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News from INDYCAR: Runner-up Sonoma finish is more than enough for Dixon to earn fifth INDYCAR championship

Runner-up Sonoma finish is more than enough for Dixon to earn fifth INDYCAR championship

SONOMA, California (Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018) – Ryan Hunter-Reay knew what he had to do to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma. Scott Dixon knew what was needed to wrap up a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Hunter-Reay led 80 of 85 laps at Sonoma Raceway in a commanding performance to win the 2018 season finale from the pole position. Dixon started second and finished there, which was more than enough to secure the season crown.

“Man, this is so awesome!” said Dixon, whose five championships leave him behind only another legend, A.J. Foyt with seven, in Indy car annals. “I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool!”

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA: Official results

Dixon entered the race with a 29-point lead, knowing he essentially only had to finish ahead of second-place Alexander Rossi in the double-points race. When Rossi damaged the front wing on his car and punctured a tire in first-lap contact with teammate Marco Andretti, it tipped the scales clearly in Dixon’s favor. From there, the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was content to trail Hunter-Reay and bring home the crown that earned Dixon another Astor Cup and $1 million prize.

“The whole race I was thinking about things that were out of our control, cautions that were going to flip the field,” said Dixon, whose 44 race wins rank third in Indy car history. “None of that happened.

“It was a very smooth race, but mentally it was tough and draining. Yeah, it’s amazing to be in this situation, fifth championship. What this team has achieved, I’m a very small piece in that whole wheelhouse of what’s going on at Chip Ganassi Racing. I feel very lucky to work with the people that I do.”

With the achievement, Dixon moved ahead of Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti – each of whom has four titles. All of Dixon’s championships have come in his 17 seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, which laid claim to its 12th Indy car driver’s title.

“He’s the guy on the track, off the track,” team owner Chip Ganassi said of Dixon. “If you take a piece of stone, inject some brains into it, chisel it out, it’s Scott Dixon. He’s just the man.

“When you talk about records – A.J., Mario, all these guys – obviously Scott’s name is in that group now.”

Rossi dropped to last place in the 25-car field following the Lap 1 incident. But much like the Andretti Autosport driver did all season, he charged back in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda to finish seventh. It left the 26-year-old Californian 57 points short of Dixon in the quest for his first series championship.

“It was unfortunate because I thought we got a good start,” Rossi said of the contact with Andretti heading up the hill in Turn 1. “Just two cars going for the same spot type of thing.

“At the end of the day, the (No.) 27 NAPA team did an amazing job of getting us back to a point where we could at least be in contention if something did happen to Scott. I knew it was probably a 1 percent shot at getting anything done at the end of the day. I just tried to attack it, move up as many positions as we could.”

Hunter-Reay commanded the race on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course from the outset, surrendering the lead only briefly through pit stop cycles. When the driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda crossed the finish line, he collected the 18th win of an Indy car career that began in 2003. It moved the Andretti Autosport driver into sole possession of 26th place on the all-time Indy car wins list.

“It was nice to go from pole (to) win, lead the most laps, the whole thing,” Hunter-Reay said. “That’s an ideal race. May not be the most exciting thing for the fans at times, but from a race car driver’s point of view, team owner, race team, it’s the ideal race.

“Felt like the race just didn’t want to end,” Hunter-Reay added. “I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front. Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leapt out to a lead (and) I was able to maintain that.”

Hunter-Reay won by 2.7573 seconds over Dixon. Will Power finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to secure third in the point standings. Hunter-Reay ended up fourth in the championship, with Josef Newgarden fifth following his eighth-place race finish.

Patricio O’Ward, the newly crowned Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut, was one of eight rookies in the field and finished ninth in the No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet.

The 2019 IndyCar Series season will again consist of 17 races, opening for the ninth straight year with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. The schedule includes a visit to a new track, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 24; the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California, on Sept. 22; and is anchored by the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma results

INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma results

Click HERE to view and download the official race results of the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

SONOMA, California – Results Sunday of the Verizon IndyCar Series event INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running

2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running

3. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running

4. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running

5. (4) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running

6. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running

7. (6) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running

8. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

9. (5) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running

10. (14) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running

11. (20) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running

12. (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running

13. (25) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 85, Running

14. (10) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running

15. (15) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

16. (13) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 85, Running

17. (16) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running

18. (22) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 85, Running

19. (23) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running

20. (19) Colton Herta, Chevrolet, 85, Running

21. (21) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running

22. (24) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 76, Running

23. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 66, Running

24. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 38, Mechanical

25. (12) Takuma Sato, Honda, 15, Mechanical

Race Statistics

Winner’s average speed: 99.440 mph

Time of Race: 2:02:19.1667

Margin of victory: 2.7573 seconds

Cautions: 1 for 5 laps

Lead changes: 5 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Hunter-Reay, Ryan 1 – 15

Newgarden, Josef 16

Power, Will 17 – 18

Hunter-Reay, Ryan 19 – 61

Power, Will 62 – 63

Hunter-Reay, Ryan 64 – 85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 678, Rossi 621, Power 582, Hunter-Reay 566, Newgarden 560, Pagenaud 492, Bourdais 425, Andretti 392, Rahal 392, Hinchcliffe 391.

“What They Are Saying” from INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma

