SONOMA — There were wrecks in Turn 7, fierce racing on the straightaways and vital tire-and-fuel strategies hatched in war rooms at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday. But the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma — and indeed, the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series championship — might have been decided in the pits, where a controversial incident overshadowed a tumultuous day of racing here.
Australian Will Power won for the third time in Sonoma, but only after the man who had led the race for 27 laps, Scott Dixon, was penalized for making contact with one of Power's crewmen in the pits.
The fun happened when a yellow flag that came out after Josef Newgarden spun off the track in Turn 2 on Lap 63. Dixon pitted, and so did Power, who was running second. Coincidentally, they occupied adjacent spaces in the pit area. Dixon left his space first, and as he exited his back end bumped into a tire being carried by Verizon Team Penske tire man Travis Law.
The impact spun Law to the ground, and as he fell he took out teammate Jeremy Baker, who was carrying an air gun. Dixon also ran over the Power team's fuel hose.
Dixon was still leading the field on Lap 70, gearing up for the final stages of this 85-lap race, when IndyCar race control issued a drive-through penalty for a pit safety violation. That meant Dixon had to exit the course on Lap 71 and cruise through the pit lane under the posted 50-mph speed limit, while the rest of the field whizzed by.
Dixon's chance for victory was stalled. He would finish 15th.
Adding to the intrigue, Dixon came into the race ranked second in the series standings, 31 points behind leader Helio Castroneves — who just happens to be Power's teammate at Penske. A brush fire immediately erupted on Twitter, with outraged race fans claiming that Law had purposely lingered in front of Dixon's car. TV commentators noted that Law had been carrying Power's right rear tire at his side, where it jutted toward Dixon's space, rather than out front.