SONOMA -- On a chaotic Sunday when the outcome of a race and its implications on the season championship took more twists and turns than the serpentine Sonoma Raceway road course that served as the stage, the ultimate results weren't too surprising.

Scott Dixon, who ended his winless drought with a last-to-first drive at Mid-Ohio at the start of the month, continued his strong finish to 2014 by claiming victory in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. And Will Power, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader, extended his points lead.

But the manner in which those feats were accomplished made for a very entertaining and unpredictable afternoon.

Dixon, who scored his 35th career victory to match Bobby Unser for fifth place on the all-time list, drove a perfect strategy that capitalized on the fuel deficiencies of Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal and Mike Conway.

"It was tough," Dixon said. "There were so many strategies going on, and they were just slightly off. I didn't know who could make it and who couldn't."

With Dixon running fourth and good on fuel heading down the stretch of the 85-lap race, he saw the three drivers ahead of him either pit or adjust their driving styles to stretch mileage. Kanaan needed to pit on Lap 73 from third place. Rahal was next to fall, pitting from the lead with three laps to go. Then Dixon moved into first when he passed Conway, who was in conservation mode.


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Conway eventually ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted over the finish line in 14th place.

Power, who entered the race with a 40-point championship lead over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, looked as if he would virtually clinch the title in wine country, where he is a three-time winner. He dominated the early stages of the race, then nearly threw everything away when he spun in Turn 7 and fell to the back of the field. The mistake by Power was unthinkable.

"It was such a shock," he said. "I thought someone hit me, we went around so quickly. But that's racing."

Power rallied to a 10th-place finish, eight spots ahead of Castroneves, and actually stretched his points lead to 51.

The season finale Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway is a 500-mile, double-points race. Technically, five drivers still can win the championship. Sunday's second- and third-place finishers, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud, are 92 and 81 points behind, respectively. Dixon trails by 103.

But thanks to Power's comeback -- he was as low as 20th place Sunday -- he's still in control with one race to go.

"It was a good recovery," Power said. "We maintained the points lead. Now we go to Fontana with a lot of points on the table. We'll see what we can do."

  • The IndyCar event was not affected by Sunday morning's 6.0-magnitude Napa earthquake, but a few drivers were shaken up.

    The Team Penske trio of Power, Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya had to evacuate their Napa hotel after the 3:20 a.m. jolt. When they couldn't return to their rooms, they came to the track. No one was injured.

    "I thought it was all over, the end of the earth," said Power, a native of Australia. "That was really unbelievable. I thought I was going to die."

    Said Montoya: "The bed moved two feet off the wall. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. Every table was turned over. It was bad."

    Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud were housed in motor homes parked up the hill from the track.

    "This was pretty wild," Hunter-Reay said. "Being in a bus it felt like it was going to tip over. And we were right on the cliff. In my head I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, we're going over the cliff.' "

    Said Pagenaud: "I actually went outside in my underwear and checked how far the cliff was because I thought we were going to tumble down."

  • Up-and-coming American driver Josef Newgarden has signed a contract for 2015 with CFH Racing, the combined Ed Carpenter Racing/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing teams.

    Newgarden, 23, is completing his third season for Fisher Hartman. He has shown steady improvement in 2014, despite racing for a one-car team.

    In 2015 with the merged teams of Carpenter and Fisher Hartman, Newgarden will finally have a teammate to share information and compare setups.

    "I have seen Josef mature a lot over the past few years, and I really look forward to working with him and continuing his development," Carpenter said. "I see him as one of the premier talents in this series for the future, and we are very proud to have him on our team."

    Said Newgarden: "I decided to stay here because I believe in our group and everything that we've built and where we are going. It's a very strong situation that's on the rise, and I think next year is the year to capitalize on it."

    The identity of Newgarden's teammate will be determined. It could be the combination of oval driver Carpenter and road/street specialist Conway, who shared the No. 20 car this season.

    Contact Darryl Matsuda at 408-920-5215. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/DarrylMatsuda.

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