INDYCAR: ‘What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was not a great day. It really all started with the first pit stop. We just had a mistake in trying to get out and I stalled it. It kind of ruined the whole day from that point there on. It was tough to recover after that.  I think we had a lot of potential today and we could have contended for the win, but it was too hard to come back.  It was a great season and a lot of great moments for the whole team and myself. We just have to work to be a little stronger next year and go for the championship and the Indy 500.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): ” I think this race basically sums up our season. It was a pretty tough season for everyone, not just the No. 4 car, but for the No. 14 car too. Everyone worked very hard and we tried very hard but sometimes we just couldn’t put everything together. We just didn’t have the pace. It’s a shame because all the engineers, the mechanics and the drivers deserve better results. As we’re going to stay together as a team for 2019, we must: concentrate and try to do a better job, try to do a better off-season and figure out what is going to be better for us next year. It was a tough race for me. Unfortunately, I had a drive-through penalty due to the contact on the restart. I think the penalty was not fair – if the leaders go and then they back off, everyone knows what happens when you are running in the back [accordion effect], but I just couldn’t do anything to avoid the crash and I hit Carlos (Munoz) and he spun, unfortunately. But we just didn’t have the pace again and we struggled a lot with the old tires. We’ll keep working hard and better days will come for sure. Big thanks to my team, my sponsors, ABC Supply, Al-Fe, Sherwin Williams and INDYCAR for the great season. I’m looking for a good season in 2019.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Obviously not the day we wanted. We actually had a pretty solid race going until our last pit stop. There was some anomaly with the engine or gearbox or clutch – not quite sure which yet – it caused the car to stall, so we dropped from ninth down to 18th. We fought back what we could in the remaining laps, but it’s disappointing because the team did a better job than that today on track, in the pits, with the car. We just didn’t have the results to show for it. At the end of the day, the 2019 season started the second the checkered flag fell and we’re already all eyes forward and focused on hitting the ground running in St. Petersburg. Thanks to the SPM team for all the hard work all year. Thanks to Arrow Electronics and all our partners. It’s been an up-and-down year, but we’ve won as a team, we’ve lost as a team, and we’ll come back stronger next year. #GetWellWickens.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Tough race for the Lucas Oil car. It’s a pretty tough track to overtake. I think when we finally got going, I passed a few cars and I was up to P14. Then on the restart, someone hit me in the rear, I spun and lost a lot of positions. The hit broke my gearbox and I had to run the rest of the race in emergency mode which cost us a lot of time. Not how I wanted to finish for sure. Really thankful to everyone at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – the mechanics, the engineers, everyone on the team have been so great to me. Wishing a quick recovery to Robert (Wickens) and hopefully, he’ll be back at it in no time. For sure we wanted more out of today, but that’s racing.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet): “It was a really great weekend, we learned a lot. We qualified the car fifth and we ended the race ninth. As a driver, you want to stay in your qualifying position or get better. But I think for a first try, especially with a super long race with three or four pit stops that was a job well done. I’m really satisfied, and I just want to get better for next year.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):  “ I can’t thank everybody enough – the team, my teammate (Ed Jones), everybody involved. This doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. We had a lot of grit. We had a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong today. Huge thanks for PNC coming on this year, it really stepped up the team. Honda’s been amazing, so many people at NTT DATA, our technical partner, too. I’ve got to thank the other teams, too, that we fought hard with – Penske and Andretti – throughout the season. Rossi did a hell of a job, he’s been pushing so hard this year. He’s a huge talent and one that’s going to win many championships throughout his career. I’m just stoked for everybody. And Chip, this is mega, man. They’re 12th (championship).” (On how he drove after Rossi’s early mistake): “We were just making sure we weren’t getting ourselves in an awkward place throughout the race that they could capitalize on. Nobody’s ever out. Until we got to the last (pit) stop and were full to the end, even then I could see him moving up on the pylon. Man, this is so awesome! I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. You always feel these situations so much that it’s never going to happen. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a really good race for the No. 12 Verizon team.  We had a really, really fast car. I think if we would have started farther up front, we would have had a chance to win.  It was a good year though,.Roger (Penske) got his 500th win today. We won the Indy 500.  We won the 200th INDYCAR race for Team Penske. We won the Brickyard 400. Just couldn’t get the championship here.  But overall, it was a good year for Team Penske.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I’m happy with my performance. Tried a couple different things this weekend and finally, I think we found a direction to work on over the winter to make the cars better. It was a great start, I had a lot of fun. It was a fun weekend celebrating my 300th consecutive start. I was really amazed by how many people came by to congratulate me even a lot of the drivers I raced against. Coming into the weekend and to be honest I didn’t really think much about it. I didn’t think it was that much of a big deal, but as the weekend progressed I was realizing more and more what it is. It’s one of those things I don’t think I’m going to really realize it until 10 years down the road and you look back with all the names that I mixed with and people that won’t maybe beat that record and it will probably be even more enjoyable. You know it was a difficult year for us at AJ Foyt Racing but we’re coming back. We have the whole winter to think about what we did right and what we did wrong, fix it and come back stronger.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 TOTAL Honda): “What happened in the race was our year in a nutshell. It was obviously disappointing to have the race end how it did. The guys did a great job and the Total car was pretty good in the race. We lost power. We had a battery that exploded unfortunately and that cost us everything. It was a very disappointing and frustrating day. I will say this though, we have had a hard year, but I don’t think I have ever been as proud to work with a group of guys as I am this year. These guys never quit. They focused on doing the best they could, at all times, and busted their butts. I know this is a great sign of things to come.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “We had to play the long game. It was a day where the tire degradation was really high and the stints were long. We pitted early when everybody freaked out with some apparent oil on the track, which I didn’t see. After that, it was going to be long stints the rest of the way and the tires were struggling. We just did what we had to do. At the end of the day, it worked out and we finished seventh in the championship, which was the goal today. So, I’m really happy with the result. Thanks to the SealMaster guys, thanks to all our sponsors and let’s all do it again next year.”

PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “I’m disappointed with our result. Our No. 19 Paysafe car was fast; we were running in the top eight at one point, but we just pitted too early and we had to save fuel until the end of the race. We lost a lot of positions because of that. We had to go with our biggest fuel save number, so that was unfortunate, but I also gained more experience in fuel saving. We still finished, but I think we had a car to finish in the top 10 today if things had gone differently.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The first couple of laps were uneventful really. I kind of wanted something to happen, but nothing really did. It was really kind of follow-the-leader, which was a bit rubbish. I managed to get past (Max) Chilton, which then kind of started my race really. I was able to catch the group in front of me, but I was still down at the back of the field. We were on blacks (Firestone primary tires), everyone else was on reds (Firestone alternate tires). We short-stopped the first stint and managed to jump a load of people. We had a really good couple of stints on red (tires) to gain track position and made it up to midfield. It was tricky at that restart, we almost crashed into about six people. There was so much going on. There’s a couple of war wounds on the car but it was good fun. It was one of those races where you had to dig deep into your box of magic tricks and work out how to drive fast but save fuel, save tires but overtake people, save fuel but not get overtaken. I enjoyed my last few hours of the season! Finishing 13th doesn’t look great but considering where had had to come from, the very back around a circuit that’s hard to overtake, we did a pretty good job.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It was a very unfortunate way to end the season with a gearbox issue that took us out of the race today. We had a pretty solid first half going and were able to make our way up. We had passed a handful of cars and it was looking like another comfortable top 10 for us. Unfortunately, we left a lot of points out there. We definitely learned a lot this year and we’ll be putting our heads together in the offseason to come back even stronger next year.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Yeah it was a good day: definitely competitive, we definitely unlocked a lot of secrets. I think we cracked the code this weekend on the car and what I needed so we were much more competitive that we’ve been on the road course and it felt good. It felt fun. We had great battles on track. We played the tire strategy and fuel strategy really well. The team, Kyle Moyer (race strategist) and Ben Bretzman (engineer), did a fantastic job with that. My pit crew were phenomenal again, as they’ve been all year long. We couldn’t have done much better because we were saving fuel midway through to the end of the race. I’m satisfied with it. It was a good race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “It’s too bad we had a mechanical problem today. I can’t complain about the preparation of the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet from the team, the mechanical issue was just out of their control. All year the team has done an incredible job, even today our pit stops were on point. It was a hard day out there today. I think we’re still missing something in the grip and platform window, but now we at least have a year’s worth of data to learn from and be even better next season. A huge thanks to the whole Carlin team, Novo Nordisk, and everyone who supported us this season.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group 1001 Honda): “It was a really tough race for us. We got hit on the start and that damaged our undertray quite a bit, so we were running around with a few hundred pounds less downforce. That made the car very difficult to drive and then trying to make up for that damage – pushed a little too hard and made a mistake. That kind of ended our race, putting us a lap down. I’m frustrated in myself. I should’ve been a little more patient in what we had.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Hats off to the whole No. 27 NAPA Team. It was a great day for Andretti Autosport with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) winning. It’s very unfortunate what happened in Turn 1 on Lap 1. It’s a situation I’m sure we’ll all replay a lot of times but, at the end of the day, it’s been a good 2018 and I am very appreciative for all the support we’ve had this year. We came pretty close and we’ll work on the things we need to be better on and come back stronger next year. (Scott) Dixon’s the benchmark. He’s the five-time champion for a reason so he deserves it 100 percent and we’ll work very hard to come back and try to beat him next year.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda):    “Today was great. I felt like the race just didn’t want to end. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front. Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leaped out to a lead. I was able to maintain that. Hats off to this team, DHL, AutoNation, Honda – everyone involved. Honda really gave me great drivability, reliability. The Firestone tires were great. Shout out to Kerry Doughty, CEO of Butterball, fighting cancer at home right now. His name was on the side of our car today – this is a special win for him and we’re honored to have him with us in spirit. Also, a big shout out to Robbie Wickens – I want to dedicate that win to him and his fight. It was great to see the video message from him today and, hopefully, he will be back with us as soon as possible.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “I think we had a good start and were moving up on the track. We overtook three cars, so it was looking really positive at the start. I felt the car was strong and the strategy looked good. Graham and I were on the same strategy but we both were looking really good, so I was positive but unfortunately, we had a mechanical failure, so we had to stop. It’s a pity to finish the season like this especially for the boys who worked so hard the entire season. Of course, we had a good highlight two weeks ago, but we wanted to carry good momentum into 2019. Having said that, it was a good day for myself and the team as we announced we were together again next year. The last race in Sonoma is disappointing but there is a great feeling for next year.  We will work hard on development over the winter and come back strong for 2019. Thank you very much to the entire team. I enjoyed the year.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 39 Cly-Del Honda): “That was probably the most difficult race of my career. I can’t thank my No. 39 Cly-Del crew enough for giving us what was an unbelievable race car. We drove 85 laps with a throttle to fuel system error that not only made us use excessive fuel, but I also had to figure out how to ‘re-drive’ the car using the clutch in the slow corners because the engine wouldn’t idle. The team also did an awesome job with the pit stops, I really wish we got that T\top 10 but this felt like a bit of a win for us today.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “We were obviously hoping for a better result this weekend for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, but I’m proud of how this team came together this weekend and really all season. This whole weekend has been tough, and the race was a difficult one, but we had much better pace in the second half of the race. That’s a big positive that we can take into next season and it’s even more data we can use here and at other road and street courses next season. Thank you to Carlin and everyone at Gallagher for making this first season such a good one.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation SiriusXM MSR with SPM Honda): “Overall I think that we had a lot of great moments in the year, but I don’t think we ever got the result that we potential did have or that the team deserved. This weekend has been a struggle. Even though today clearly wasn’t my best day, if you look at the year, as a whole, I really have to thank everyone from Meyer Shank Racing and SPM (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports). And without AutoNation and SiriusXM, neither of us would be able to get to be here, so really the biggest thanks go to them. I’m optimistic and hopeful that next year we will do more races and have more opportunities to get a better result.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “This weekend was a good experience. I’m not too happy with the result, but I’m happy with how my debut went and the pace that I showed. There are sure some things that I can work on going into the offseason. I had an amazing time. Thank you to Harding Racing, Mike Harding, Team Chevy and Firestone. Can’t wait to see if we can do it again in St. Pete.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “I’m very pleased to be this quick on a road course here. Not a bad finish for the last race at Sonoma, I would’ve liked it to have gone a bit better. I think if we went with (Firestone) reds early on I think we could have kept (Simon) Pagenaud behind us. (Alexander) Rossi was amazingly quick and we tried to make it easy on him out of the pits and give him a shot. It was pretty cool of them, they knew I gave them the position, and they gave it back there at the end, so we were able to come out with a top five. Congrats to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) for closing out the year with a win. We’re ready for 2019.”

News from INDYCAR: ‘What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma qualifying

What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma qualifying

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s disappointing it (the lap time) wasn’t enough. I thought our Verizon car was really quick and I was excited for the Firestone Fast Six. I thought that was where we would shine, and then when you get there and finish third, you’re a bit disappointed. We’re just going to try to work on our race car now and do well there. If (running fast all race) is what we get to do, that will be fun. I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, just because I haven’t fully looked at the strategy yet, but yes, if we are on the go-quick-all-day game, that’s a good day to be in the race car.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a tough qualifying for the ABC Supply car No. 4, we just missed the pace today, the whole weekend, to be honest. We were trying a different setup for qualifying, but it didn’t work very well for us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re going to debrief with the team, see what Tony (Kanaan) tested, see what he likes, what he doesn’t and focus on tomorrow’s race. We might have a shot to have a great race tomorrow. It’s the last one of the year, so we’ll try to finish on a high note.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We needed to improve with the wind going this direction, unfortunately. Yesterday, it was a complete 180 from the way it’s blowing – we just don’t have the car sorted for that. With the Firestone reds (alternate tires) the way they are, it’s kind of one and done on the laps and I made a couple small mistakes. With the field being this competitive, you just can’t afford to do that. I feel bad for the Arrow Electronics guys, we should be starting further up than that. It’s definitely been a struggle this weekend. We’ll put our thinking caps on and see what we can do to make it better tomorrow.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I’m a little disappointed with my qualifying run. I made a mistake that cost me a few positions. This track is a really important track position kind of track, but we’ll do our best tomorrow. Hopefully with our strategy, we’ll have a little more pace on our long runs in the Lucas Oil car. We’ll fight it out tomorrow.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet):
“I think it’s pretty cool. I honestly don’t know what to think about it. When I saw that I moved into the Firestone Fast Six, I saw (Josef) Newgarden, (Scott) Dixon, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (Marco) Andretti, (Alexander) Rossi, such big names, you’ve been looking at them for years and years and years, since I was a kid. Scott has been racing for a long time. I think even before I started my open-wheel career, Josef was already in INDYCAR. Basically, everybody here was already in INDYCAR. It’s just something unique. It’s something that you have to start believing that you can be like them, that you can beat them, that you can give them a run for their money. It’s a new feeling. I really don’t know what to think about it. I couldn’t be more stoked for the team. I’m really happy I got to give them their first Firestone Fast Six. Harding and Team Chevy have given me an awesome opportunity so far. The focus this weekend has been, obviously, to do a good job. My objective was always just to be in the top 10, so it was an objective succeeded.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):
“I think we definitely had a shot to put the PNC Bank car on pole today, but we’ll have to chalk that up to driver error. I had a lap going that would have gotten the pole, but I just made a mistake and it cost us. Congrats to Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti (Autosport) on the pole, though. We’ve had a fast car all weekend here at Sonoma and we’ve stayed at the pointy end of the field since we unloaded. Hopefully, that will continue in the race tomorrow and we can finish the season strong.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we’ve had pace in the NTT DATA car all weekend to be in the top eight or so. And potentially, if things went our way, we could have been in the Firestone Fast Six. It’s just super frustrating. We had a car that was fast enough to progress and get through qualifying.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It wasn’t the right call to do one lap in that session. We did two laps on the first set (of tires) and we were trying to do it in just one lap in the second session and the guys called me in. And, of course, we should have done two laps because the guys went faster behind me. It’s really no one’s fault because I was pushing to just do it in one lap, as well. It wasn’t just a good lap. It’s unfortunate. We will look ahead to the race and see what we can do from seventh.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was the lap of my life. It’s a shame you do such a good lap with what you’ve got and you start where we are. I’m not saying I’m happy where we’re starting, but I’m happy that we found something that we can work on for tomorrow and during the offseason to make this car better. But, I’m also happy that I really put a good lap together, that is satisfying for me (personally). It’s nice when I can make the difference. That’s why we’re a team, if the car’s not there, I can make the car go there. It was my best lap of the weekend and one of my best qualifying (laps) ever. Not the (best) result, but putting a perfect lap together. That’s a shame because sometimes it doesn’t mean that the perfect lap that you put together will be the fastest lap on the racetrack, but it’s the fastest lap of your limits and what you had in your hands. We’ll keep fighting. I don’t give up, that’s not in my vocabulary. I’m not giving up.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 TOTAL Honda): “I think we found some good improvements between Rounds 1 and 2 that helped the Total Honda. We still have a little bit of work to do. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. Without a morning warmup, I think there will be a lot of drivers and teams scratching their heads wondering what to do. We certainly didn’t have three-plus-tenths (of a second) to advance, but to be ninth was decent. I expect both tires (Firestone alternate reds and Firestone primary blacks) to fall off a lot, so we’ll see. I don’t know which one will be preferred. Actually, I thought the reds were going to be, but then in qualifying from lap to lap, you can feel the rear tire degradation a little bit whereas the blacks don’t seem as bad.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “On the blacks (Firestone primary tires), the SealMaster Honda No. 18 is pretty solid in comparison to everybody else. On the red (Firestone alternate) tires, we simply don’t have it. The gap to the guys in front is big. We also got caught in traffic. There were just too many things wrong for us to make it today. We’ll take a look at the data and see what we can come with for tomorrow.”

PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “We had a test on Thursday and practice yesterday and our No. 19 Paysafe car was competitive on both days. The conditions are always changing here at Sonoma Raceway, especially the wind, it changes direction a lot. Coming into qualifying, we had a lot of tail wind, mostly in the heavy braking zones, which made it tricky for everyone. The track temperature was also a lot hotter than the morning, so we knew it was going to be tough. That said, I think we put in a decent qualifying effort, qualifying seventh in our group, so we’ll be starting 13th tomorrow. Our goal was to make it to Round 2 and we were very close in doing so, but it just wasn’t our day today. We’re always making progress and now we need to focus on tomorrow, and hopefully, we can come out of it with another solid top-10 finish.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It was quite tricky really. We seemed quite strong, but starting our run on reds (Firestone alternate tires), we had a problem somewhere. We’re just plugging into the car, trying to work out exactly what happened. We had to come into the pits, so I didn’t get to set a lap time on reds. I think we were going to be close to the cutoff time. It’s annoying when you can be inside the top 10, but you end up last. Tomorrow, it’s going to be a long race. I think it will be quite physical; the circuit seems quite demanding. It’s going to change a lot as the race goes on. Running both Firestone compounds, the black (Firestone primary tires) and reds, will be a balancing act on how you set up the car and how you drive. There are going to be a lot of variables.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet):
“We were trying to change the balance from this morning to get the car more where needed it to be, but we didn’t quite hit the nail on the head, unfortunately. We haven’t done more than a handful of laps each outing, so the race will be a bit of an unknown. Hopefully, we can keep the tires underneath us and have a good, consistent car. It will be a tough starting position for the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, but it’s a long race. We’ve got a great team here and we’ll try our best to make our way up tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “We’ve made great progress this weekend and today, for sure. I’ve found my smile again. I haven’t been that happy on road courses all year long and we’ve made mega progress. I’m really happy with the car in general. Now, it’s just that last bit of time that is on the table. Now it is all about the little details to get just a little bit more and that is very satisfying. We are very strong in race pace as well, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. There is going to be a lot of tire degradation and it’s going to be an interesting race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “We really struggled with grip there on the Firestone alternate (tires), so we’ll evaluate that. Tomorrow is going to be a very different beast the way the track grip and tire degradation is, so 85 laps and trying to make the fuel mileage work for the whole race is going to be quite interesting. The engineers will figure out what we need for the car tomorrow and we’ll go racing.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group 1001 Honda):
“I’m a little disappointed to be starting 10th. I think we definitely had a car to be starting a little further up. I didn’t get the clean lap we needed. That’s why Sonoma is so tough – you get one lap to really do it and that’s about it. I just made a small mistake going through Turn 2 on the fast lap and that’s what solidified our fate. But, I know we have a good car and we’ll keep pushing and move forward tomorrow. I think this season has really helped me understand how the whole process works a little better – getting timing, making sure you have the right gap and have the car set up properly for the reds (Firestone alternate tires). I think we were just a little too aggressive for the reds today. Comparing where we were in St. Pete to Portland and here, I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made this season.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda):
“I don’t think going out on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) was the right call, but we’re trying to stay aggressive and trying to capitalize in areas where we think we can. In the end of the day, I don’t think we had the pace for Ryan (Hunter-Reay), but we decided to try something different and see where it got us. This race is 85 laps. It’s pretty difficult to just do one lap around here, let alone 85, so we’ll make sure we build a good race car. I don’t see us starting behind (Scott) Dixon that big of an issue, we just need to make sure we build a good race car and make sure we do the best job that we can and extract the most out of the No. 27. It will be difficult without the warmup tomorrow. It’s a little bit of a guessing game, but my engineer, Jeremy (Milless), missed his daughter’s birthday for this, so happy birthday! We’ll make sure we make the right decisions to have a fast race car. We have really good teammates around us and in front of us, so we’ll lean on them to help build a fast car for tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a shootout out there right to the last minute with trying to figure out which tires to go with, but the Firestone reds (alternate tires) were just awesome in the Firestone Fast Six. This No. 28 DHL Honda team did just such a good job putting a great car under me. It’s nice to finally get that pole at Sonoma because we’ve been knocking on the door for it for years, so definitely a good team effort.” (On helping his teammate’s championship efforts): “I’m certainly doing my part, as I just took away a point from (Scott Dixon), so we are doing everything we can do. Big group effort from all four Andretti Autosport cars. We just put our heads together and made a fast race car today. And yes, we would be in title contention today if we didn’t have five DNFs, but all in all, though, a pretty positive season. We’ve been in contention everywhere we go, so hats off to these guys putting a great car under me and I was able to put a lap together when it counted.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “Qualifying provided a mixture of feelings. In Round 1, the car reacted how we expected, but when we put the red (Firestone alternate) tires on, the car was not quite there. In Round 2, we struggled with the balance. It was very close, but I just didn’t get good grip out of the tire. I wish we had a higher starting position, but I think tomorrow we will be strong for the race and hope we can gain back some positions.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 39 Cly-Del Honda): “We had a top-six car for qualifying. I was working a really good lap at the end, but the wind caught me a little off guard and I locked the rears and lost the car going into the last turn and it cost us a shot at (Round 2). There’s not much else to say. I want to say thanks to the crew and the team for providing me an awesome car. We will just have to pass a lot more cars than we were hoping to tomorrow. I think our Cly-Del Manufacturing car will be good in the race. It’s going to be about being smart and moving up the field, keeping our head down and making up spots and hopefully a few yellows (flags) go our way.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “That was a really frustrating session because we felt like we’d made a step forward. I hit traffic on my first run which compromised our warmup lap, which meant I didn’t have the tire temperature I needed. On my second run, the car felt better, but it just didn’t quite come together. This really isn’t a reflection of where we should have been today.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation SiriusXM MSR with SPM Honda): “That qualifying run was probably representative of where we were in practice. The competition is so high when you get to this level. At this track, you really have to produce when everything is good because when it’s not good it just makes it that extra bit harder. The guys are working really hard and continue to engineer the car well for me. We just haven’t quite stumbled upon that combination just yet. As always, we are working as hard to put our AutoNation / SiriusXM car up front. We have a lot of guests here, so we want to put on a great race for them.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “I just finished up my first Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying session. I was kind of a nervous wreck beforehand.  Once I got in the car and got situated, I felt a lot more comfortable and just tried to progress each and every session. I had a fairly clean lap and didn’t make any mistakes, so I am happy with my lap on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), just missing a little bit. A tenth would have got us in the Firestone Fast Six, (or) fast 12. It’s just so close in Indy car racing, and if you make that slight little mistake, you are not going to do well. I think our pace on old tires has been good, so I can’t wait to get into the race and see how we do.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “I think this U.S. Concrete team did a really good job with staying with the track. We learned a really tough lesson on (Firestone alternate red tires) yesterday; we were 16th. We were able to get within a tenth-and-a-half, but that’s not good enough. When (Scott) Dixon sent it off (during the Firestone Fast Six), I thought that was my shot at pole because he would’ve lost his laps, but that wasn’t in the cards. Luckily Ryan (Hunter-Reay) stole the point from (Dixon).”

