In the past five road course races, Will Power has started on pole and finished either first or second.
After finishing second last week, Power would not be denied this week as he qualified first and led flag-to-flag on his way to winning the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The win marked the 10th win of his career.
“The key was to make sure I got the jump on him every time,” Power said. “It seemed like it was yellow-after-yellow. But man, that was one of the most relaxing races I’ve ever had. I am going to be a lot better on ovals and I am very determined. I am going to win that championship.”
Power is the first driver to lead flag-to-flag since Dario Franchitti at Sonoma in 2009.
Scott Dixon finished second after trying to find a way around Power all day.
“It is going to take a long time to make back the points that we lost at St. Peterburg’s with all of these teams,” Dixon said. “I think Helio jumped us on the restart, but it was better to just let him go. We worked by Ryan on the second stint and then sat behind Will all day. I pushed hard behind Will to try to catch him but in those final eight laps, I couldn’t get close as I had ran the tires off of the car.”
Dixon was followed by his teammate and last week’s winner Dario Franchitti.
“Its like we said at the end of last year, every point means a lot as every position means something,” Franchitti said. “Briscoe pushed me in the grass in one, left the door open into two and then off the turn, he closed the door so that was just racing. You think on these restarts you’re able to get by these guys, but Will and Scott were too far in front of us. Up until the final restart, I thought we had a good car but we didn’t get the right balance. I was just trying to get a good finish and to go from seventh to third here is pretty good.”
Marco Andretti finished fourth with Orio Servia in fifth. Tony Kanaan finished sixth after starting 26th.
“A little bit of luck and a good start,” Kanaan said. “We took the advantage to pass a lot of cars on the start and that actually changed my strategy. We were thinking of pitting on lap 10, but when we got up front, we decided to pit a little later. I got to thank my pit crew for some good pit stops as we’re a relative new team. I struggled all weekend as it wasn’t a coincidence that I was almost dead last every sesson as there was something seriously wrong. We took Takumo Sato’s set-up and on the start, I made a good jump.”
He was followed by Helio Castroneves, Sebastian Pagenaud, Simona de Silvestro and Charlie Kimball.
It wasn’t easy for Power today as there were multiple cautions for multiple incidents throughout the day.
The first caution came on lap 1 as JR Hildebrand and Raphael Matos made contact causing Matos to spin.
Then on lap 37, Alex Taglani spun and got stuck on the sand trap to bring out the caution. Though a lap before, James Jakes pits as his car was on fire.
We came in and made a pit stop,” Jakes said. “As I came out of turn three, it felt pretty hot in there and the team said to look at the telemetry. It looked a little hot so I brought it down pit road.”
The restart came on lap 41, though right away, de Silvestro, James Hinscliffe and EJ Viso wrecked. Castroneves made it three-wide, which made things tight, causing drivers to make contact with each other.
“We got off to a rough start,” Hinscliffe. “I was hoping to not make too many mistakes. I went around in lap 1 but the team was coming back in the top 10. Then Simona got into EJ, which it isn’t his fault that he spun. But any driving school you go to will tell you that you hit the clutch and the brake when you spin, not the gas. It just sucks for this Newman-Haas team.”
“Unfortunately, we were in the wrong place, wrong positoon,” EJ Viso. “Simona had a pretty good restart, passing three-or-four cars and then she spun, I tried to avoid her and Hinscliffe came down into me.”
The restart came on lap 46, which another incident then took place as Mike Conway got hooked into the wall by his teammate Danica Patrick.
“Just coming over the top of the hill, I feel we just crossed paths, made contact and unfortunately wrecked,” Mike Conway said.
The restart came on lap 50, and then six laps later, Ryan Hunter-Reay bounced off the curb into Ryan Briscoe.
“Well, I mean I think Ryan is sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong,” Briscoe said afterwards. “I tried to give him room and looks like he just stuck the nose in there. He was that much quicker and he could’ve waited the half a lap to pass me.”
Hunter-Reay was given a penalty for unavoidable contact, in which he replied on the radio saying, “I thought I was giving him room and he just turned down. I just can’t believe this.”
The restart came on lap 62, which then on lap 63, Justin Wilson wrecked after he hit Rapael Matos, causing him to turn back into him.
“I think when I look back at it, its a racing incident,” Wilson said. “As we were racing in, Raphael gave me room and then came down, I kept backing down backing down and got into him. If you look there, he had a whole lane on the outside.”
Wilson ran the race today with a wrist injury he suffered at St. Peterburg’s.
“The wrist was bugging me, but it is fine,” he continued. “The carbonfibre brace I had broke on lap 45 so I threw that out and put this one on under caution.”
The multiple back-to-back cautions were caused in a large part due to contact on the double-file restarts, which is fresh for the series.
“From the fans point of view, it looked a lot of exciting,” Kanaan said after the race of the double-file restarts. “I think we need to work together on taking care of each other’s stuff. We crashed on almost every restart and that’s not a coincidence. This is only the second race that we’ve done it so we got to get used to it. Do I like it? No, but it worked into my favor. I think as drivers we need to learn to take care of other. Right now I am 50/50. They told me the fans like it and I am just a driver so if they tell me I have to do it, then I have to do it.”
Plenty of debates have been brought up with the rule, including how the leader restarts the race. Dixon complained that Power was crossing lines on the start, in which Ganassi added at one point during the race that if Power does it one more time, he was going to get his driver to take him out.
“Like usual, Brian did nothing about it,” Dixon said after the race. “If you’re going to make a rule, you need to enforce it.”