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Power Gets On The Board With Win In Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 15 2021

Will Power drove to his first IndyCar Series victory of the season on Saturday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Will Power posted his first victory of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season Saturday on a track that he _ and his boss _ truly own.

Power’s win in the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix was his fifth on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course’s 2.439-mile/14-turn layout since its addition to the schedule in May 2014.

Power’s 40th career INDYCAR victory broke a tie with four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser, moving the native Australian into fifth on the all-time open-wheel list. The victory was the sixth overall of Power’s career at IMS, where also won the 2018 Indianapolis 500 on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Only NASCAR star Kyle Busch, with two Brickyard 400 victories and four Xfinity Series wins on the oval, has as many major race victories at “The Racing Capital of the World.”

“We needed that as a group,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. “I can’t tell you how good these guys have been all year. Flawless on pit stops. They’ve given me the car, and we’ve had some bad luck. I’ve made some mistakes, as well.

“I’m stoked to get the Verizon 5G car in Victory Lane because we’ve haven’t done that ever. I’d been thinking about that coming into this weekend. Can’t thank Chevy enough for the engine and all the work those guys have done. What a relief.”

Series rookie Romain Grosjean equaled his season-best finish _ on the same circuit in the GMR Grand Prix in May _ by placing second in the No. 51 Honda, 1.1142-seconds behind Power. Colton Herta rebounded from his disappointing late-race crash last Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., to finish third in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

The podium at Indy on Saturday was occupied by winner Will Power (center), runner-up Romain Grosjean (left) and Colton Herta (right).

Power, 39, began the season in April by signing a two-year contract extension prior to Race No. 2 on the Streets of St. Pete that will carry him through the 2023 season with the organization founded and owned by Roger Penske. 

“I can’t begin to tell you what it means to win these days,” Power said. “When you are in your 40s and still kicking butt _ it’s awesome. You can’t doubt yourself, you just have to keep digging. I wasn’t feeling safe until there was literally one (lap) to go. The misfortunes we’ve had at times have been a struggle; it’s a tough series. There are many, many components that have to right. Everyone has to do their job perfectly and that’s what we did today. Winning is important for Roger Penske, especially here. Very very happy.”

Power handed Penske his first victory at IMS since his purchase of the facility, and the series, in 2019.

“That’s awesome. Roger has had a rough year as far as the team goes,” Power said. “I’m really happy for the whole group. Because it’s not for lack of effort. They worked really hard during the Month of May and we were all scratching our heads at the end.

“I was very focused coming in here today. I did a lot of homework for this race. We weren’t quite strong in the May race and just put it all together. I’ve been here six times now in this Victory Lane; pretty special place for me. This win goes to the whole group. They deserve it more than me.”

Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner for Andretti Autosport, earned his season-best finish by placing fourth in the No. 27 Honda. NTT P1 Award-winner Pato O’Ward finished fifth in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, but benefitted from a dramatic shift in the championship standings.

O’Ward, a native of Mexico, pulled to within 21 points of series leader Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing with four races remaining in the season. Palou, a native of Spain, retired from the race on Lap 68 of 85 with a mechanical problem while running fourth in his No. 10 Honda.

Palou led teammate and six-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand by 42 points entering this event. Dixon fell to third but still trimmed the margin to the top, 34 points behind Palou, after placing a season-tying low 17th in the No. 9 Honda.

A strategic duel turned into a sprint for the checkered flag when Palou exited the race. Palou was running fourth and closing on Grosjean on Lap 68 when smoke began to flow from the rear of his car in Turn 4. Palou pulled off-track and wound up with a 27th-place result, his lowest of the season.

However, there were warning signs from the opening lap about possible mechanical issues for Palou, who told his team over the radio after Lap 1 he felt down on horsepower. “We started having some issues with the mapping, and we weren’t sure what was going on,” Palou said. “We managed like 60 laps, and it was fine. We were losing a bit of power but it wasn’t too bad. We were trying to fight for a podium and we had to stop.

“It’s a shame when we were running so good, but it’s just a bump in the road. We’ll continue, and we’ll get those points back.”

The ensuing full-course caution, first of the race, erased Power’s 1.9-second lead over Herta. Grosjean, who had closed to within a car length of Herta’s gearbox before the caution, passed Herta for second on Lap 72 on the restart.

Power maintained a 1.1-second lead over Grosjean when the field was bunched again by a full-course caution on Lap 77 when Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing stalled in Turn 7 after contact from behind by the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet of rookie Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand.

“When the yellow came and then another one, you’ve got to survive those yellows,” said Power, the 2014 series champion. “We had a really good car. It’s tough to get by lapped traffic, but the car was solid out front.”

Power retained the lead on the restart on Lap 79, helped by Frenchman Grosjean using all 200 seconds of his push-to-pass by Lap 65. Power maintained a gap of about one second to Grosjean over the final six laps, with both drivers running on Firestone’s alternate “red” tires.

