Power puts on clinic in Indy Grand Prix

by Tucker White On Sat, May. 12, 2018

Photo by Simon Scoggins for SpeedwayMedia.com.

INDIANAPOLIS — The exhausted, relieved look on Will Power’s face told the story. After spinning out/wrecking in three of four races this season, he won in strong fashion.

INDIANAPOLIS – May 12: Simon Pagenaud spins toward the gravel trap during the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo: Dana Garrett/IndyCar Photography

Power led the field to green at 3:48 p.m. Caution flew for the first time for a two-car wreck in Turn 2, involving Jordan King, Simon Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot.

Back to green on Lap 4, the race settled into a single-file train, snaking through the 13-turn road course. It was broken up by a cycle of green flag stops, on Lap 14. Power pitted from the lead on Lap 20, handing it to Sebastian Bourdais. He pitted the following lap, gave the lead to Josef Newgarden, who pitted on Lap 23 and handed the lead to Alexander Rossi. After he pitted on Lap 24, Kyle Kaiser took over the lead, before pitting on Lap 26 and the lead cycled to Robert Wickens.

The process repeated on Lap 41, when Wickens pitted. The lead went to Power and then to Graham Rahal, tying the race record for lead changes with seven. Rahal pitted and the lead cycled back to Wickens on Lap 47, setting a new record for lead changes in the race.

Power drafted him down the frontstretch and passed him on the outside, going into Turn 1, to retake the lead with 35 laps to go.

INDIANAPOLIS – May 12: Josef Newgarden spins in Turn 12 during the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo: Mike Young/IndyCar Photography

Josef Newgarden hopped the curb in Turn 12 and spun, bringing out the second caution with 30 to go.

The race went back to green with 24 to go. After starting 18th, Scott Dixon dove under Wickens on the frontstretch to take second, with 22 to go. But Power put distance on him and scored his 31st career victory in his 161 career Verizon IndyCar Series starts.

“Yeah, I mean, it started with him (Wickens) using reds in that second stint and I was on blacks and trying to hold him behind, and he went to go pass, there was about — it was about not letting too much damage be done, so I maintained it, got it to five seconds basically, and was able to do a very quick in lap, and by the time I got out behind him, it was only a three-second gap, and obviously he was on blacks and I was on reds, so I returned the favor and really caught him and was — had a good race with him down to Turn 1,” Power said.

“Once I got past him, it was pretty straightforward because we were much quicker because we were on the reds, and yeah, yeah, and then it went yellow, which made for a very difficult last stint, having to save a lot of fuel, and keeping a gap from Dixon so he wouldn’t use his Push-to-Pass and attack me. Yeah, drove very hard. Yeah, so many things thrown at us today, but we came out with the win.”

It was the 200th career series victory for Team Penske.

Dixon drove from 18th to a runner-up finish, his 94th career podium.

“Yeah, it was definitely a rough weekend,” Dixon said. “The heat really seemed to affect our car a lot, especially in practice 2 and then into qualifying, and we threw a big change at it for qualifying, which is probably not the smartest thing to do, and obviously that got us pretty good.

“But yeah, to qualify 18th, I think that’s probably the worst qualifying I’ve ever had on — going for it with a legit not crashing or spinning off. Definitely a frustrating start, but this morning we found quite a bit, I feel like, in the warmup, and then we kind of compromised between what we had found throughout the weekend.

“Big kudos to the team. Everybody on the PNC Bank team did a fantastic job. The pit stops were amazing. In that first stint, I think we were running almost two seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field in the mid 70s for that, and that’s where it made that big jump, and then later on in that segment, too, we were able to pass a few more just on outright speed.

“Happy with today. 18th to second, obviously we come here to win, but congratulations to Will, and obviously Penske’s 200th IndyCar win is definitely a big milestone, and it was good to see him get it.”

Wickens rounded out the podium.

“…that was the first race where I kind of felt like a true rookie there in that final stint because I’ve never had to save fuel before,” Wickens said. “We’ve kind of practiced it a little bit in warmup where you do like one lap of fuel save. But the amount of fuel that we were having to save to make that work was something that I didn’t even think was possible.

“It was tough, and obviously running in P2, I was told the number I needed to achieve, and then I was just like, okay, well, Scott is on Push-to-Pass, so I don’t know if I should use it to keep him behind or if I should hit my number, and we were actually having an issue with my Push-to-Pass all day, so it wasn’t quite working to the best that it could. No, it was a tough day, an exhausting afternoon, but really happy to finish on the podium.”

Bourdais and Rossi rounded out the Top-five.

Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Pagenaud, Rahal and Takumo Sato rounded out the Top-10.

NUTS & BOLTS

The race lasted one hour, 49 minutes and 46 seconds, at an average speed of 113.318 mph. There were nine lead changes among seven different drivers, and two cautions for eight laps. Dixon posted the fastest lap of the race on Lap 15, at 70.569 and 124.423 mph.

Newgarden, who finished 11th, leaves with a two-point lead over Rossi.

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c)SpeedwayMedia.com. **

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