Sonoma, Calif. — Scott Dixon surged ahead with three laps left for a victory at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, while IndyCar points leader Will Power recovered from a mid-race spin to finish 10th heading to the season finale.
Power leads teammate Helio Castroneves by 51 points heading to the double-points finale at Fontana on Saturday. Castroneves struggled to an 18th-place finish at Sonoma.
Simon Pagenaud is 81 points back in third after a third-place finish on a wild day in wine country.
Dixon is out of the race to defend his 2013 title, but he grabbed his 35th win after leader Graham Rahal was forced to pit for gas with four laps left. Dixon slid inside Mike Conway for the lead and held on for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, moving him into a fifth-place tie with Bobby Unser for career victories on the circuit.
Rahal and Conway both tried to push to the finish on low fuel, but neither made it. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second, and Takuma Sato was fourth.
“There were so many strategies going on, and they were just slightly off,” Dixon said. “I didn’t know who could make it. … So excited. This is big for our team.”
Power crossed the finish line ninth after a ferocious last-lap push past Justin Wilson, culminating in a thrilling three-wide sprint with Sebastien Bourdais. But IndyCar recorded Wilson in ninth and Power in 10th because of a local yellow flag for the slowing car of Conway, who crawled across the line.
The finish capped a tumultuous day for Power, who started on the pole in his attempt to win at Sonoma for the fourth time in five years. After losing a healthy early lead, Power fell back to 20th with a mid-race spin before charging back into the top 10.
“That was a good recovery there,” Power said. “We had such a fast car, but that’s the way IndyCar racing goes. We maintained the points lead, and we’re going to Fontana. We’ll see what we can do, man.”
Sonoma Raceway was unaffected by an earthquake centered just northeast of the track about 10 hours before the race began. The 6.0 quake left several drivers alarmed, but unharmed.
Power and Castroneves were evacuated from the Team Penske hotel, giving them a sleepless night before driving Sonoma’s difficult road course.
Castroneves’ race was miserable from the opening lap when he sustained damage to a front wing, forcing him to pit under green for repairs. Power had a huge early lead, but Dixon beat Power out of the pits with a nifty move on the 37th lap.
Power then spun himself on cold tires on the first lap after a restart, barely avoiding a significant wreck and even falling behind Castroneves. Power struggled until his tires were replaced, but he kept pushing and gained enough ground to increase the 40-point lead he took into Sonoma over Castroneves.
Rosberg extends lead
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo beat Nico Rosberg to win an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix, while Rosberg extended his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in acrimonious circumstances.
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas was third.
The increasingly strained relations at Mercedes could now get even worse after Rosberg effectively ended Hamilton’s race chances with a risky overtaking move that saw him clip and puncture the Briton’s left tire.
Hamilton retired with five laps remaining after his team noticed some further degradation.
It was a second straight win for Ricciardo after victory at the Hungarian GP last month and the third of an impressive season. The Australian continues to outshine his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was fifth.
Sprint Cup standings
1. Jeff Gordon …845
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. …-27
3. Brad Keselowski …-69
4. Joey Logano …-84
5. Matt Kenseth … -94
6. Jimmie Johnson …-119
7. Kevin Harvick …-124
8. Carl Edwards … -129
9. Ryan Newman …-135
10. Clint Bowyer …-146
11. Greg Biffle …-151
12. Kyle Larson …-177