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Monday, August 23, 2010

IndyCar Race Review: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Just like last year, a single driver dominated yesterday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, the road course finale for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. What made this particular win special for that driver, however, were the circumstances surrounding it.

Will Power's fifth win of the season (all on road courses) came on a track where his career was put into serious jeopardy, after a freak accident in practice severely injured his back and prematurely ended his 2009 season. The win served as a victory parade for this year's winner of the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy, an honor he clinched two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.

Unlike Dario Franchitti last year, Power did not lead all 75 laps of the event; Scott Dixon, who finished second, led two laps in the middle stages of the event. But nobody really had anything for Power, who had won the pole and stretched some huge leads early on in the race.

While a top five completely populated by Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing cars doesn't suggest the most unpredictable or exciting of races, some of the action a little deeper in the field was more than exciting enough to keep the most jaded of fans interested.

Dan Wheldon's race ended before it began, with accidental contact from Bertrand Baguette at the start sending the No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara-Honda upside down in a wreck that almost looked like it came out of a video game. It was Wheldon's first DNF since St. Petersburg earlier this year, as well as his first finish outside the top 20.

Simona de Silvestro had an interesting day as well. First, contact with Alex Tagliani cut the Canadian's tire down, and then she nearly sent Raphael Matos upside down as well with an aggressive move early in the race. Finally, E.J. Viso ran into her not long after, spinning her out. De Silvestro continued on, eventually winding up 13th.

Hometown hero J.R. Hildebrand and 2006 race winner Marco Andretti got together on lap 37, ending Hildebrand's day. Not too long after, Andretti got into Mario Moraes in the same corner, eliciting a reaction from fans aware of the drivers' history with one another.

The final caution of the day came when Baguette, Matos, and Viso got together with under ten laps to go. Viso's KV Racing Technology car was able to continue on, marking only the fourth race all season where each of that team's cars finished the event. Baguette and Matos, however, were done for.

Dixon put the pressure on at the final restart, the drivers matching presses of the Push to Pass button, but the Australian managed to extend his lead once again. Francesco Dracone stalled in the final corner on the final lap, leading to a local yellow that brought down Power's margin of victory considerably, but the rule against passing during a local yellow, combined with the proximity to the start-finish line, ensured that Dixon would not have a chance to go by.

Franchitti was third, with Power's teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top five.

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