Power Holds on to Win Texas Thriller

Will Power sails through Turn 1 during Texas practice
Photo: Chris Owens / INDYCAR

New surfaces at existing tracks have historically favored veteran drivers and after 248 laps of thrilling side-by-side action on the 1.5-mile oval, 2011 Texas Motor Speedway race winner Will Power took the checkers to win the Rainguard Water Sealers 600.

Charlie Kimball led the field into Turn 1 at the drop of the green flag and stayed out front of teammate Scott Dixon, leading by 0.1887 seconds on Lap 5.

Ed Carpenter advanced seven positions during the opening five laps and ran in seventh after starting 14th.

Five laps later, Kimball’s advantage over Dixon stood at 0.1667 seconds.

Tristan Vautier streaks toward start-finish during Texas practice
Photo: Chris Jones / INDYCAR

Tristan Vautier, substituting for the recovering Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, passed Kimball for the lead on Lap 16. The two battled over the next 13 laps until Josef Newgarden joined the battle for the lead after starting 17th.

On Lap 30, Vautier led Newgarden by 0.0439 seconds and by a similar margin five laps later.

The race’s first caution came out on Lap 38 when Alexander Rossi spun after being squeezed between Dixon and Tony Kanaan. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3 and was able to climb out of his car without assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team.

Vautier remained in the lead under caution with Newgarden, Will Power, Kimball and Carpenter completing the top five.

The caution was far from uneventful with pit stops occurring on Lap 41. Josef Newgarden won the race off pit road while behind him, James Hinchcliffe spun and made contact with Helio Castroneves who then collected Takuma Sato. Hinchcliffe was later assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

On the same round of yellow-flag pit stops, Kimball’s No. 83 Honda experienced an oil leak and was brought behind the wall.

Following the pit stop cycle, both Newgarden and JR Hildebrand were assessed pit speed violations and moved to the back of the field for the restart.

Following Newgarden’s penalty, Power was promoted to the race lead and brought the field to the green on Lap 48. The Team Penske driver led Vautier by 0.0478 seconds on Lap 55 with both cars remaining locked in a side-by-side battle.

By Lap 68, Power’s teammate Simon Pagenaud had moved up to second after starting 12th while Hinchcliffe worked to get around Power and reclaim the lap he lost to the avoidable contact penalty.

Power remained out front over the next 23 laps, never getting more than about a tenth of a second ahead of Pagenaud. The Team Penske duo’s 1-2 run came to an abrupt close on Lap 91 with the race’s second yellow flag.

Castroneves made contact with the SAFER Barrier at the exit of Turn 2 and came to rest on the inside of Turn 3 to bring out the caution. The veteran driver was helped from his car by the Holmatro Safety Team.

Under caution, Power retained the lead with Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin, Dixon and Kanaan rounding out the top five. Following yellow-flag pit stops on Lap 95, Power won the race off pit road and retained the race lead.

The Lap 102 restart was short lived with Carpenter spinning at the end of the frontstretch. The No. 20 Chevrolet did not make contact with the SAFER Barrier and was able to continue under the race’s third caution.

Under caution with the pits open on Lap 105, Newgarden and Carpenter elected to stop for tires and fuel. Carpenter also had a new nose installed on his car.

Green-flag racing returned on Lap 107 with Power leading Pagenaud by 0.1 seconds three laps later.

On Lap 112, Kanaan had made his way up to the front and was scored as the race leader while running alongside Power. On the next lap, side-by-side racing continued with Power beating Kanaan to the line.

By Lap 120, Pagenaud had moved back into second and trailed the leader by 0.0895 seconds. After 15 laps of green-flag racing. the top two remained the same with a nearly identical margin.

Max Chilton into Turn 1 during Texas practice
Photo: Chris Owens / INDYCAR

The fourth caution flag flew on Lap 139 for debris in Turn 2. The pits opened one lap later with most of the field electing to stop for four tires and fuel. Max Chilton did not pit and inherited the lead for the restart on Lap 147.

Chilton was quickly passed by Power after the restart with the No. 12 Chevrolet returning to the race lead on Lap 149.

The race’s fifth caution flag flew on Lap 151 for a multiple-car incident in Turn 3 initiated by three-wide contact between Kanaan on the inside, Hinchcliffe in the middle and Aleshin on the outside. Hinchcliffe bounced off Aleshin and collected Vautier. Ed Jones, Carpenter, Hildebrand, Carlos Munoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay also got caught up in the incident.

INDYCAR red-flagged the race on Lap 154 for track cleanup. Cars remained stationary on pit road for 30 minutes and 42 seconds before engines were restarted on Lap 155 with the resumption of yellow-flag conditions.

On Lap 157, all cars made mandatory pit stops for four tires and fuel with Power winning the race off pit road followed by Dixon, Chilton, Pagenaud and Kanaan.

Green-flag racing returned on Lap 159. Shortly after the restart, INDYCAR announced that Kanaan had been issued a 20-second stop-and-hold penalty for blocking and avoidable contact.

Six laps later, Power led Pagnenaud by 0.1267 seconds while Carpenter rejoined the race after repairing damage to the No. 20 machine. Carpenter was penalized two laps for unapproved work on the car under the red flag.

Power, already the lap leader of the race, continued to dominate over the next 26 laps, remaining in front of Pagenaud by no more than a half second.

INDYCAR threw another yellow flag on Lap 189, referred to as a competition caution by the sanctioning body. Dixon won the race out of the pits followed by Power, Pagenaud, Sato and Graham Rahal.

Dixon led the field out of Turn 4 on the Lap 197 restart but was unable to hold off Power who moved back to the lead on Lap 198.

A yellow flag for contact flew on Lap 201 when Newgarden slid up the track after running three wide and hitting the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier. Newgarden was later checked and released from the infield care center and is cleared to drive. Only Daly pitted under the caution.

Green-flag racing resumed on Lap 209 with Power continuing to lead Dixon by less than a quarter of a second.

The race’s final competition caution began on Lap 224 with all cars required to pit for four fresh Firestone tires and fuel. Power made it back on track first followed by Dixon, Sato, Pagenaud and Chilton.

Power led the field into Turn 1 when the green flag came back out on Lap 228. The final 20 laps of the race were dominated by a fight for the lead between Power and Dixon with the gap between the two measured in hundredths and thousandths of a second.

Sato inserted himself into the lead group with Kanaan also in the mix. On Lap 243, Sato made contact with Dixon after running over the grass in Turn 1. Daly and Chilton also got caught up in the crash with just five laps to go.

The race continued under caution with Power still out front. The Team Penske driver took the checkered flag ahead of Tony Kanaan, earning his 31st career victory. The number places him ninth on the all-time list in a tie with Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti.

“It was a matter of getting to the front,” said Power after his victory. “We talked about that in our pre-race strategy meeting, that track position is going to be everything because I know whoever would have the lead and the bottom of the track would be very difficult to pass. And the guys did phenomenal stops all night.

“Obviously that was the key, to keep getting out first. But a really good restart on Dixon that one lap, that one restart where he got out ahead of me, and it was a pretty intense battle there at the end with Scott.”

Kanaan’s finish represents his best performance through nine races in 2017. He has been on the podium nine times in 18 starts at Texas.

Pagenaud, Rahal and Gabby Chaves completed the top five with Marco Andretti, Daly, Chilton, Dixon and Sato in positions six through 10. Honda held a 6-4 advantage over Chevrolet in the top 10.

Next up for the series is the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America on the weekend of June 23–25. The race will air on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m. on June 25.

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