News from INDYCAR: Hunter-Reay wins pole, points leader Dixon starting second at Sonoma finale

Hunter-Reay wins pole, points leader Dixon starting second at Sonoma finale

SONOMA, California (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018) – Ryan Hunter-Reay ignored the hype surrounding the battle for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship and set about the task at hand: winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

The Andretti Autosport veteran won the pole position for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma with a dramatic last lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the climactic round of knockout qualifying. Hunter-Reay blasted around the Sonoma Raceway road course in 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds (110.605 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda to earn the first starting position for Sunday’s season finale.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA: Official qualifying results

In doing so, Hunter-Reay also prevented championship leader Scott Dixon from earning an important bonus point awarded to the fast qualifier. Dixon still takes a 29-point lead over Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi into the race that offers double points. Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden also remain mathematically alive in the title chase, each 87 points behind Dixon, as the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be decided at the last race of the season for the 13th straight year.

But qualifying belonged to Hunter-Reay, who picked up the seventh pole position of his Indy car career and first since Long Beach in April 2014.

“This (No.) 28 DHL Honda team did just such a good job putting a great car under me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s nice to finally get that pole at Sonoma because we’ve been knocking on the door for it for years, so definitely a good team effort.

“I’m certainly doing my part (to help Rossi); I just took a point away from Dixon, so we’re doing everything we can do.”

Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, will start second after a lap of 1:17.7599 (110.417 mph). Dixon is chasing a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship that would leave him behind only A.J. Foyt (seven) for most season titles in Indy car history.

“I think we definitely had a shot to put the PNC Bank car on pole, but we’ll have to chalk that up to driver error,” Dixon said. “I had a lap going that would have gotten the pole, but I just made a mistake and it cost us.

“We’ve had a fast car all weekend here at Sonoma and we’ve stayed at the pointy end of the field since we unloaded. Hopefully that will continue in the race (Sunday) and we can finish the season strong.”

Rossi, Power and Newgarden will all be within arm’s reach of Dixon when the green flag drops on the 2.385-mile permanent road course hosting the season finale for the fourth straight year. Rossi will start sixth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (1:18.0019, 110.074 mph) after opting for Firestone black-sidewall primary tires in the Firestone Fast Six instead of the traditional choice for softer red-sidewall alternates.

“I don’t think we had the pace for Ryan, but we decided to try something different and see where it got us,” Rossi said.

“I don’t see us starting behind Dixon (as) that big of an issue. We just need to make sure we build a good race car and make sure we do the best job that we can and extract the most out of the (No.) 27.”

Reigning series champion Newgarden qualified third in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:17.7937, 110.369 mph). Teammate Power qualified a season-worst seventh in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:17.6495, 110.574 mph). It’s the only time this season that Power did not advance to the Firestone Fast Six on a road or street course.

“We unfortunately should have gone another lap (in Round 2),” said Power, the 2014 series champion. “We were trying to save our tires for the Fast Six, but it was just a bad call. Unbelievable when you think about our qualifying record this year, but that’s how it goes.”

The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma pays 100 points to the winner, with 80 for second place and sliding down to 10 points for 25th position. Dixon clinches the championship by finishing ahead of Rossi and in no lower than 21st place.

Rossi could lay claim to his first title under numerous scenarios finishing ahead of Dixon, the simplest by winning the race and Dixon placing third or worse without collecting the two bonus points for leading the most laps. For Newgarden or Power to win the championship, they must win the race, have Dixon finish no better than 24th (and not lead the most laps) and Rossi finish no better than 10th.

Marco Andretti reached the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2018, qualifying fourth in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. Andretti won the pole for the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in June under a single-session, group-qualifying format.

Patricio O’Ward, the recently crowned Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut, continued to impress by advancing to the Firestone Fast Six and qualifying fifth in the No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet (1:17.9737, 110.114 mph). It is the best qualifying effort for Harding Racing in its first full-time season.

“I honestly don’t know what to think about it,” O’Ward, the 19-year-old Mexican, said when he realized the company he was in. “When I saw that I moved into the Fast Six, I thought, ‘Newgarden, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi – such big names, you’ve been looking at them for years and years and years.’

“It’s something that you have to start believing that you can be like them, that you can beat them, that you can give them a run for their money. It’s a new feeling.”

Live coverage of the 85-lap race, including the post-race championship presentation, begins at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Sonoma practice finds championship contenders bunched together & ‘What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma practice

SONOMA, California (Friday, Sept. 14, 2018) – Practice day at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma did little to suggest a favorite among the four remaining contenders for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. After two practices Friday in preparation for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, points leader Scott Dixon was third on the…

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Circuit of the Americas joins 17-race schedule for 2019

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018) – INDYCAR released its 2019 schedule today featuring 17 events, a newly announced race and a new event finale. All the action will be showcased in INDYCAR’s first full season with NBC Sports Group.

Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will make its debut on the IndyCar Series schedule on Sunday, March 24. It will be the second race of the 2019 season.

“COTA is one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world and Austin is a happening city. This a natural fit for the IndyCar Series,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Indy car racing has a large and passionate fan base in Texas with a hunger to attend more races. This added date will allow us to deliver both oval and road course events to the state in a single season.”

INDYCAR recently announced a four-year agreement with Texas Motor Speedway, which has hosted 30 Indy car races since 1997. The 2019 race on the Fort Worth superspeedway will be Saturday, June 8 under the lights.

Circuit of the Americas founder and chairman Bobby Epstein said the track’s fan base has been excited to see INDYCAR race at COTA “from Year 1.” The permanent road course opened in 2011. At more than 3 miles, COTA will be the second-longest circuit on the 2019 INDYCAR schedule, behind only Road America (4.048 miles).

