Power Prevails in Caution-Free Race on IMS Road Course

Will Power brakes hard into corner at IMS
Photo: Bret Kelley / INDYCAR

The INDYCAR Grand Prix went green on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with Will Power on pole and four lead changes later, he took the checkered flag to win his first race of the year and become the fifth different Verizon IndyCar Series race winner in 2017.

This year’s edition of the race became the first to avoid a first-lap caution since its first running in 2014. The 22-car field managed to cleanly weave through Turn 1, though contact at Turn 7 during the first lap between Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan caused Kanaan to spin and Andretti to be issued a drive-through penalty.

While the Andretti-Kanaan incident was reviewed by Race Control, former series points leader Sebastien Bourdais reported the loss of his engine as he pulled into the Turn 1 run-off area. Still, the race ran under green-flag conditions.

Eight laps into the 85-lap contest, pole sitter Power led Helio Castroneves by 2.4 seconds after the two Team Penske drivers started from the front row in identically liveried Verizon Chevrolets.

Spencer Pigot was identified as the biggest mover early on due to his advancement from 16th on the grid to eighth in the running order. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver had all his progress erased, however, when he stalled the No. 20 Chevrolet attempting to exit his pit box on Lap 23.

As the first round of green-flag pit stops continued following Pigot’s trouble, Castroneves led Power, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the top five.

The race continued without interruption until stops under the green flag returned roughly 20 laps later. Castroneves stopped on Lap 45, handing the lead back to Power who had made his stop three laps earlier.

Over the next 20 laps, Power’s advantage over Castroneves ranged from 1.5 to two seconds. With no yellow flag to compress the field, the third and final round of pit stops began on Lap 63 with both Dixon and Newgarden making stops.

When stops were complete, Power retained the lead while Dixon ran in third behind Castroneves. A combination of willpower and a healthy dose of push-to-pass propelled Dixon around the Team Penske driver on Lap 69, promoting the No. 9 Honda to second.

Five laps later, Castroneves fell prey to Ryan Hunter-Reay who executed a successful pass on the Brazilian veteran. Hunter-Reay moved the No. 28 Honda into podium contention 5.2 seconds behind second-placed Dixon.

At the 75-lap mark, Dixon trailed Power by 5.6 seconds with Hunter-Reay, Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud completing the top five. Dixon continued to turn faster laps than the leader over the final 10 laps, tightening the gap to 4.3 seconds by Lap 79.

Castroneves lost another position on Lap 81 when Pagenaud executed a successful pass, moving the points leader entering the race into the fourth position.

The final three laps saw Power build his lead over Dixon. Five seconds separated the two on Lap 82 and the Australian driver added another half second on the following lap.

Power took the white flag with a similar lead and cruised to the checkered flag to win for the second time on the IMS road course. Dixon maintained second position and Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Castroneves completed the top five.

Will Power and Scott Dixon celebrate after INDYCAR Grand Prix
Photo: Joe Skibinski / INDYCAR

“That was hard work,” said Power after the race. “Full green. Want to thank Verizon, all the guys, all the crew. Dixon was closing there for a while. I was trying to manage the gap, manage the tires. You need to hit all your marks.

“The Chevy engine was mega today. I’ve been around motorsport long enough that you have your good and bad runs. The good doesn’t last forever, and the bad doesn’t last forever.”

The victory, the culmination of a complete sweep of the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend, marks Power’s 30th, placing him 11th on the all-time list ahead of both Castroneves and Rick Mears. His last win came at Pocono Raceway in 2016.

The series will shift focus from the IMS road course to the 2.5-mile oval with practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 beginning on Monday, May 15. Qualifying will follow on May 20–21 with the green flag flying for the 500-mile race on May 28.

What do you think?