Will Power withstood a late restart to lead a Penske clean sweep of the top three places in the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Power led virtually the entire race, only relinquishing the top spot briefly during the pit stops. At times his advantage over Helio Castroneves extended to several seconds, but the gap was eroded when Ho-Pin Tung triggered the first and only caution period by hitting the barriers with 10 laps remaining. With the bonus points for the pole start and leading the most laps (71 of 75), Power pulled within 26 points of leader Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who finished fourth.
"It was just a perfect race," said Power, who earned his series-leading fifth victory of the season. "This one is pretty important. I have been unbelievably motivated after a few bad races this season. I knew that Verizon Team Penske was better than this as a team and we came here with a good setup, finished strong and we are on the right track now."
There are four races remaining (two ovals, two road/streets), starting with the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix next weekend.
The restart came with seven laps to go, and Power was able to see off a final challenge from Castroneves to secure back-to-back wins at the northern California circuit. Ryan Briscoe completed the 1-2-3 with third place, and admitted later that his priority during the final laps had been on keeping the pursuing Ganassi cars at bay rather than trying to mix it up with his teammates. He succeeded, leaving Franchitti to settle for fourth ahead of Scott Dixon.
"They were brilliant in qualifying – in a different league – and they did the same in the race," said Franchitti of the Penske cars. "I spent all day staring at the rear wing of the Penske Truck Rental car (Briscoe's) and I couldn't make anything happen even when he was getting held up in traffic.
"We didn't make any mistakes, though, and we got a fourth place – so we're going to improve things for Baltimore. We'll be working hard on that this week."
Giorgio Pantano was one of the stars of an afternoon that was largely bereft of passing, working his way up from 11th to sixth across the line for Dreyer & Reinbold, but the former GP2 champion was issued a penalty for blocking Sebastien Bourdais (actually passing him on the inside and forcing Bourdais off line) on the final lap and relegated to 17th. Bourdais consequently took sixth place ahead of James Hinchcliffe, with Graham Rahal, EJ Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay completing the top 10.
Tung aside, the only other non-finisher was Tony Kanaan, who was forced to pull out on lap 38 after his KV Racing entry developed throttle problems. But everyone not driving a Team Penske car was starting with a handicap this time out.
"Immediately out of the transporter all three Team Penske cars were fantastic," Castroneves said. "I have to give credit to Will and the engineers for bringing us information from the test here last week. The last few races I have really struggled and my engineers were able to put their heads together and connect the missing pieces and we had a great result.
"The Team Penske sweep shows how strong our team is. I certainly wanted to win, but Will was in a class of his own. When you look at his lap times in practice and qualifying, you knew he would be strong."
Pos Driver Team Result/Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1h47m29.7619s
2. Helio Castroneves Penske 3.2420s
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 6.4494s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 7.6540s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi 14.4755s
6. Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 17.1257s
7. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 17.2713s
8. Graham Rahal Ganassi 17.7900s
9. Ernesto Viso KV 21.6276s
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 22.1731s
11. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 22.9512s
12. Martin Plowman AFS/Sam Schmidt 24.2602s
13. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 29.7207s
14. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 41.1146s
15. Simon Pagenaud HVM 41.7526s
16. Mike Conway Andretti 1m.2912s
17. Giorgio Pantano Dreyer & Reinbold 1m14.2922s
18. Takuma Sato KV + 1 lap
19. James Jakes Dale Coyne + 1 lap
20. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt + 1 lap
21. Danica Patrick Andretti + 1 lap
22. Vitor Meira Foyt + 1 lap
23. JR Hildebrand Panther + 1 lap
24. Marco Andretti Andretti + 1 lap
25. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher + 1 lap
Charlie Kimball Ganassi 66 laps
Ho-Pin Tung Sam Schmidt Dragon 63 laps
Tony Kanaan KV 38 laps