Wins for third time in five-year history of IndyCar Grand Prix
BY: BRUCE MARTIN
For the third time in the five-year history of this race, Power won the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis from the pole Saturday. But this time however, it was IndyCar career win No. 200 for Team owner Roger Penske.
“It’s amazing,” Power said in victory lane. “It just shows what sort of a team; Team Penske is and it’s a real honor to drive for Roger and to be given the equipment week in and week out to win. And so, I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity he has given me, and Verizon as well, it’s been a fantastic ten years.”
Penske’s IndyCar Series teams began competition in 1968 and his first year at the Indianapolis 500 was in 1969. Since then, he has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 16 times and the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis a record four times, with Power winning three and Simon Pagenaud scoring one of his two IndyCar Grand Prix victories with Team Penske.
“This gives us tremendous momentum going into the 500,” Penske said. “I think it was world-class, when you think about it,” Penske continued when he talked about Power’s effort. “Having to make fuel mileage and staying ahead of Scott Dixon there at the end, that was a tremendous effort.”
It was Power’s first win of 2018 and the 33rd win of his IndyCar career, which places him ninth on the all-time list. His other two IndyCar GP victories came in 2015 and 2017.
Power is also the fourth different winner in five Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.
Power’s Chevrolet defeated Scott Dixon’s Honda by 2.2443 seconds as the top five drivers were all using the same three-stop pit strategy and had to save fuel to make it to the end.
“I was doing my absolute best in the corners to make up for the fuel loss in the straights,” Power said. Dixon “is very tough to beat in that situation. I just slowly pulled a gap while saving fuel. That was the key.”
Dixon had a tremendous race, starting 18th following a bad qualifying performance and racing his way all the way to a second-place finish.
“We’ve definitely had a rough start to the season and a rough weekend here,” Dixon said afterwards. “But credit to Chris Simmons (engineer) and Mike Hull (race strategist) and Scott Harner (team manager) and everybody in the stand. We had a good strategy down there.
“There was a period down there on one stint where we were two seconds better than everybody. We came out on a new set of tires, and everybody else was on blacks. We must have made up 20 seconds just on that one stint. It’s great to be finally on the podium this year. It’s been a rough start. We’ve had some good speed, so I’m really happy and proud for PNC Bank. Hopefully we get one step better here in a couple of weeks.”
Dixon was surprised that Power’s Chevrolet engine was on par with his Honda in terms of fuel mileage.
“I was a little surprised they got the fuel mileage they did,” Dixon said. “They’ve made good gains on that. I was pushing as hard as I could. The car balance was a little loose in traffic. The harder I pushed to try and close the gap each time, I would just burn the rears (tires) off. I kind of had to back off and try again, in that cycle. I just couldn’t close that gap that we had.”
Power led 56 laps in the 85-lap contest in a race that featured a nine lead changes between seven drivers. That was the most different drivers to lead a lap in the race since the event’s first year in 2014.
Sensational rookie Robert Wickens finished third. It is his third top-five finish in five Indy car starts. He led 20 laps in the race and was highly impressive in his driver skill as he raced hard, but fair with Power and later Dixon.
“It was the first time in my career I’ve had to save fuel like that,” Wickens said. “I’m a little bit gutted, but I’m really happy we didn’t run out of fuel. They were giving me a number, and I wasn’t able to hit it. And they were like, ‘We need this,’ and I’m like: ‘I’m trying. I’m just not getting the number.’ We had to go even past that because I wasn’t able to save enough at the beginning. It was a stressful afternoon. I was really happy in the first couple of stints. But that final one with the fuel savings kind of blew it wide open.”
Sebastien Bourdais was fourth and Alexander Rossi fifth as four of the top-five drivers were in Hondas. The only Chevrolet belonged to the race-winner, Power.
At the start of the race, the field fanned out five- and even six-wide heading into the hard-righthand Turn 1. What followed was yet another crash at the start of the race for the fifth-straight year as Jordan King ran into the back of Simon Pagenaud.
Jordan King, a rookie from England, started fifth for Ed Carpenter Racing and ran into the back of Pagenaud, who had passed him from seventh position.
Castroneves then got squeezed into Pagenaud, sending him into the gravel.
In Turn 6, Spencer Pigot ran into Takuma Sato and that sent Pigot’s Chevrolet across the curbing. It launched with all four wheels off the ground, but he was able to continue without incident.
Race Control reviewed both incidents and Pigot was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
That was the first of two caution periods in the race. The other came when defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden spun and stalled in Turn 12.
Wickens pitted as the race leader on Lap 41. That put Power into the lead. Bourdais also came into the pits as two of the top three drivers all pitted on the same lap. Power pitted one lap later. Power switched to the faster Reds while Wickens was on the Blacks.
Once in front, Power was able to pull away from Wickens’ Honda.
Wickens was having issues with his “Push-to-Pass” hitting the rev limiter on the long straight so he was only able to use it in the infield portion of the course.
The field pitted on Lap 58 and that set up a wild dash on pit road. The end result was Power retained the lead ahead of Wickens. Dixon, who started way back in 18th place, was up to third place ahead of Bourdais, Rossi and Helio Castroneves.
It was Power’s first win of 2018 and the 33rd win of his IndyCar career.PHOTO BY MOTORSPORT IMAGES-LAT
Dixon made the pass of the race when he used the slingshot move to drive past Wickens for second place down the long frontstraight into Turn 1 at the start of Lap 64.
“I just was hoping that he was maybe concentrating on saving fuel because I knew it was going to be fairly difficult to get the mileage that we needed to, and I thought I’d try it early to be aggressive and try and get the fuel mileage later if we needed to, so that was basically the strategy,” Dixon said. “It’s very hard to defend if someone behind you is on overtake and you’re not, just the rate of speed, especially on long straights like this it’s almost impossible.
“Yeah, it was a pretty basic one. That’s what it was.”
It got Dixon into second place, but Dixon was never able to close the gap on Power over the remainder of the race.
“We hired a real estate agent because we started in another county,” said Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull, referring to Dixon’s 18th starting position. “Everybody is in the same boat we are because we all pitted on the same lap.
“But this actually feels like a win, even though we finished second.”
Power needed this victory to get back into contention for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He is now seventh in the standings, 43 points behind the leader, teammate Josef Newgarden.
Just as the numbers added up in Power’s favor Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he is hoping the numbers add up to No. 1 in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
IndyCar Grand Prix Results
(1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (2) Robert Wickens, Honda, 85, Running
4. (3) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
5. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
6. (10) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
11. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
12. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 85, Running
13. (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
14. (12) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
15. (9) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (16) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
19. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 85, Running
20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
22. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 84, Running
23. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running
24. (5) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 83, Running