“It’s going to be spectacular,” Epstein said. “Our entire team at COTA is excited to welcome the teams, drivers and visitors to our great city, and we know Austin will give them a warm welcome.”

For the ninth consecutive year, the IndyCar Series season will kick off in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday, March 10. The 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in the Gulf Coast city includes a runway of Albert Whitted Airport. St. Petersburg first hosted Indy cars in 2003 and has continuously since 2005, providing the perfect warm-weather backdrop to usher in the new season.

INDYCAR’s 2019 season concludes Sunday, Sept. 22 with the championship race at the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which has hosted 22 previous Indy car races, the most recent in 2004. The permanent road course near Monterey, California, was last the site for an Indy car season finale in 1996.

The centerpiece of the 2019 schedule again includes two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the INDYCAR Grand Prix will be held for the sixth time on the road course, on Saturday, May 11. The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on the historic 2.5-mile oval will take place Sunday, May 26.

A focal point for INDYCAR has been maintaining date equity with racetracks. The 2019 IndyCar Series schedule accomplishes that with a pair of minor exceptions for good reason:

  • Barber Motorsports Park’s event shifts two weeks forward to Sunday, April 7. That early April date was the slot that the scenic permanent road course in Birmingham, Alabama, held on the schedule for the first four years of its nine-year run to date;
  • Iowa Speedway returns to a night race at the overwhelming request of fans on Saturday, July 20. It moves back on the calendar by two weeks. Next year’s IndyCar Series race will be the 13th on the bullring oval in Newton, Iowa.

Proof of INDYCAR’s track diversity lies in the 2019 schedule that features races on seven permanent road courses, five temporary street circuits and five ovals. Other schedule highlights include:

  • The Grand Prix of Long Beach returning for the 36th consecutive year (Sunday, April 14). Outside of the Indianapolis 500, the event on the iconic Southern California street circuit is the longest running in the sport;
  • Detroit is the site of the season’s only doubleheader race weekend (Saturday-Sunday, June 1-2). It will be the seventh time that two Indy car races will be contested on the same weekend on the temporary street course;
  • The streets of Toronto, another popular staple event, returning to the schedule (Sunday, July 14). The urban street circuit in the cosmopolitan Canadian city has been home to 34 previous Indy car races dating to 1986;
  • Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, returning for another late-summer race under the lights (Saturday, Aug. 24). Officials at the 1.25-mile oval recently staged a second straight impressive event in the sports-hungry St. Louis market.

“INDYCAR has worked to deliver a consistency and cadence to the schedule and that is reflected again in 2019,” Miles said. “We’ve added races at a pair of tracks that know how to put on fantastic events, while returning to tracks where INDYCAR has longstanding relationships on familiar race dates.

“The diversity of next year’s schedule will continue to make what we believe is the most challenging and competitive championship in motorsports.”

Nearly half of the 2019 races will air on network television as part of a previously announced multiyear media rights deal with NBC Sports Group that will significantly increase INDYCAR exposure. Broadcast times will be confirmed later, but eight races, including the Indianapolis 500, will air on NBC. Nine races will be on NBCSN, with all track activity and additional exclusive content available on NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer product that will bring subscribers closer to INDYCAR racing than ever before.

The complete 2019 IndyCar Series schedule is as follows:

Date: Track
March 10: Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida
March 24: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
April 7: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
April 14: Streets of Long Beach, California
May 11: INDYCAR Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
May 26: 103rd Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval
June 1: Streets of Detroit, Race 1, Detroit, Michigan
June 2: Streets of Detroit, Race 2, Detroit, Michigan
June 8: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas*
June 23: Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
July 14: Streets of Toronto, Canada
July 20: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa*
July 28: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio
Aug. 18: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Aug. 24: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Illinois*
Sept. 1: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon
Sept. 22: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, California
(*-night race)
(Schedule subject to change)

As Sato wins at Portland, Dixon recovers to retain points lead

Takuma Sato went to victory lane in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland, but Scott Dixon felt like a winner, too. Alexander Rossi had mixed feelings.

Dixon salvaged what could have been a disastrous points day relative to the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by finishing fifth. Rossi had bad luck of a different kind but managed to scramble back to finish eighth, losing just three points to Dixon, the leader in the season standings.

GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND: Official results

One double-points race remains: the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16. Dixon and Rossi are the primary contenders for the championship, separated by 29 points. Team Penske’s Will Power and Josef Newgarden lurk in mathematical contention, with each driver 87 points behind Dixon.

Dixon was among those collected in a first-lap crash in Turn 3, but somehow avoided serious damage to his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the incident precipitated by the spin of James Hinchcliffe after contact with Zach Veach. That led to Marco Andretti’s car flipping over the top of the cars of Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones. No one was injured and Dixon’s car emerged relatively unscathed. Dusty, but unscathed.

After making a pit stop to check for car damage under the full-course caution from the incident, Dixon used a two-stop strategy and fortunate timing with mid-race cautions to get a little more points breathing room for Sonoma. The only thing that went wrong for him was a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 39, but he overcame the drive-through penalty for that as well.

“It was a huge day for the team, and (it) feels like a win for us,” Dixon said. “The point (separation), whatever it is, is not a huge amount.”

Dixon couldn’t explain how his car wasn’t damaged in the five-car pileup.

“I couldn’t see anything once I got off in the dirt,” he said. “There was just dust everywhere. Then I kept getting hit and hit (by flying debris) and I thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be good.’ Luckily, we were able to keep the PNC Bank car running, back up from the incident and continue.

“What a crazy day.”

Dixon’s clearest path to a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship is to finish first or second at Sonoma Raceway, where the winner earns 100 points and second place pays 80.

Rossi, who went with the expected three-stop fuel strategy Sunday, led a race-high 32 laps in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda but ended up on the wrong side of the caution flags.

“It’s one of those days; we had a fast car,” Rossi said. “Our tire strategy was going to plan and everything was good until the yellow came on Lap 56 (when Andretti Autosport teammate Veach spun off course). It hurts a lot and hopefully it’s not something that costs us the championship.

“We just have to rebound and move on from it and know that it’s something that’s out of our control. Now it’s time to refocus and be ready to attack (at) Sonoma.”

The road for a Team Penske driver to win the series championship for a third straight year became more difficult. Power endured a host of trouble in the 105-lap race and finished 21st, while Newgarden settled for 10th place.

Power was the Verizon P1 Award pole winner on Saturday and led the first seven laps before suddenly losing pace due to a gearbox issue in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. His day also included sliding into the Turn 12 tire barrier and a pit-road speeding penalty. Eventually, the gearbox failed.

“Man, it’s a tough sport,” the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner said.

Sato, in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda, held off Ryan Hunter-Reay for his third career victory and first since the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Sato is the eighth different driver to win a Verizon IndyCar Series race this season.

The margin of victory for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver was 0.6084 of a second over Hunter-Reay, with Sebastien Bourdais third.

“Look at the fans here in Portland, so enthusiastic,” said Sato, who started from the 20th position. “I think this is one of the most beautiful days in my life again.”

Timing of the full-course cautions allowed Sato and others to benefit. With Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball placing sixth and seventh, respectively, three of the top seven finishers started 20th or lower in the 25-car field.

