Winning the Pole wasn’t enough. Setting a new track record didn’t quench the thirst either for Will Power. On Saturday, he put his Verizon Wireless Chevrolet in victory lane at Indianapolis. Power led 65 of the 82 laps in route to victory in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis for his 25th career IndyCar win. That puts him in a tie for 15th on the all-time wins list, with Gordon Johncock.
Power was able to hold off a hard-charging Graham Rahal, who started in 17th position. It’s his second straight runner-up finish for RLL. Team Penske teammate Juan Montoya joined Power and Rahal on the podium. Montoya maintains his championship lead, which is now five points over Power. There have now been five different winners in the five Verizon IndyCar Series races so far this season.
Sebastien Bourdais had a solid day and finished fourth, while Charlie Kimball came from the 14th starting spot to finish fifth. He was the highest finishing driver for Chip Ganassi on Saturday. Scott Dixon started on the front row, but was the biggest casualty in the Turn 1 incident on the first lap of the race. Helio Castroneves appeared to get into the back of The Iceman, which had him facing the wrong direction. It was a rough uphill climb for Dixon, as there were no more cautions for him to be able to catch up with the rest of the field. He did rebound to finish tenth on Saturday. Still, he wasn’t happy about the incident.
Last year’s winner, Simon Pagenaud, suffered a mechanical issue and retired after 57 laps. He is tenth in the championship standings, as the other three Penske cars are first, second, and third. Justin Wilson also had mechanical issues, which forced him out after 68 laps. This was his first race of the season, driving the No. 25 car for Andretti Autosport. It wasn’t a good day for that particular team, as none of their four cars finished in the top ten.
Below is a highlight video of the race, courtesy of IndyCar.
Up next is the main event, the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. The track will be closed tomorrow, then will re-open for Indy 500 practice on Monday, May 11. Rookie Orientation/Refresher tests will take place from Noon – 1 PM, then all cars are able to practice from 2 – 7 PM. Practice will continue throughout the week, and qualifications will begin on Saturday, with Pole Day setting the first three rows of the race on Sunday, May 17.
Will Power: “The first lap was as fast as the last lap. I was really happy with the tires all day – super consistent, super gripping. Honestly, I think it was staying ahead at the start and the restart and then it was managing that traffic and just the pit sequence, man. My crew did an awesome job and saved enough fuel there at the end with Graham (Rahal) coming hard and it was good to save fuel and go fast. Full credit goes to the Verizon guys. I’m really happy to win here at this awesome facility. I just want to get one two weeks from now. That is what I want. I was just waiting for a yellow or something today because that is how these races usually play out, but if you always put yourself in that position to win, eventually it is going to come. If you keep knocking on a door, it’s going to open. That is what happened today. I was very determined to start this month off really well and we got pole and we won. Now, we’ve got pole to aim for in the ‘500.’ That’s the aim. That’s what I want. Today was one of the most physical races that I’ve done. All of that preseason fitness, that’s really paid off today.”
Juan Montoya: “It was hard because I was hanging in with (Graham) Rahal and I felt like I was as good as him, if not better. Also, the fuel number got really big and I thought, ‘we need that number,’ so I started backing down just to make sure we would make it, not like last year. We pretty much ran out of gas on the last lap and it really hurt us so for me it was more about backing off and as the stint went on, I started getting better fuel numbers and it was fun. Those last 10 laps with (Sebastien) Bourdais behind, it was really hard. He was pushing really hard, but it makes it exciting. Our Verizon Chevy was really good and we have another good result for Team Penske.”
Helio Castroneves: “I was just trying to make sure I didn’t hit anyone – and that I didn’t get hit – in that first corner. Just wanted to put the No. 3 Verizon Chevy in a good position there. Unfortunately, I clipped (Scott) Dixon in the right rear when he turned into the corner. Obviously him spinning out put me into the grass and we lost many spots. From there it was a great comeback for the team. The Verizon Chevy was really fast, but that first lap hurt us quite a bit. We were able to recover by having a fast car and by getting great fuel mileage. We learned a lot about our fuel mileage at Barber two weeks ago. Today that paid off big time.”
Stefano Coletti: “I am very happy with my first top-10 finish of the year. We had a difficult start to the race when there was an accident in Turn 1 and I had to go through the shortcut but luckily didn’t lose any positions. We had a good strategy and I was able to move up a few more places. I had a great battle with Tony Kanaan, passing and re-passing two or three times a lap and managed to hold him off until four laps to go when he unfortunately passed me. We are very happy with the top-10 finish today and I am sure we have more coming our way.”
JR Hildebrand: “We got a good start and I was on the inside. I just dove for the inside and missed all of it, so I passed a lot of cars. That worked to our strategy because we were actually running with the leaders. We got a good restart and just pulled away from a bunch of guys at the beginning of the race. We were just holding steady. We were basically running in the top five when we came in for the pit stop. It felt like I had a wheel loose, but as it turned out there was something mechanically wrong with the car. I came back (in), which ended up being an extra pit stop that took us out of contention. It was a really good job by all of the guys, we ran really strong for a long time today. We struggled a little bit earlier in the week so it’s nice to have such a good strong run and run with the boys up front.”
Scott Dixon: “Well, we had a great Target car today and I was looking forward to gaining some ground in the points after starting on the front row. There’s not much you can say about the start. We got turned around from behind and then had damage to both front and rear wings, and had to change both. Tough day for the Target car.”
