Aug 26, 2012
SONOMA, Calif. -- Ryan Briscoe had finished second twice, third and fourth at Sonoma in the past four years. Think he was due?
Long overdue -- on the road course and in general -- the veteran Team Penske driver would interject.
So it was an elated Briscoe, who started next to Team Penske teammate and pole sitter Will Power, who hoisted a glass of cabernet in Victory Circle following the 85-lap GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. He held off Power by 0.4408 of a second for his first victory since Texas in 2010. Briscoe is the seventh different winner in 13 IZOD IndyCar Series races this season.
Click it: GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma box score
“It’s big. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to win again," he said. "Especially here in Sonoma, I’ve always done so well at this track and I got my first-ever pole position here (2005) so it’s great to finally get the win. Great battle with Will at the end there."
Briscoe gained the lead on a pit stop sequence on Lap 65 when he hit the blend line ahead of Power, who had pitted a lap earlier but was caught behind traffic during the first full-course caution in more than 2½ races.
"He definitely had some bad luck in the pits, but we were there all day," Briscoe added. "This is definitely a confidence-builder."
Power, who clinched the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy for the third consecutive year, did increase his championship points lead from five to 36 over Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport with two races remaining.
"I wouldn’t blame the (slow) pit stop, it was more on the people that were holding me up," Power said. "We had an 8-second lead, probably lost 4 on the pit stop and the rest was at the track. And I do understand that you want to go slower where an accident was, it was a big accident for sure, but these guys that were back a lap ... I don’t know if they were told to do it, maybe they were a rival team, but it cost us a limb."
Hunter-Reay was running third behind the Team Penske duo when the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car was bumped from behind by the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car driven by Alex Tagliani in Turn 7 on Lap 75 and stalled. The turn of events dropped Hunter-Reay to an 18th-place finish.
"I drove so hard all day, pushed so hard to get from seventh to third, I can't even tell you how hard I drove just to hold off cars that were quicker at times, just to put us in the position to challenge for a win," Hunter-Reay said. "We had a great car at the end. (Tagliani) just got in there, locked up the brakes and got into the back of me. I can't tell you how frustrated I am after the engine problems last (race, at Mid-Ohio), and then this. We had a podium (finish). I can't get over it right now. It's unreal."
Dario Franchitti finished third and Rubens Barrichello posted a season-high fourth place after starting 11th. Graham Rahal placed fifth and Helio Castroneves was sixth.
Simon Pagenaud clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award with a seventh-place finish.
"That’s pretty cool. It was one of our goals for the year, so we can check that box," he said. "We are now in fifth in the championship, so we are very proud of those accomplishments.”
The top eight drivers are mathematically eligible for the championship heading to the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT on Sept. 2.
Castroneves, who entered the race 17 points arrears of Power, was assessed a drive-through penalty for contact on Lap 1 with Scott Dixon -- another championship contender. Dixon lost 10 positions after pointing the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in the right direction, and both drivers attempted to regain positions through the remainder of the race.
Dixon, who also received a drive-through penalty for running over an air hose during a pit stop and had contact with Hunter-Reay's car, finished 13th. He remains fourth in the standings, but lost 26 points (54 points behind).
“I’m extremely happy being able to collect more points, but not so happy with the early-race incident," said Castroneves, who is third in the standings. "Certainly I did not try to pass Scott. I did not want to ruin my race and especially anyone else’s race. But at the end of the day you need to just keep pushing. I felt that we had a better car than sixth, but again today’s sixth was like a victory.”