The race marked the return of Indy car racing to the Pacific Northwest for the first time since 2007. The community’s welcome was impressive with a large crowd lining the 12-turn, 1.964-mile permanent road course.

The 2018 season finale, the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma, airs live at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 16 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Mazda Road to Indy race recap

The Mazda Road to Indy development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR completed its 2018 in all three levels with doubleheader weekends at Portland. The second race in each series took place Sunday.

  • Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport) capped a dominating Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season weekend the season by adding Sunday’s race win to the one he secured Saturday. He finished with nine victories for the season and a 44-point margin over teammate Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) in the final standings. The start of this race saw a six-wide approach to Turn 1, with pole winner Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) absorbing race-ending damage from contact with other cars. Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) finished second.
  • David Malukas (BN Racing) won his third race of the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires season. He finished 3.5 seconds ahead of series champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing).
  • Kyle Kirkwood, who wrapped up the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship a month ago for Cape Motorsports, tied JR Hildebrand’s 12-year-old record for series race wins in a season (12) by completing a Portland sweep. He held off Rasmus Lindh (Pabst Racing) by 1.98 seconds.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Grand Prix of Portland race

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a tough day. I don’t know what else to say. We led some laps and I think we had a Verizon Chevrolet that was good enough to win it. It just didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict these INDYCAR races. I wish we could get Lady Luck on our side one of these days. It just seems to walk away from us as of late. (Scott) Dixon – he was able to take advantage of it today. Those guys are having a great year and luck falls on their side. Now, we will just go and try and win the season finale and do what we can. I don’t think we have much of a shot at the championship. We’ve given it a good effort here at Team Penske and you can’t ask much more out of the team.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Another tough race for the ABC Supply car. Today, the first two stints were pretty good for us. I think we had the pace since the beginning and I think we could have finished in the top 10 for the first time this season, but the yellow came out at the wrong time for us, so we had to change strategy. It kind of screwed us a little bit. I think the most important thing is that we managed to develop and improve our road course car and I’m looking forward to Sonoma now. I think we did a great job here as a team. Each time we are on the track, we are just getting closer to the other teams, getting a little bit faster. We just have to keep working hard and I think our time is going to come sooner than we thought. Good job for Tony (Kanaan), too. I think we still need to find some pace, but we are going to get there eventually.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Obviously a pretty disappointing day after a promising start. It was a kind of classic first lap deal – Zach (Veach) didn’t leave me enough room on the inside of Turn 3 there and we got forced on to a pretty big curb. It kicked the car sideways and I’m obviously sorry for the chain reaction it set off and ruined a lot of guys days. Ultimately that’s racing. That’s not what we want and I’m glad everyone’s OK. Tough break for the crew, the Arrow Electronics car was really good on Saturday and I think we were going to have good pace in the race, but these things happen. We’ll put our heads down, regroup and try to end the season strong in Sonoma.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Great to finish the weekend without any mistakes, bringing home the Lucas Oil car in one piece. I think we deserved to finish a little more in the front. The yellow in the middle of the race when we had blacks (Firestone primary tires) didn’t help us a lot. The restart also didn’t help us… I was on blacks, everyone else was on reds (Firestone alternate tires). During the race, our car was great – we had the fastest lap time of the race. I obviously wanted more, but we’ll see how it goes in Sonoma. Hopefully, we’ll be even better.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a huge day for the team today and feels like a win for us. The points, whatever it is, is not a huge amount. I couldn’t see anything once I got off in the dirt at the start, it was just dust everywhere. Then I kept getting hit and hit and thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be good.’ Luckily, we were able to keep the PNC Bank car running, back up from the incident and continue. What a crazy day.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It looked like (Zach) Veach and (James) Hinchcliffe were side-by-side going into Turn 2 and Veach just turned right into him like he wasn’t there. He didn’t give any room and it caused a huge shunt. I’m OK, but really disappointed for the NTT DATA car. I had someone fly over my head and they maybe even nicked my helmet. I’m just glad Marco Andretti was OK and no one got hurt in all that. We had a strong car yesterday and hoped we could have been up there in the race today.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think on the warm-up lap before the green, something happened to the gearbox. It jumped to neutral, I went into emergency mode and made it go into gear and thought, ‘OK, that’s all right.’ Then, coming out of the hairpin on the first restart, it popped into neutral again and everyone behind me went past. Then, I realized I couldn’t use first gear. We were on a reasonable strategy and I made a mistake trying to keep (Matheus) Leist behind me. Then, the gearbox completely went. I’m not sure the gearbox would have made it the whole race, anyway. But man, it’s a tough sport. It’s too bad because it was actually going to be a reasonable day. We were on a path for two stops, but that’s racing. Now, we just go to Sonoma, have fun and win. And hopefully, have a good day, have a good finish to the year.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Some good points today in Portland. Apparently, we had (an air) gun issue during our pit stops that cost us time on the last two stops. I don’t think we had the pace that guys in front of us had, but we managed to make some good passes, save fuel whenever we had to save fuel and almost got a top 10. After starting at the back of the pack, we’ll take it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “I couldn’t see anything in front of me. Obviously, I’m disappointed for One Cure. We were hoping for a strong day. I don’t know what happened in front of us, but it was a cluster. I couldn’t see anything and I had nowhere to go. We made it through Turn 1 and 2 and I thought ‘Hey, clear sailing here’ and then bam. From what I hear, it sounds like (Zach) Veach just put Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) up on the curb, which is pretty unfair. As you can see Dixie (Scott Dixon) doing behind us, you can run two-wide through there no problem. I’m disappointed. A lot of guys were driving aggressively, which is OK, but we’ve got to give each other room.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Gorilla Automotive Products Honda): “It’s been a roller coaster ride all weekend for the No. 18 Gorilla Automotive Products – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan team. We qualified really well after recovering from probably one of the biggest hits I have ever had on a road course. Three hours after the crash, the car is back together and I put it there near the top in qualifying. So, I start fourth, get swallowed up in the incident at the start, cycled to the back, then cycle to the front and finish third. These races are never over. I can’t thank my crew enough for what they have done this weekend. Just an amazing effort from the whole team. I am super proud and thanks to Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) for putting all this together.”

PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “The race went really well. The car was very fast all throughout the weekend in practice and qualifying, so we knew we had the pace. It’s a tough place to pass here, so coming into the race, we knew it was going to be about strategy and being consistent and trying to get clean air to get track position, and that’s what we did. My whole No. 19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing crew did an amazing job on the pit stops and my engineer Mike Cannon did a great job calling the strategy. I’m really happy with the result. I had issues getting up to speed quickly on the restarts because I couldn’t get the brakes hot enough, so unfortunately, I lost some positions there. I also had no more overtake at the end, so I really had to stand my ground and we did that. I’m really happy with today’s result.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The race got off to a really solid start. I was overtaking people, shifting shapes, really cracking on. I had made it all the way up to P3 behind Alexander Rossi and was having good fun racing with him. Then the yellow came out and turned everything around. It was really unlucky timing, as we were heading for a strong result. Fortunately, we’ve got Sonoma in two weeks’ time, so I’m looking forward to getting back in the car.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I’m really happy to end up fourth with the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet team. The start was kind of crazy. From starting 17th, I found myself up to 8th after Turn 1. That was a welcome surprise. After that, we had a few good stints and were able to pick off a few guys here and there, then the yellows fell in our favor. Right from the get-go, even on blacks (Firestone primary tires), the car felt good. We had a lot of reds (Firestone alternate tires) saved up and were able to put them to good use.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think it was a fantastic recovery from the whole No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team. It was phenomenal, the strategy that we adopted. We got a little bit lucky with some yellows (flags), too, but before the yellows we came to the eighth position from 22nd, so really good job by all my guys. We still have some progress to make on the car, but overall, from a tough qualifying day yesterday, we recovered really well and that’s what racing is about.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “This Carlin team just doesn’t have any give up in them – they don’t know the meaning of the words. I’m proud of these guys, they just stayed with it all day. They worked the fuel strategy, gave me the fuel numbers and lap times that I needed and we were able to get it with the car. We made a pretty significant change to the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet overnight and it really helped our pace throughout the race. I just can’t stress how proud I am of these guys. Yesterday was pretty frustrating and disheartening, but they didn’t let it slow them down today. We had great pit stops and a great strategy, so all I really had to do was drive it into the top 10.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group 1001 Honda): “It was a really tough race. We made contact on the start as we made our way up to fourth and that damaged our undertray quite a bit. Because of that, we were running around with a few hundred pounds less downforce and that made the car very difficult to drive. We were trying to make up for that damage and just pushed a little too hard and made a mistake and that ended our race putting us a lap down. I’m frustrated in myself – I should’ve been a little more patient in what we had.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “It’s one of those days. We had a fast car. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was really quick out front and we were able to build a seven-second gap. Our tire strategy was going to plan and everything was good until the yellow (flag) came on Lap 56. It hurts a lot, and hopefully, it’s not something that costs us the championship. We just have to rebound and move on from it and know that it’s something that’s out of our control. Now, it’s time to refocus and be ready to attack for Sonoma.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We gave that one away. The DHL car was the car to beat today. We had the right fuel, but we had some miscommunication on pit lane. I was saving fuel as Takuma (Sato) came out of the pit lane and so I didn’t attack. That miscommunication probably cost us the race. I’m pretty bummed right now. I know we had a car to win and all day long. I tried really hard to save that fuel and made the fuel mileage the stand was requesting, but couldn’t pay off for it in the end.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): 
“This is big. Fantastic weekend. Obviously, with the couple of hard, physical weekends, especially at St. Louis (Gateway), we did save fuel and it didn’t work, but you have to keep on going and this time I think the fuel strategy worked really well. Most importantly, the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic car had pace so I could commit. Looking at the fans here in Portland, so enthusiastic, I think this is one of the most beautiful days in my life again.”

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “The main goal was to finish and we completed that today. We had a good strategy going into the race. In the beginning, I battled some issues with my radio, but I was able to fix it. I think I was also pushed out wide a couple of times, so we lost some positions there. Overall, I am happy with finishing on the lead lap. I want to thank the Juncos Racing crew for all of their hard work and my family and friends for being here to support me.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 39 Cly-Del Honda): 
“The No. 39 Cly-Del Manufacturing car was on rails today. We lost a couple of positions at the start because I had to shortcut the chicane, but we made the positions back on the first stint of red (flag conditions). We had a long stint and had really good pace. On my third stint, we went back out on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and we moved up the field again and were fighting for a spot in the top five. However, that’s when we had a fuel system issue that cost us a possible top-10 finish, if not better. I feel bad for the guys, but they did an amazing job throughout the whole weekend and I can’t ask for more. We’ll come back stronger in Sonoma.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “All in all, it was a really enjoyable day. We were racing hard and we were racing good guys. We had a great start at the green flag, great restarts and we led that last restart well. We were able to keep Josef (Newgarden) and (Alexander) Rossi behind us when they didn’t need to be fuel saving, so we had the pace. Strategy went our way at times, but when it really counted, it just went completely against us. We were on for a top-seven finish all day and we weren’t up there just by luck. Unfortunately, with how the strategy worked out and how the yellows fell, it just wasn’t in the cards for us, but that’s racing.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation SiriusXM MSR with SPM Honda): “The beginning of the race went really well and we cycled out well after that first restart. Unfortunately, after that, we caught every yellow at the wrong moment. This weekend we made so much good progress, it’s a bit disappointing how the race played out. During the first stage of the race, we were legitimately running top six and holding it, but then the end result ends up not showing it. Hopefully, we can take a few days to reset and take the positives from this weekend and bring them to Sonoma.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “We had a clean race through the start and I managed to pick up a bunch of positions, running inside the top 10 for a good part of the day. We struggled a bit on the black (Firestone primary) tires, so we lost a few positions on track when we were running our stint. We still managed to be in a good contention for a top-10 finish. On the last restart, I had a good run on TK (Tony Kanaan), he just didn’t give me any room and I ended up in the grass while trying to defend the next position. After that, I had to give up that position, as well. We have been improving the car all weekend and all year, so although 13th is not fantastic, it shows progression, which is good.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 MilitaryToMotosports.com / Curb Honda): “I’m really lucky that when (I was upside down), nobody else hit me. That would’ve been bad, but it looked like the seas were about to part for me. As soon as I backed off for Hinch’s (James Hinchcliffe) spin, I think Graham (Rahal) got into the back of me – at least that’s what he and I discussed. (Rahal) didn’t see Hinch spin and I did, so when I backed off, he got into me. I almost thought we were going to make it through Portland Turn 1 – which we did. It was Turn 2 that got us, though.”

Grand Prix of Portland Results

PORTLAND, Oregon – Results Sunday of the Grand Prix of Portland Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 105, Running
2. (5) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 105, Running
3. (4) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 105, Running
4. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 105, Running
5. (11) Scott Dixon, Honda, 105, Running
6. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 105, Running
7. (25) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 105, Running
8. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 105, Running
9. (16) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 105, Running
10. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 105, Running
11. (24) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 105, Running
12. (14) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 105, Running
13. (21) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 105, Running
14. (19) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 105, Running
15. (12) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 105, Running
16. (13) Jack Harvey, Honda, 105, Running
17. (23) Alfonso Celis Jr, Chevrolet, 105, Running
18. (15) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 105, Running
19. (6) Zach Veach, Honda, 104, Running
20. (18) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 101, Running
21. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 98, Running
22. (7) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 76, Running
23. (10) Graham Rahal, Honda, 4, Contact
24. (8) Ed Jones, Honda, 0, Contact
25. (9) Marco Andretti, Honda, 0, Contact

Race Statistics

Winner’s average speed:
102.971 mph
Time of Race: 2:00:09.7537
Margin of victory: 0.6084 of a second
Cautions: 4 for 18 laps
Lead changes: 9 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Power, Will 1 – 7
Rossi, Alexander 8 – 27
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 28 – 32
Power, Will 33 – 36
Rossi, Alexander 37 – 48
Newgarden, Josef 49 – 56
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 57 – 70
Sato, Takuma 71 – 74
Chilton, Max 75 – 84
Sato, Takuma 85 – 105

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 598, Rossi 569, Newgarden 511, Power 511, Hunter-Reay 462, Pagenaud 428, Wickens 391, Rahal 378, Bourdais 369, Hinchcliffe 361.

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