A year ago at the Grand Prix of Baltimore, race car driver Will Power thought what he viewed as an illegal restart after a late yellow caution flag helped give Ryan Hunter-Reay a win on Pratt Street and ultimately the overall Izod IndyCar championship.
It was one of a "million times" during the past 16 months when the circumstances seemed to conspire against Power since his last victory, in Brazil in April 2011. On Sunday at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Power became the beneficiary of another controversial finish.
A questionable penalty assessed against race leader Scott Dixon of New Zealand after his car brushed one of Power's crew members during a pit stop enabled Power to take the lead and win the Northern California event for the third time in the past four years.
"I had a feeling a win would come my way like this at some point," Power said in a telephone interview with The Baltimore Sun after the race. "I thought, 'When in my life am I going to be handed a win?' At some point it was going to happen."
It gives the 32-year-old Australian a chance to duplicate a feat from two years ago, when he won in Sonoma and then the following week in Baltimore, where Power and the rest of the IndyCar circuit will be headed later this week.
Asked about going from the winding road course in the wine country to a bumpy street course in downtown Baltimore, Power said, "Obviously street courses for us this year have been tough, but it won't be a problem."
There will plenty of discussion heading into Baltimore about what happened Sunday in Sonoma.
The controversy stemmed from an incident that took place after Power and Dixon, the race leader, took their final pit stops. As he left pit road before Power, Dixon's car clipped a tire being carried by Power pit crew member Travis Law.
Law got knocked off his feet by the flying tire and the chain reaction took down the tire changer as well as two other members of the pit crew. None were seriously injured, but IndyCar officials gave Dixon a drive-through penalty — meaning that he later had to drive through pit road at a much-reduced speed.
It cost the red-hot Dixon a chance at his fourth victory in his past five starts and the possibility of closing the gap to less than 10 points behind season leader Helio Castroneves of Brazil. Dixon would finish 15th and was irate with what Power's pit crew had done, accusing Law of doing it on purpose.
"He just walked right into us, that was blatant," an obviously upset Dixon said on the NBC Sports telecast after the race ended. "It was a [expletive] move."
Power said he had yet to see a replay, "but from what I understand, my outside rear [tire changer] runs behind the car to get [the tire] out of the way. My understanding was that he was picking it up to get out of Dixon's way when he got hit."
As for Dixon being assessed a penalty, Power said that IndyCar officials had no choice.
"It's pretty clear-cut. It's in the rulebook — you can't hit somebody [on a pit crew]," Power said. "He was rushing to get out, to beat me out of the pits and he hit one of our crew members. ... [Tony] Kanaan got a penalty last year for touching a rear tire, let alone bowling somebody over. We've got penalties before for just running over a hose."
After the penalty was assessed to Dixon, Power took a lead he never relinquished. He wound up holding off early leader Justin Wilson after a restart following a yellow caution flag that resulted from a three-car pileup with four laps to go.
"That was tight, [Wilson] was close to getting me," Power told reporters covering the race. "He definitely had a good run there, so it was good racing. It's hard racing, I can't believe how many restarts, it was crazy. A very good day. I love wine. Especially when you win."
Since his win in Brazil — the last of three in a row at the time — Power had gone 25 races without a victory and had only one podium (a third place in Milwaukee) this year.
"I learned a lot about myself this year," Power said Sunday night. "I just kept at it, and just stoked for all the guys, all of the guys that make this possible. Living the dream. We've had a lot of hard hits and I'm just happy for all the guys. It's just phenomenal, it's great for our confidence and we're back in our winning ways."
On their way to Baltimore.
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