“We had a good car all day long, and we fought at the front,” said Grosjean, the former Formula One regular now driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing. “We ran out of push-to-pass early today. I had to use quite a bit early in the race to make sure we were going through the lapped cars. Through the end, Will had more than I did. I just had to go flat-out and try not to make any mistakes.”

Various tire and fuel strategies unfolded during the first 67 laps, which ran caution-free. That produced 11 lead changes among six drivers as teams tried to undercut and overcut rivals with well-timed pit stops.

Andretti Autosport’s Herta appeared to be the most serious threat to Power, as he trimmed a deficit of nearly nine seconds to just 1.9-seconds before Palou’s problem triggered the first caution.

“Third place was really good for us today,” Herta said. “We really didn’t have the pace (to win). The car was fairly good, but there’s still stuff we can improve on here (at Indianapolis) to win. But it was a really good job by the team. We turned this car around from 26th in practice to a podium finish, so that was a spectacular job. Really happy with the result; really happy to be powered by Honda.”

Series rookie Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, tied his season-best with a lead-lap, 19th-place finish in the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Johnson, who made his ninth non-oval start, also finished 19th in his series debut at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., in April.

Next up is the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Saturday evening, Aug. 21, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., near St. Louis. It will be the final oval race of the season.

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Four-time/reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves is one of eight inductees into the Class of 2022 of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

The announcement was made by MSHFA President George Levy and IMS President Doug Boles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Castroneves, of Meyer Shank Racing, joined Indy’s elite Four-Time Winner’s Club alongside A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears with his victory in the 105th edition of the NTT IndyCar Series’ Indy 500 on May 30.

“Many of the members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame are people that I grew up idolizing and to now be invited to join this group, I just can’t believe it,” said Castroneves, a native of Brazil. “I’m so honored to have the opportunity to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame and I feel so lucky to be included with these legends.”

Castroneves finished 21st during Saturday’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course’s 2.439-mile/14-turn layout in MSR’s No. 06 Honda. 

The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is the only hall honoring the entire sport, and as such is the most exclusive. Each of the MSHFA’s inductees is elected by a straight vote of 200 experts _ half of them historians and other experts _ including RacinToday.com Senior Writer John Sturbin _ half of them inductees themselves. Regular voters have included Hall of Famers Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Tom D’Eath, Shirley Muldowney, Chip Ganassi, Don Garlits, Parnelli Jones, Scott Parker, Chip Hanauer and Don Prudhomme.

“This was Helio’s first year on the ballot, which means he’s one of very few first-year inductees,” Levy said. “The voting was completed well before the Indianapolis 500, so the voters clearly felt he belonged even before his record-tying fourth win. When someone like Helio is inducted the first time they appear on a ballot it’s because people like Parnelli Jones, Chip Ganassi, Mario Andretti, Don Garlits, Richard Petty and more decide he belongs on motorsports’ firmament.”

The official black tie induction ceremony will take place in Daytona Beach, Fla., in March 2022. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and Museum is located on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway, just outside of NASCAR Turn 4 leading into the 2.5-mile circuit’s Tri-Oval.

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Results Saturday of the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

  1. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    2. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 85, Running
    3. (5) Colton Herta, Honda, 85, Running
    4. (10) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
    5. (1) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    6. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
    7. (16) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
    8. (20) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    9. (11) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 85, Running
    10. (15) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
    11. (8) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    12. (4) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 85, Running
    13. (19) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    14. (17) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
    15. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    16. (12) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    17. (26) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
    18. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
    19. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 85, Running
    20. (18) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    21. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 85, Running
    22. (24) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
    23. (21) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    24. (9) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    25. (27) Cody Ware, Honda, 83, Running
    26. (28) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 81, Running
    27. (6) Alex Palou, Honda, 67, Mechanical
    28. (25) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 12, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 113.458 mph
Time of Race: 1:49:38.0811
Margin of victory: 1.1142-seconds
Cautions: 2 for 5 laps
Lead changes: 11 among six drivers

Lap Leaders
O’Ward, Pato 1 – 15
Lundgaard, Christian 16 – 17
Pagenaud, Simon 18 – 20
Power, Will 21 – 36
Herta, Colton 37
O’Ward, Pato 38
Pagenaud, Simon 39 – 41
Power, Will 42 – 60
Herta, Colton 61
Pagenaud, Simon 62
Newgarden, Josef 63 – 64
Power, Will 65 – 85

Point standings (top-10): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 415; 2, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 394; 3, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 381; 4, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 360; 5, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 353; 6, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 312; 7, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 311; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 295; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 278; 10, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing, 269.

UPDATED 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Sunday, April 18 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, April 25 _Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

Saturday, May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Saturday, May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing)

Sunday, May 30 _ The 105th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing)

Saturday, June 12 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, June 13 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Sunday, June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Will Power, Team Penske)

Saturday, Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (NBCSN)

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 19 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBCSN)

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 15 2021
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