Sonoma Post-Race Wrap-Up

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Who says you can’t pass at Sonoma? While the front of the field was rather stagnant, as he has done several times this season – Alexander Rossi proved that passing can take place on tracks when other drivers seemingly find it impossible.

For those that did not see  the race, including my brother who is dealing with Hurricane Florence and has been told he will be without power for another week, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race from the pole and Scott Dixon won the championship.

The suspense of the championship ended early when Rossi ran into the back of teammate Marco Andretti just as the field started climbing the hill toward Turn Two. Rossi limped around with a broken wing and pitted for repairs as the remainder of the field was way into Lap Two. He was lucky to get out of the pits before Ryan Hunter-Reay and the rest of the leaders put him a lap down.

Rossi toiled around in the back of the field for the first third of the race, praying for an early yellow so that he could catch up to a bunched-up field. At one point, when Rossi was running in last (twenty-fifth), he was sixty-one seconds behind Hunter-Reay. Max Chilton was running in twenty-fourth and was only twenty-four seconds behind.

At one point, Rossi was a lap down to Hunter-Reay in first place, and Dixon in second. But with a sense of desperation, Rossi unlapped himself from both of them as he was waiting for an opportune yellow flag

On Lap 44, the caution that Rossi had been waiting for finally came, when Graham Rahal pulled off course in Turn Seven. Rossi was able to drive around to the tail end of the lead lap on the restart.

When the restart came, a somewhat boring race suddenly became fascinating. As he did at Phoenix and Indianapolis, Rossi put on a clinic on how to pass when rumor had it that passing was impossible. Before you knew it, Rossi was already up to thirteenth. He then started picking cars off one by one. With twenty laps to go, Rossi was fifth and poised to take the championship in case Dixon faltered. He didn’t.

From there, Rossi had used up his rear tires and he lost a couple of positions to Marco Andretti and Sébastien Bourdais to finish seventh. Here’s a photo of Rossi explaining how it all got away in the post-race press conference.

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Congratulations to Scott Dixon on winning his fifth IndyCar championship. There is no one else in any form of IndyCar history that has won that many other than the great AJ Foyt.

I‘m not sure that people today really appreciate Scott Dixon’s place in IndyCar history and just how good he is. I appreciate the fact that I grew up watching legends like AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser, Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford all compete against each other at the same time. None of us at the time knew how that time fifty years ago would be considered “The Golden Era”. Decades from now, people will look back and tell tales about when they watched the great Scott Dixon race. We need to appreciate the next few years as Dixon continues his legend before our eyes.

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Also, congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay; who led eighty of the eighty-five scheduled laps and totally dominated the race. I always feel sorry for the driver who wins the race when someone else clinches the championship. They are always relegated to the backburner, while the newly crowned champion and the runner-up garner all the attention.

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And finally, congratulations to Alexander Rossi for adding some spice to a race that needed some. Had Rossi suffered enough damage to eliminate himself from competition, this would have been a very dull race.

I also want to give a tip of the hat to Sonoma Raceway. This is a top-rate facility and the staff here could not have been nicer. With this being the last IndyCar race after consecutive races since 2005, they could have taken the approach to IndyCar to “…not let the door hit you on the way out”. Instead, they took the high road and had signs everywhere thanking IndyCar for fourteen great years. I really got the feeling they want a race back, but they couldn’t match the crazy deal that Laguna Seca gave the series. Few places could.

I will have my usual Monday morning Random Thoughts in the morning. This has been a fun weekend. Thanks to everyone who followed along with us this weekend and at all of the races we attended this season.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “Sonoma Post-Race Wrap-Up”

  1. Thanks to both of you for your coverage. It was fun seeing Susan in the winner’s circle with her camera poised. I jumped out of my chair when I realized it was her. And you are right, many do not totally appreciate Scott Dixon.

  2. George, I completely agree that we need to appreciate Dixon for what he has been able to accomplish in winning 5 championships. When you consider that our hero Mr. Foyt accomplished his titles on asphalt and dirt tracks, all of them were oval. Dixon has accomplished his 5 running on three “playing fields:” Ovals, street courses, and purpose-built road courses.

    Even Foyt admits that IndyCars were never meant to run on road courses, which adds, in my estimation, a great deal of luster to Dixon’s titles. He may be the “Iceman,” often considered boring, but he seldom puts a wheel wrong when it counts and Sunday was no exception.

    Although Rossi’s early misfortune essentially clinched the title, somehow, I suspect that Dixon would have managed to finish just where he needed to, even had Rossi escaped unscathed. This above all else makes Scott Dixon the best of this generation.

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