Will Power has taken his first win of this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series and Team Penske’s 200th in total.
Power fell five seconds off the lead at the IndyCar Grand Prix in Indianapolis as he and Robert Wickens diverged on tyre strategy, but quickly moved back in front after the second pit stops cycle and eventually beat Scott Dixon home by 2.2s.
The Australian started from pole and enjoyed a lead of about a second over Wickens until traffic closed them up.
They pitted together for the first time at the end of Lap 20, when primary tyres went onto the #12 Chevrolet and red alternates onto Wickens’ #6 Schmidt Peterson Honda.
That handed the speed advantage to the Canadian and he ran down Power on the back straight on Lap 22 before establishing a five-second lead midway through the stint.
Wickens, whose lead had fallen back slightly to 4.5s as his tyres wore, pitted again at the end of Lap 41 and switched to primary tyres.
Power was into the lane a lap later to also change compounds and with that began reeling Wickens in.
Using push-to-pass, Power got a run at Wickens on the main straight as they started Lap 51, but Wickens moved inside and forced Car #12 to go the long way around at Turn 1.
He did so successfully and was pulling away until a Caution came on Lap 56 after Penske team-mate Josef Newgarden spun and couldn’t re-fire his car.
Newgarden had been pressuring Sebastien Bourdais and looked for a move at Turn 12.
The Frenchman appeared to leave just enough room for Newgarden when the latter climbed over the ripple strip but that was enough to rotate the #1 Chevrolet.
The yellows prompted the whole field to pit when the lane opened at the end of Lap 58, setting up a nervous 27-lap run to the finish.
Power beat Wickens from his pit box back into the fast lane by about the length of his front wing planes as Dixon, having inherited fourth when Newgarden went around, jumped Bourdais in the pits.
The New Zealander had qualified 18th but a combination of strategy and speed got the #9 Chip Ganassi Honda back into a respectable position.
Racing resumed on Lap 62 and Alexander Rossi passed Bourdais’s #18 DCR w/ Vasser-Sullivan Honda a lap later.
Dixon too gained a position when he used push-to-pass to get by Wickens on the main straight as they started Lap 64.
Wickens had complained earlier in the race that he was hitting the rev limited on that straight, leaving him vulnerable.
Power, however, was out to a lead exceeding two seconds with around five laps to run, and while he backed off in the final laps it was a comfortable 33rd career IndyCar win in the end.
Of those 33, 30 have come with Team Penske, the most recent of which is The Captain’s milestone 200th in IndyCar.
“It’s amazing, it just shows what sort of team Penske is,” said Power.
“It’s a real honour to drive for Roger and you’re given the equipment week-in, week-out to win, so I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity he’s given me, and (primary sponsor) Verizon as well.
“It’s been a real fantastic 10 years.”
Dixon took his first podium of the season in second position, Wickens finished third, and Bourdais re-passed Rossi (#27 Andretti Autosport Honda) on the final lap to take fourth.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Chevrolet) was the second Team Penske car home on his two-race return to IndyCar in sixth position.
Rounding out the top 10 were James Hinchcliffe (#5 Schmidt Peterson Honda), Simon Pagenaud (#22 Team Penske Chevrolet), Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda), and Takuma Sato (#30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda).
Pagenaud had in fact been sent spinning on Lap 1 after contact with Jordan King, which necessitated a Caution when King’s #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet got stuck in the gravel.
Newgarden got back on the lead lap to finish 11th and hold on to his series lead by just two points from Rossi, while Dixon moves from seventh to fourth and Power from 10th to seventh.
Spencer Pigot took the chequered flag in 15th, surviving what was a dismal opening lap for ECR when his #21 Chevrolet launched over a ripple strip.
You could say this was an ‘aggressive line’.😳
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) May 12, 2018
Next up is the Indianapolis 500, for which practice starts this Tuesday.
Race results: Indianapolis (Road course)
|Pos||Num||Driver||C/E/T||Race time/Split||Pit stops||Status||Grid pos|
|3||6||Robert Wickens (R)||D/H/F||+8.1621||3||Running||2|
|12||19||Zachary Claman DeMelo (R)||D/H/F||+30.0421||3||Running||19|
|19||32||Kyle Kaiser (R)||D/C/F||+58.1755||4||Running||24|
|21||4||Matheus Leist (R)||D/C/F||+1:17.9918||4||Running||21|
|22||10||Ed Jones||D/H/F||+1 lap||4||Running||15|
|23||26||Zach Veach (R)||D/H/F||+1 lap||5||Running||20|
|24||20||Jordan King (R)||D/C/F||+2 laps||4||Running||5|
(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)yre: F=Firestone
|8||Robert Wickens (R)||133|
|15||Zach Veach (R)||84|
|19||Matheus Leist (R)||60|
|21||Zachary Claman DeMelo (R)||49|
|22||Jordan King (R)||44|
|23||Kyle Kaiser (R)||35|
|26||Jack Harvey (R)||25|
|27||Rene Binder (R)||22|