Montoya leads home Pagenaud in Penske 1-2 at St Petersburg

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Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off the 2016 IndyCar season with victory at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg.

Montoya led home Penske team-mate Simon Pagenaud to claim back-to-back wins at St Petersburg after victory a year ago.

The Columbian used the two restarts to his advantage, forcing his way first past Pagenaud and then an impressive Connor Daly to take an unassailable lead, despite encountering steering problems late in the race.

Pagenaud, who inherited pole after team-mate and poleman Will Power was forced to sit out the race, led the opening 47 lap stint but dropped behind Daly under the first caution – triggered by a spinning Marco Andretti – and lost out to an aggressive Montoya off the restart.

The Frenchman was promoted to second when Daly – running an alternate strategy – was forced to stop again and soaked up late pressure from a charging Ryan Hunter-Reay to secure the runner-up spot.

Helio Castroneves had looked set to complete a 1-2-3 for Penske, but faded in the closing stages, dropping to fourth, behind Hunter-Reay.

After his starring run out front Daly’s race fell apart in the closing stages when he was forced to pit again for a new nose just a handful of laps after his second stop, dropping him to 12th.

Michael Aleshin was an impressive fifth for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, ahead of Takuma Salo and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.

The Chip Ganassi racer had run as high as fifth, but lost time to a lengthy final stop – his crew having to clear his overheating car’s sidepods of debris.

Carlos Munoz came home ninth, despite setting off the second of the race’s two cautions with an overzealous move on Graham Rahal into Turn 5.

Munoz tipped Rahal into a spin, who was then collected by Power’s Penske substitute Oriol Servia, forcing six other cars to a stop and blocking the track.

Tony Kanaan was ninth for Andretti Autosports after running an alternate strategy, with Charlie Kimball completing the top 10.

Ex-Formula 1 racer Alexander Rossi was the best of the rookies, crossing the line 12th, ahead of Daly.

IndyLights champion Spencer Pigot was 15th on his IndyCar debut, with former Marussia F1 racer Max Chilton 17th.

Servia limped home 18th in Power’s car after he was caught up in the Turn 5 melee.

Image courtesy of IndyCar Media 

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Dixon wins thrilling Sonoma finale to secure 2015 IndyCar title

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Scott Dixon won a thrilling IndyCar finale at Sonoma to beat season-long points leader Juan Pablo Montoya to a fourth series title. 

Dixon, entering the final round a distant fourth in the standings, profited from a clash between the Penske team-mates and championship rivals Montoya and Will Power to record his third win of the campaign.

Power actually led the opening 35 laps of the race comfortably, before making his second visit to pitlane under a full course yellow prompted by Luca Filippi, who slowed on track with a throttle sensor problem.

A faultless stop by the Ganassi crew allowed Dixon to crucially jump both Power and Josef Newgarden, with the Australian rejoining ahead of team-mate and title rival Montoya.

Montoya attacked Power off the green flag, only for the pair to collide, the Columbian damaging his front-wing and the latter spinning off the circuit, prompting another caution.

Sebastian Saavedra led briefly under the yellows, as the Penske team-mates pitted for repairs, dropping down to 22nd and 23rd respectively.

The out of sequence Saavedra, Marco Andretti and Oriel Servia, driving the #25 Andretti in place of the late Justin Wilson, all pitted at the end of lap 49, promoting Dixon into the lead for the first time, and handing him the points advantage from Montoya.

Out front, Dixon, with his focus on fuel-saving, controlled the pace during the penultimate stint, pulling clear before his final stop of the year.

The Kiwi looked comfortable out front, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, but all eyes were on Montoya in the closing stages as the Columbian attempted to fight his way back into the fifth position he needed to claim the title.

Contact between Sebastien Bourdais and the struggling Rahal promoted Montoya into sixth, but try as he might, the Penske racer could not catch Ryan Briscoe over the final laps of the season.

As Dixon crossed the line to record back-to-back wins at Sonoma, Montoya was forced to settle for sixth, the pair ending the season tied on 556 points – the title going to Dixon on count back, the Ganassi man with the superior win rate.

Hunter-Reay and Charlie Kimball completed the podium behind Dixon, with Tony Kanaan fourth.

Power recovered to cross the line in seventh, behind Briscoe and team-mate Montoya, to finish third in the drivers’ standings.

Takuma Sato, Rodolfo Gonzalez and IndyCar returnee Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top 10.

Helio Castroneves slim title hopes were dashed early in the race when he was forced into an early stop for a new nose, and the Brazilian came home a lowly 15th.

It was a difficult finale for Rahal, another championship contender, who was swamped off the start, struggled on his penultimate set of tyres, and was ultimately tipped off the track late on by Bourdais.

Image courtesy of IndyCar Media

Power smashes Sonoma track record to claim IndyCar finale pole

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Penske’s Will Power smashed the Sonoma track record on route to pole for the IndyCar season finale.

Power, fourth in the championship going into the final round, beat Josef Newgarden in a closely fought qualifying session to claim his sixth pole of 2015 with a time of 1m16.525s – a new Sonoma track record.

Newgarden set the early pace in the final fast six shootout, heading rival Power by a fractional 0.0006s.

The reigning champion hit back to very briefly snatch provisional pole, only for Hunter-Reay to lap even quicker.

Power went for a third flying lap on a set of new black tyres, finding two-tenths to record his fifth Sonoma pole and claim the vital point that goes with it.

Newgarden was second for CFH Racing, ahead of Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud.

Points leader Juan Pablo Montoya was just fifth, and will be joined on row three by title rival Graham Rahal.

Charlie Kimball was seventh fastest, missing out on a spot in the final shootout by 0.004s.

Marco Andretti finished up eighth, ahead of championship hopeful Scott Dixon, who could only lap ninth fastest after losing 0.4s after encountering dust on the racing line on his red tyre lap.

Sebastian Saavedra was 10th for Chip Ganassi, as Tony Kanaan and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top 12.

Helio Castroneves, who is still within a mathematical chance of the title, albeit 77 points adrift of Montoya in the standings, will start the championship decider from 13th.

Image courtesy of IndyCar Media Service