Tony Kanaan: “NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing gave me a great car for today’s race and we worked really hard to get into the Firestone Fast Six (in Saturday qualifying), so it’s unfortunate that the incident on the first lap in the first turn put us so far back. We were just never able to get back to where we started after losing so many positions there. A top-10 finish is always good for the points race with how competitive the field is, but we’re just still not finishing where we need to. After five road and street races, I’m definitely ready to get back out there on an oval, especially here at IMS.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “I’m happy that we finally finished in the top five, but for sure I am a little disappointed because we got up to third after the massacre on Lap 1 in Turn 1 and we finished fourth. The race was all about track position and we got unlucky with traffic. The Circle K Mistic E-Cigs car was really good today, but we just could not pass anyone. We needed clear air and we tried a lot of things to get it, but we could never make it work. The guys did a good job in the pits, but it was just not meant to be. The good thing is I think we found a little something with the red (alternate) tires.”
Takuma Sato: “A very good day. I enjoyed the race. We were fortunate to avoid the first-lap incident. I was very calm to see everything happening in front of me and I was able to make a good jump because of it. After the restart I was gradually losing a little position because the car was sliding a little bit. As the track got better because there was more rubber on it, our car was reacting better so our lap times came back. The boys did a fantastic job to get me out with very quick pit stops and I had a couple of fun overtakes on track and we came back strong for our first top-10 finish – finally! We had a trouble-free, no-mistake race, so our ABC Supply team did a great job.”
Graham Rahal: “I thought we had a very consistent car. I felt like when we toned it back a little bit, I could drive it pretty consistently throughout the race and get as close as possible to Will (Power). I didn’t know we could beat the Chevys. To be where we are this year, it feels good. It was a tough day, a physical day. A couple of hiccups: Before the last stop I decided to stay out an extra lap, it was my call and it was a bad one because I caught (Scott) Dixon and Gabby Chaves coming out of the pits. That cost us a couple seconds. So we had to make up that time on track and it was tough. … This team has really turned a corner, but those Penske guys are no slouches. It’s pretty hard to beat them. I’m very confident in myself and very confident in my team. That’s the biggest thing. I have all of the confidence in the world that Honda’s going to keep working hard and we’re going to get better aero kits and power and we’ll be able to challenge these guys even more. The biggest thing after Barber was to carry the momentum into May and now we need to carry that momentum into the ‘500’ and we’ve got that, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was just a tough day for the whole team. It doesn’t look like we had any luck anywhere in the field for any of our guys. For us, it was a day of attrition. I’m sure a lot of people weren’t happy with us trying to get our lap back, but we were still racing the best that we could. If a yellow fell, we could’ve gotten that so that’s the reason we were pushing so hard for two-thirds of the race. It’s a shame we couldn’t get the opportunity to race today. That’s racing, sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad ones.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It seemed like it was an electronic problem. The lines were burnt. It’s disappointing, for sure, but it was a mechanical problem. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about it. I just haven’t had much luck this year so far. We’re going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep pushing. I contrast the two (winning the 2014 race and having mechanical issues in 2015) as when you win it is fun. When you don’t win, it is not fun. We were second behind Will (Power) at the start. We had the pace to keep up with him. It just didn’t go our way today. With mechanical issues, you just can’t really control it. It is what it is. The car went very sudden. The car wouldn’t shift anymore. So, it is what it is.”
Justin Wilson: “It was a tough race today, unfortunately I got caught up in the stack-up down in Turn 1 and ended up breaking off the endplate. I thought we were still fighting away after that incident and we were trying to work out how our strategy would play out. The No. 25 crew was telling me to push and then save fuel, so I stayed pretty close to the pack, but about halfway through the race we had a slight hiccup during our pit stop and we ended up losing a couple of spots. At that point we struggled a little bit to get back in it and ultimately suffered a mechanical issue. It’s a frustrating way to end the race, but that’s racing so we’ll focus on the ‘500’ now and look ahead.”
Marco Andretti: “It’s just so on top of the road – the car is not in the racetrack, I think we are fundamentally missing something. Sort of the worst-case scenario because we lost like 10 seconds in the (pit) stop. We were ahead of Ryan (Hunter-Reay), then came out almost a straightaway behind him. If we would have finished ahead of Ryan, we’d probably be leading the team in points – as bad as that looks, but right now I just have to look at the Indy 500.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had an unfortunate start to the day – got caught out on the start and dropped a few positions when we had the chance to gain about 10 (positions); had to go through the grass and avoid (the incident in Turn 1), so it was a hole to start in to begin with and then we just worked out way up to 10th. We saved fuel all day, which is unfortunate. It’s just part of the strategy starting at the back, so we were never really able to attack and go for it. It’s kind of a product of the situation, but we definitely need to figure this out. We’re struggling to understand where the rest of the speed is.”
Charlie Kimball: “The No. 83 NovoLog Flex Pen Chevrolet was just really fast today and I was consistently hitting the fuel numbers they were giving me. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys on pit lane – they’re just so consistently fast. They’ve been so good all season and we just ran into bad luck in those first four races. We took advantage of the fact that we had a clear pit in and we had some really fast in and out laps. The fact that the car was so quick, all I really had to do was hit the (fuel) number they were giving me. We’ll definitely take the momentum from this solid finish into the rest of the month of May.”
Below are some of my photos from Saturday. (Special thanks to IndyCar and IMS)