Hunter-Reay Takes Sonoma Win; Dixon, Honda Claim Indy Car Titles
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay dominates Sonoma for second win of 2018
  • Scott Dixon claims record-tying fifth IndyCar Series title
  • Honda wins 11 races, 2018 Manufacturers’ Championship

Ryan Hunter-Reay led 80 of 85 laps to win today’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma season finale, while Scott Dixon finished second to secure a record-tying fifth IndyCar Series Drivers’ Championship.  Honda’s 11th race win of 2018 cemented the company’s seventh Indy car Manufacturers’ Championship since 1994.

Starting from the pole, Hunter-Reay dominated the 17th and final round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, turning over the lead only during routine pit stops to score his second win of the year, and 18th career Indy car victory.

Dixon, who came into the season finale leading primary rival Alexander Rossi by 29 points, was content to shadow Hunter-Reay throughout the contest, with his second-place result more than enough to claim the title and tie the legendary A.J. Foyt as the only drivers with five career Indy car championships.

Throughout the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Dixon demonstrated remarkable consistency, finishing sixth or better at 14 of the 17 rounds, including race victories at Detroit, Texas and Toronto.  His 44 career victories is tops among all active drivers, and ranks him third on the all-time Indy car win list, behind only Foyt with 67 and Mario Andretti with 52.

In all, Honda teams and drivers posted 11 victories in 2018, clinching the company’s seventh championship in competition with other manufacturers.  For the second consecutive season, all five Honda teams scored at least one victory in 2018, and multiple race winners in addition to Dixon included Rossi with three wins, and Hunter-Reay with two.  Additional race wins were scored this year by James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato.

Rossi’s championship efforts appeared to be blunted when he collided with teammate Marco Andretti on the opening lap.  The contact resulted in a damaged front wing and tire, leading to an unscheduled pit stop for repairs at the end of the first lap.  He resumed, but at the tail end of the lead lap, and briefly went a lap down to the leaders mid-race.

But a caution flag on Lap 43, the result of Graham Rahal stalling on course, gave Rossi and his Andretti Autosport team the opportunity they needed.  Having regained the lead lap and pitted for a set of softer-compound “Red” Firestone tires just prior to the yellow, Rossi restarted in 11th position when the green flag waved again on Lap 49.  He rapidly advanced through midfield, gaining five positions in the next six laps to move into seventh.  Rossi gained two more positions, to fifth, by Lap 70. However, the rapid pace took a toll on his tires, and Rossi’s challenge ended as his lap times increased, and he faded in the closing laps to finish seventh.

Social media content and video links from this weekend’s Honda IndyCar Series action at Sonoma Raceway are available on HPD’s Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/HondaRacing_HPD) channels.  Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, YouTube video packages can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.

This weekend’s race concludes the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series.  The 2018 season gets underway on March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport Honda) started first, finished first, second race win of 2018, 18th career Indy car victory: “This is a great win for the team.  The #28 DHL Honda boys did a great job, the car was awesome.  Great to get a win to finish off the year.  To end this way is unreal.  I want to dedicate this win to Robbie Wickens.  He’s fighting hard [to recover from injuries suffered at Pocono last month].  We’re one big community, one big family, and we’re all with him. We wish he was here [racing], I’m sure he would’ve made my life a lot harder today out on the track.  Congratulations to Scott Dixon.  What can I say about that guy?  He’s a five-time champ, it’s unreal.  It’s absolutely amazing what he’s accomplished in this era of racing.  To share the track with him is awesome, and to beat him today [for the race win] is even better.”

Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started second, finished second, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion, fifth career IndyCar championship, tying A.J. Foyt for most titles: “It’s all about the people.  I’m the lucky one that gets to take it across the line, but this doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. I’m just stoked for Chip [Ganassi] and everyone.  This is mega, mega.  I can’t thank everyone enough: the team, my teammate [Ed Jones], a huge thanks to [new sponsor] PNC coming on this year, Honda’s been amazing, my family, everybody at home, and especially my wife, Emma.  I’ve got to thank the other teams, Penske and Andretti, that we fought hard with throughout the season. [Alexander] Rossi did a hell of a job, he’s been pushing so hard this year.  He’s a huge talent, and one that’s going to win many championships throughout his career.  Man, this is so awesome, I can’t believe it’s happened.”

Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport Honda) Started sixth, finished seventh, second in the Drivers’ Championship [on the collision with Marco Andretti just after the race start]: “I don’t know. I mean I got a good start, and I don’t know if he lifted, or if I misjudged it.  It is what it is.  It was going to be tough to beat Scott [Dixon] anyway.  This #27 NAPA Honda team did such a good job; it’s unfortunate for it go out like that.  The team did a great job to get me back on the road to recovery after the mistake that I made.  At the end of the day, obviously, you’ve got to be disappointed to come out second, but we have lots to build on for next year.”

Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on Honda’s championship-winning 2018 IndyCar Series season: “What a great way to cap off a fantastic season: finishing 1-2 once again.  Eleven wins, spread out through our five teams, is a true testament to the great partnership between HPD and all of our teams.  Ryan [Hunter-Reay] had such a great drive to finish the season, which bodes well for St. Petersburg next year.  Alexander [Rossi’s] inspired drive previews why he is a future champion of our sport.  Congratulations to Scott [Dixon] for his fifth championship.  He is truly the class of our generation.”

Verizon IndyCar Series Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Circuit: Sonoma Raceway (2.385-mile road course), Sonoma, Calif.
2017 Winner: Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) 104.968 mph average
Weather: Sunny, warm, windy, 77 degrees F

Top-10 Race Results:

Fn. St. Driver       Team Manufacturer Laps Notes
  1.   1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda   85    99.440 mph average
  2.   2. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 85 2018 Series Champion
  3.   7. Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet 85  
  4.   8. Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Chevrolet 85  
  5.   4. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda   85
  6. 11. Sebastien Bourdais DCR with Vasser-Sullivan Honda   85  
  7.   6. Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Honda   85
  8.   3. Josef Newgarden Team Penske Chevrolet 85  
  9.   5. Patricio O’Ward-R Harding Racing Chevrolet 85  
10. 14. Ed Jones Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 85

Other Honda Results

11. 20. Santino Ferrucci-R Dale Coyne Racing Honda   85 Running 
14. 10. Zach Veach-R Andretti Autosport Honda   85 Running
15. 15. James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Mtspts Honda 85    Running
16. 13. Pietro Fittipaldi-R Dale Coyne Racing Honda   85    Running
17. 16. Jack Harvey-R Meyer Shank Racing Honda 85    Running
18. 22. Carlos Munoz Schmidt Peterson Mtspts Honda 85    Running
23.   9. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda 66 Running – delayed
25. 12. Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda 15    Did not finish – mechanical
News Reporter