SONOMA -- That Penske-Ganassi rivalry in the Izod IndyCar Series just doesn't cool off.
After years of seeing Team Penske's Will Power and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti battling tooth and nail for the series championship, a new player was introduced to the fray during Sunday's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
With Scott Dixon, Franchitti's teammate, leading the race and Power running second on Lap 65 of the 85-lap race around the 12-turn, 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway road course, the front-runners came in for their final pit stops during a yellow flag. Upon exiting his pit box, which was directly behind Power's, Dixon made contact with Power's right-rear tire changer, Travis Law.
Law was walking away from his position carrying the old tire. Dixon's left-rear tire struck the tire Law was carrying, sending Law flying into two other crewman.
The cost of making contact with pit personnel is a drive-through penalty. That was enough to doom Dixon to a 15th-place finish and allow Power to win the race.
Dixon also missed out on a chance to take a big bite out of Helio Castroneves' championship lead.
Castroneves happens to be Power's Penske teammate.
In Dixon's mind, Law's actions might be the same as a basketball player trying to draw a charging foul.
"He walked into us on purpose," Dixon said. "That's probably the most blatant thing I've seen in a long time. If you watch most pit guys, they try and get out of the way of other people. . . . If they want to try and win like that, then that's pretty bad."
Team Penske owner Roger Penske was not amused by the insinuation that the season championship had anything to do with the incident, calling such thinking "ridiculous."
"These things are pretty clear in the rule book," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, our guys were doing a job, changing a tire. He picked the tire up and got hit by a car from behind."
IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield said video showed that Dixon's car had crossed into the space allotted for Power's pit stall.
"Ultimately, we have a duty to protect everybody in pit lane," Barfield said. "If we have somebody who uses less-than-great judgment when they leave the pit box and we have an incident, then we have to make a statement by penalizing."
Penske said that there were no injuries.
"As far are we know, the boys are OK," he said. "I'm sure they will be sore tomorrow, but so far, so good."
On a previous pit stop, Dixon said Power's team "made their pit box wide," forcing him to ease off the throttle and allowing Power to beat him out of the pits. On the final pit stop, Dixon said, "We had a good jump on them coming out, then their outside rear guy walked straight into our car, which was pretty strange. I haven't seen bad sportsmanship like that in a long time.
"I could see just out of the corner of my eye someone walking toward me. By that time, it's too late to try to do anything. You can't stop the car or turn any more."
Castroneves came into Sunday's race with a 31-point lead over Dixon. By finishing a solid seventh, Castroneves stretched his advantage to 39 points with four races remaining this season. A race victory is worth 50 points.
Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing finished second and Franchitti was third.
Despite a huge missed opportunity, Dixon hasn't given up his championship hopes.
"It's still achievable," he said. "It's 39 points, but today could have been a big chunk of that. You can't change it now. We'll just have to race hard and try to beat them fair and square."
Next up is the street race in Baltimore this coming weekend. Pit assignments are determined by qualifying results from the previous race. So where does that put Dixon and Power in Baltimore?
"Actually, next week he's behind us," Dixon said.
Contact Darryl Matsuda at 408-920-5215. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/DarrylMatsuda.