car. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion had been fighting for grip all weekend but found enough speed within the race to collect the Grand Prix's fastest lap time. Unfortunately, Hildebrand's stint in the #24 car would not go the distance at Sonoma as the #26 car of Marco Andretti made contact with the Dreyer and Reinbold Racing machine in the 7th turn on lap 37. Five laps earlier, Justin Wilson's #22 car spun in the exact same part of the Infineon Raceway.

Into the final stages of the Grand Prix of Sonoma, caution flew a last time on lap 66 when a three-car incident collected EJ Viso, Berthand Baguette and Raphael Matos. Transpiring when the #34 of Baguette impacted the #2 de Ferran/Dragon Racing car into turn 11 ruining a top 10 run for Matos. Along with Matos, the #5 KV Racing Technology car of Takuma Sato was also having a good run only to have it derail in the late laps. The #5 KV Racing Technology spun on track costing the hard-fighting Japanese driver a steady top-10 funish.

Leading 72 of the race's 75 laps around the Infineon Raceway, the #12 Verizon Penske Racing car of Power commanded the field uninterrupted for 55 circuits of the 2.33 mile road course. Holding off a determined but just short effort from Scott Dixon, Will Power finished 7/10th of a second out in front. Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves came across the line 3rd through 5th place.

A triumphant performance coming one year after Will Power's career rested in doubt following a practice crash at the Infineon Raceway. In victory lane for the Grand Prix of Sonoma, the Australian road racing warrior was also officially granted the first Mario Andretti Trophy for collecting the most series points on road and street course events. The four-time IndyCar and 1978 Formula 1 championship Mario Andretti was present himself to bestow the honour on Power. 

Without an oval victory in either his Champ Car or IZOD IndyCar Series career, Will Power will be venerable according to past race statistics. Achieving a best finish of 5th twice on the rounded race tracks, Power's Penske Racing team is certainly guided to build some strength into the Australian native.

2010 IZOD IndyCar
Infineon Raceway
Grand Prix of Sonoma
Finishing Results

1. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
2. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
3. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
4. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
5. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
6. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
7. 11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport
8. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport
9. 02 Graham Rahal/United States/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
10. 19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
11. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
12. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
13. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
14. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team
15. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
16. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
17. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
18. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
19. 8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
20. 34 Francesco Dracone/Italy/ Conquest Racing
21. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ de Ferran Dragon Racing
22. 36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing
23. 18 Milka Duno/Venezuela/ Dale Coyne Racing
24. 24 J.R. Hildebrand/United States/ Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
25. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing

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