Monday, August 31, 2015

Winners and Losers: Sonoma

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2015 Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma:

Winners

Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon solidified his legend status on Sunday, not that it was ever in question. His come-from-behind championship win gives him four titles in his career. He also secured Chip Ganassi Racing's 100th career win. Really happy for Dixon, who did everything right (win, clean nose, bonus points, etc.) on his way to a title.


Chip Ganassi Racing
Chip Ganassi Racing took Team Penske to school yesterday. While Team Penske looked like a team divided, CGR looked like a well-oiled machine. Dixon was supported very well by Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan, and Sebastian Saavedra. They all did a great job in the last 20 laps (and all racing) at being buffers/supporting cast for Dixon. After the race, all the teammates, including spectator Sage Karam, immediately came and mobbed Dixon with cheerful congratulations. It was a great sight to see a bunch of drivers succeed as one.


Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished out a spectacular second-half of the season with another podium and a large points haul. RHR vaulted past many of his competitors on his way to a P6 finish in the championship. I'm pretty sure at one point this season, RHR was P14 in the championship. What a great comeback for RHR.


Rodolfo Gonzalez
A serious tip of the cap goes to Rodolfo Gonzalez. The often mocked Venezuelan, nicknamed Speedy, came in and saved the day for the #18 Dale Coyne Racing team. His P8 finish vaulted the #18 entry into the Leaders Circle Group, ensuring that Dale will likely be back with two cars next season if more funding his found. While Gonzalez had a lot of help getting in from other drivers of the #18 car this season, his late effort made the key difference. A well deserved shoutout to Gonzo.



Losers

Graham Rahal
The fairy tail ending wasn't to be for Graham Rahal. The embattled American who hasn't had a good season since 2012 had a pretty poor handling car. A late incident put a nail in the coffin, though with Dixon running up front all day, he was virtually eliminated from the get-go. Still, plenty for Graham and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to build on for 2016.


Sebastien Bourdais
Sebasiten Bourdais was given the full Rahal treatment after the race. With under a dozen laps left in the season, Bourdais spun Rahal after a miscommunication heading into a turn. Graham was shot walking past Bourdais after the race. Bourdais began to apologize, but Graham quickly rebuffed him, saying, "You drove like a fuck." Earlier today, Bobby Rahal suggested that the next drivers meeting should be read in French (a slide at Bourdais and fellow Frenchman Tristan Vautier, who took out Graham last week). It was a disappointing end to a pretty good season for Bourdais.


James Jakes
James Jakes finished his anonymous year with a last place finish after a pretty substantial accident. While I have the utmost respect for Jakes as a driver, a disappointing season on the back of three other disappointing seasons means that Jakes street cred' isn't the best among fans and the paddock.


Luca Filippi
Luca Filippi ends a fast yet unlucky year with Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing with a P24 finish. There was some sort of throttle issue with his car, and it ruined his day. He looked fast all year, but random incidents like this derailed his chances at a good result.



Cone of Shame



Team Penske
I had a lot of people tell me that the Cone of Shame should go to Juan Pablo Montoya or Simon Pagenaud or Will Power. Why not the whole team?

Juan Pablo Montoya held the championship lead all season and still could not win in the last race. So, nothing wrong with the race he put in. He kept his nose clean, brought home a P6, and showed skill all season. But Montoya's comments after the race were shocking. He said that, "Dixon had a shit season and one good race." Montoya forgets how much his Indy win, which like Sonoma was also double points, vaulter him into the championship lead. He just acted like a straight douche after the race. Accept the loss with some grace.

Will Power put Montoya in a piss poor position yesterday. While attempting to undercut Josef Newgarden, Power clipped Montoya, damaging both cars and sending them both to the rear of the field. It wasn't intentional nor was it the most disastrous incident Power has committed, but he did make things very tough for the both of them to pass Dixon.

Helio Castroneves once again was absent in the season finale and has once again failed to get a title. Outside the first five laps, Helio's name wasn't even mentioned.

Simon Pagenaud made a serious cock up in the pits. With Pagenaud pitting in front of Power and Newgarden, who were both being serviced, Pagenaud kinda just stopped and impeded Newgarden from exiting. Power gained a small but noticeable track advantage on Newgarden. In my years of watching racing, the guy coming into the pits has the right of way over the guys being serviced. Why Pagenaud just stopped is it a bit appalling.

All-in-all, Penske Perfect was more Penske Implosion on Sunday. They had three out of the five major chances to win the title, and they didn't win it. You could just see the team unity at Ganassi. All Ganassi guys were working to help Dixon. While Dixon was the only Ganassi driver eligible to take the title, Team Penske seems to have this unofficial mantra of "driver first, team second." While it is admirable, they once again fell short to take a title they had squarely in the palm of their hands.



Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

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