The Indianapolis 500 may be the greatest spectical in racing but this year's INDYCAR Grand Prix was a real yawner with the only passing for the lead being made during pit stop sequences and the race run under green flag conditions from start to finish.
Will Power started the race from the pole position and with the exception of the second pit stop sequence when Penske teammate Helio Castroneves was quicker on pit lane, Power was never seriously challenged.
Driving the No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power dominated the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course to collect win his 30th IndyCar race in his 13-year Indy car career. The victory pushed the 36-year-old Power ahead of current teammate Helio Castroneves and retired Team Penske legend Rick Mears for sole possession of 11th place on the all-time list.
"It just feels great to finally have a good day and everyone has worked so hard on our team." said Power "Obviously, a rough start. But, like you said, should have won a couple by now. It helps in points. It's great to get a win again. I think that's number 30. Good number. I want to make that 31 by the end of this month."
Power, making his 175th career start, led 61 of the 85 laps in the caution-free race and cruised across the finish line 5.283 seconds ahead of Scott Dixon in the No.9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Power has now won at least one race in 11 straight seasons and becomes the fifth different driver to win in as many Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.
Power owned the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend. He was fastest in every practice session, earned the pole position Friday with a track-record lap in Verizon P1 Award qualifying and set a race record speed average of 120.813 mph. Amassing the maximum possible points, Power advanced two positions into fifth in the standings in his quest for a second series championship.
"After (morning) warmup, I was thinking, 'Wow, I've actually been quickest in every session. Yeah, it would be amazing to win the race." added Power "It's funny, momentum, once your whole team and crew believes that you have a shot at winning races - which we have had all year - but when you execute it, it definitely gives them confidence. It's just good (to) get a win and very, very good for everyone."
Dixon was the only drive with any chance to catch Power late in the race. Dixon was able to pass Castroneves late in the race and work his way to within 4.7 seconds of Power but that was as close as he could get to the race winner.
Dixon's second place finish was made in his 275th career start and extended his consecutive starts streak to 212 races, breaking a tie for the second-longest all-time run with Jimmy Vasser. Only Dixon's current teammate Tony Kanaan - who started his 270th straight race today - has run more Indy car races consecutively.
"I think today we got the most out of it," said Dixon "The car was pretty strong, we had good pace, but we just couldn't hold on to the rears. I think the Honda was just too much for the (Firestone alternate) red tires for the most part. Good points for everybody on the NTT Data car, great day for Honda. Obviously not a win, but very close."
Ryan Hunter-Reay moved from eighth on the starting grid to finish a season-best third in the No.28 DHL Honda. It marked the 100th top-10 finish of the Andretti Autosport driver.
"It's certainly a nice feeling," said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series and 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion. "This group isn't happy if we're not on the top step (of the podium), but we've had a lot of bad luck this year, a lot of misfortune. It's been a frustrating start to the year, but we kept our heads down and today we came home with a solid result. This is nice to roll into the next two weeks, preparing for the biggest race in the world."
Graham Rahal made the drive of the day. Starting 20th on the grid, Rahal slowly worked his way through the field to finish sixith.
"It's was a pretty good day." said Rahal "We were on attack mode on the first stint. We had to pump out a whole bunch of qualifying laps and close the gaps. My United Rentals boys did a great job in the pits because we got by a lot of guys there and we were able to pass a lot of guys. Overall I'm pleased with the day that we had. We completed all 85 laps and raised $100 a lap for Soldier/Strong and Turns for Troops which means a lot to me. It's just a good way to start the month. I was disappointed with qualifying but I'll take a sixth. I was fighting the whole way and guys - the lapped cars - certainly weren't making it easy there at the end. I was running low on push-to-pass and I knew Max (Chilton) was coming. It was a very physical day but I'm looking forward to the 500 coming up here. I take pride in my race craft come Sundays, but you better believe I wish my job was easier than that. Because on a day like today we had a car to win this race, I guarantee you that so it's disappointing starting where we start and putting ourselves in that hole. This field and the competitiveness of the drivers is why there were no yellows and when there are no yellows, 85 laps on a warm day like this is a good workout. We know we can compete, we know we can run up front. We've had a lot of things go against us this year but today finally we had just a smooth, good day."
Also putting in an outstanding drive was Max Chilton who started fourteenth and finished one spot behind Rahal in seventh.
"It was just a really, really good day for myself and the Gallagher team." said Chilton "It was by far the best race I've had in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The team did a good job and we made a call to start on primary tires and I knew within five or six laps it would pay off for us. On the second stint it just started playing into our hand, and having no yellows furthered our strategy. Moving forward seven positions in the race was mega, and without any off strategies playing out, we got there on straight speed. This is a great start to May and hope we can do even better in the 500."
Pagenaud, the reigning series champion, finished fourth in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet to retain the points lead after five of 17 races. Pagenaud now has 191 points to Dixon's 181. Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden (152), Castroneves (149) and Power (145) hold the third through fifth spots, respectively.
Next up on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Practice for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" begins Monday. Two days of qualifying are set for May 20-21, with the 200-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval scheduled for May 28 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
4. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (20) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
7. (14) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
8. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
9. (16) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
10. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
12. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
13. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
14. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (18) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 84, Running
17. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 84, Running
18. (17) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 84, Running
19. (13) Ed Jones, Honda, 84, Running
20. (12) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 83, Running
21. (19) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 32, Off Course
22. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 3, Off Course
Winner's average speed: 120.813
Time of Race: 01:42:57.6108
Margin of victory: 5.2830 seconds
Lead changes: 4 among 2 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 191, Dixon 181, Newgarden 152, Castroneves 149, Power 145, Hinchcliffe 137, Bourdais 136, Hunter-Reay 117, Rossi 99, Sato 97.
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