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Power strengthens title bid with second-place finish at Sonoma

The SportsXchange

Sonoma, Calif. -- Will Power is on his way to his first IndyCar championship after finishing second Sunday at Sonoma Raceway as fellow title contenders found trouble.

Helio Castroneves was penalized for running into the back of Scott Dixon on the first lap, Dixon broke his front wing running into Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Hunter-Reay was spun out late in the GoPro Indy Grand Prix by Alex Tagliani.

Power heads to the season's final two races with a 36-point lead over Hunter-Reay, who finished 18th after serving a penalty for running into the back of EJ Viso.

All the penalties came for contact in the reconfigured Turn 7.

Ryan Briscoe won the race, his first victory in the series since the June race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010. He now has seven career wins.

Dario Franchitti finished third with Rubens Barrichello an IndyCar-best fourth and Graham Rahal fifth.

Among the title contenders, Castroneves rallied to finish sixth. Dixon was 13th.

Castroneves was penalized for avoidable contact, dropping him from the fourth starting spot to 21st. Dixon kept the car running, but fell back through the field to 15th.

There also was contact between Tagliani and Simon Pagenaud, whose car suffered a broken front wing.

Dixon also suffered a broken front wing on Lap 45 when he ran into the back of Hunter-Reay in a battle for position. He tried to stay on the track as long as possible but had to come to pit road on Lap 58.

The big crash came on Lap 65. Sebastien Bourdais, the No. 3 qualifier, was in that position when he left pit road. But with cold tires, he got into a battle for track position with rookie Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden got under him heading to Turn 7, sending Bourdais wide, and it appeared that debris got on Bourdais' tires. When he came to Turn 8 he had no control of the car and he veered to the right, through the dirt. The car wiggled, then spun into the path of Newgarden. The contact pushed Newgarden into a tire barrier, a vicious hit for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing machine, which took a secondary hit from Bourdais' car. It was a mess.

Fortunately, Newgarden walked away from the accident. He suffered a left index finger injury.

It was during that exchange that Power, who was on pit road at the time of the crash, lost the lead to Briscoe. Power, who dominated the race, should have been able to circle the track and be ahead of Briscoe as he pitted, but Power had to slow up for the lapped cars of Charlie Kimball, Sebastian Saavedra and Justin Wilson. As a result, Briscoe beat him off pit road.
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