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Power’s controversial Sonoma win

Scott Dixon looked like he was on his way to the fifth win in a row this year for Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar team last weekend at the Sonoma road course in Northern California’s wine country. Dixon qualified on the outside of the front row beside team-mate Dario Franchitti and the Ganassi pair led most of the race with Dixon taking control in the race’s second half from Penske man Will Power chased by Franchitti and Justin Wilson in one of Dale Coyne’s cars.

indycar  Powers controversial Sonoma win

As Dixon and Power came in together for their final stops under the yellow with 20 laps to go it appeared that Dixon was going to close to within eight points of championship leader Hélio Castroneves who was running sixth at the time. But as he departed the crowded pitlane Dixon brushed a wheel and tyre from Power’s car being carried by Power’s right rear tyre changer. The collision knocked the Penske crewman off his feet and he tumbled to the ground, spraining an ankle. Two other Penske crewmen also received minor injuries.

On the restart Dixon was given a pitlane drive-through penalty, rejoining in 21st as Power motored home to score his first win in more than a year. Wilson was an excellent second from Franchitti, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay while Castroneves finished seventh. Dixon made it back to 15th at the chequered flag so that with four races to go he trails Castroneves by 39 points. While not impossible, the penalty threw cold water on Dixon’s late-season championship run and he was pretty unhappy about it believing the Penske crewman had deliberately walked into his path to try to slow his exit.

indycar  Powers controversial Sonoma win

“He walked straight into our path,” Dixon said. “He walked towards us on purpose. That’s probably the most blatant thing I’ve seen in a long time. People usually try to get out of the way. That was a bit of a dick move, to be honest. I’m pretty annoyed by that. He was probably trying to get me to try and turn more, but I had a straight line out of the pit and he just walked into me. You look at the people in race control and how they make their calls and the consistency is horrible.”

Winner Power said he didn’t believe he crewman had deliberately walked into Dixon’s car. “I feel bad for Dixon but I can’t count the number of times that sort of thing has happened to us,” Power remarked. “So we’ll take it. My guys have worked so hard and I feel great. I would be very surprised if my guy walked into him. It’s not even worth commenting on.”

IndyCar’s race director Beaux Barfield commented on his decision to penalise Dixon. “Ultimately we have a duty to protect everybody in the pitlane,” Barfield said. “If we have somebody who uses less than great judgement when they leave their pitbox and we have an incident then certainly we’ve got to make a statement by penalising that guy. I feel good with the decision we made and making a statement that we want to keep the pitlane as safe as possible.

indycar  Powers controversial Sonoma win

“There are a couple of different angles that show that he clearly put his left front wheel into Power’s pitbox and that’s where the violation occurred. That made it easy for us to make the call. If you look at risk versus reward of hurting somebody in the pitlane by gaining a couple of tenths of a second leaving the pitlane is not something we’re going to look away from and not penalise.”

Four races remain in IndyCar’s championship. Baltimore’s street race takes place next weekend followed by a double-header of street races in Houston on the first weekend in October. The season closes with the California 500 superspeedway race two weeks later.

At this stage Castroneves leads that championship with 479 points, 39 ahead of Dixon with Hunter-Reay another 23 points behind in third. Marco Andretti runs fourth with 409 points followed by Pagenuad with 380 and Franchitti with 370 points. IndyCar awards 50 points to the winner of each race, 40 points for second and 35 for third with points declining on a sliding scale all the way down the field, non-finishers included.

indycar  Powers controversial Sonoma win

So Dixon’s task in trying to overhaul the consistent but not particularly quick Castroneves is by no means impossible. But it will be a much harder job than it appeared to be prior to his controversial penalty at Sonoma last weekend.

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indycar  Powers controversial Sonoma win

Add your comments

9 comments on Power’s controversial Sonoma win

  1. Keith Collantine, 27 August 2013 09:45

    There’s video of an earlier simultaneous pit stop for the same drivers where Power’s right-rear wheel man does more or less much the same thing and Dixon avoids him:

    I don’t see any suspicious differences between this and the controversial incident which suggests the right-rear wheel man was trying to obstruct Dixon. Given the high potential for personal risk, you have to question whether a pit crew member would do such a thing.

    I can understand Dixon’s frustration, particularly as he had to serve the penalty straight after a caution and therefore lost a lot of places.

    But what he’s alleging seems unrealistic to me, and the penalty is understandable.

  2. Bob Johnson, 27 August 2013 12:31

    I was watching the race until they made that stupid penalty call. I was so mad I turned off the race and it will probably be some time before I watch another Indy Car race. If anyone should have been penalized it should have been the errant crewman.
    Until this happened I was not pulling for either driver, but the penalty was so unjustified and ruined the end of a good race.

  3. Robert Agnew, 27 August 2013 13:05

    Whether the wheel man was right or wrong it was Dixons obligation not to hit him, as far as I could see he made no effort to avoid hitting the man, very dangerous attitude where the consequences could have been very much worse, they should have thrown the book at him

  4. Sandeep Banerjee, 27 August 2013 15:06

    Once again the safety card gets played senselessly. Yea, we get we all want to protect the crewmen but what do you do when the crewman is callous/suicidal like that? Should have penalized Penske for that more than anything.

  5. Kelly Arrison, 27 August 2013 15:15

    I’ll not pass judgement on this pit stop incident. I will say from personal experience that sometimes crew men do indeed try to slow the exit of the car pitted behind them.

    Many years ago I was the right front tire changer for a driver pitted just ahead of Mario Andretti at the Indy 500. As the right front guy I was in charge of signaling my driver out when I determined that the other guys had finished their pit jobs.

    I could see that Mario was just barely going to beat us leaving so, being the wise ass I was, I stepped an extra full step back into pit lane so Mario would have to drive out around me. He launched straight at me, rear tires smoking. All I had time to do was to rock up on my toes to get out of the way, no time to take a step. Mario blasted behind me on the rev limiter and when I rocked back down on my feet his tire marks were an inch behind the heels of my shoes.

    Mario brushed me off. I felt like a fool and never did it again, ever. It’s the crew man’s job to do everything he possibly can to make his driver competitive. It is not his job to hinder another driver in order to affect the outcome of the race.

  6. Al, 27 August 2013 16:54

    Nice honest comment, Kelly; thanks.

  7. JSaviano, 28 August 2013 13:37

    It appears to me that Indycar itself could do a better job marking off the individual pit areas. Watching the replays, it’s hard to see what the “right” position for either Power’s crew or Dixon to be in. They could obviously learn from F1, which has very clearly defined areas. It seems Indycar felt they had to penalize somebody, even if it’s hard to see who was at fault.

  8. The Original Ray T, 28 August 2013 14:13

    This reeks of a political penalty. The crewman is clearly at fault.
    Still a better race than anything in F1 this year.

  9. Ian Taylor, 28 August 2013 14:25

    The penalty was for the result of the infraction.

    The penalty would not have been assessed if Travis had looked and taken the protocol action and avoided the incident.

    So, Now, there is a grey area and the penalty should not have resulted in a possible change in the championship winner.

    There will be another black mark next to Helio’s career if he wins the championship (without winning a race) as he has for winning an INDY 500 when the we all know PT won the race

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