Power penalty sees Carpenter coast to win
8 June 2014 – After leading 89 laps, Ed Carpenter has won the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. He and Will Power had cleared the field by nearly ten seconds before their final pit-stops, but Power was unable to slow to the pit lane speed limit when he came in, resulting in a drive-through penalty.
The oval specialist, who is also a team owner, was disappointed in his fifth place starting position, but he and his car had a clear speed advantage throughout the race, quickly climbing into the top three, where he would remain for the duration of the race.
Finishing second was a resilient Power. After his penalty, he was the last car on the lead lap, but given Carpenter and his dominance early on, that meant he only dropped to P6.
When flames began to shoot from the back of Takuma Sato's Honda engine with a handful of laps to go, Power came into the pits for fresh tyres (since he would remain in sixth regardless). The fresh rubber made all the difference as his final lap was at least 4mph quicker than the cars around him, allowing him to shoot past Juan Pablo Montoya on the final lap, clearing the Columbian by Turn 3 and claiming second place. His speed continued onto the frontstretch where he finished just half a second behind Carpenter, thus keeping his championship hopes alive.
Montoya, who has only ever raced at Texas in NASCAR, ran a very consistent race and finished on the podium, capping off a 1-2-3 result for Chevrolet engines, as well.
The start of the race looked much different than the finish, though, with Tony Kanaan leading early on with Ryan Hunter-Reay climbing his way through the field after starting P12. Hoping to claim some good luck for the first time in a while, this year's Indy 500 champion was again left disappointed when his Honda engine also let go on Lap 136. He would be classified P19.
Marco Andretti was the first car out of the race with yet another Honda engine failure – this one coming on just the third lap. The race would otherwise remain caution free until lap 120 when Justin Wilson was allegedly forced below the white line by Sebastian Bourdais. Transitioning suddenly from the high banking to the flat apron, Wilson lost control and collected Bourdais before sending them both into the wall. They were unharmed in the accident, and Bourdais later accepted responsibility for the incident.
Also perennially running with the leaders was Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. Several times closing in on the leaders after pit stops, Pagenaud couldn't match their speed in the longer stints and settled for P4 as the highest finishing Honda engine. He and rookie Mikhail Aleshin (who finished in ninth) were the only two Hondas represented in the top ten by the time the chequered flag came out.
Through the long green flag runs, much of the race's pace and strategy were dictated by the pit-stops. As the ambient air temperatures dropped at nightfall, many drivers were able to extend the life of their tyres from 25 laps nearly to 40. The stints all seemed to start with cars running near 210mph, but by the end those speeds would tumble to below 200mph, signaling the teams to come in.
When the first caution came out on Lap 120, though, Carpenter had gained the lead through the pit-stop rotation and already had 30 laps on his tyres. As the caution continued and that tally neared 40, he suddenly found his strategy would be in sync with the lead cars. This meant that all nine of the lead cars were able to pit together, but he would lose the lead to Power after taking evasive action leaving his pit stall.
On the restart, Power held the lead from Carpenter, Montoya, Dixon and Pagenaud. Kanaan, who had been running in third, was forced into a long stop by electrical glitches. The team responded by changing his steering wheel, which ended up solving the issue, but he soon became the last car on the lead lap.
After a look around Power on the outside, Carpenter settled behind the Aussie for the entirety of that stint, failing to get around Power even after the next pit-stop.
However, because of the green flag pit stops shuffling the leaders back in the field, Power soon found himself having to get out of the throttle to avoid contact with a slower car. His 203mph lap was nearly 10mph below Carpenter's, and he was unable to keep the lead because of it.
This turned out to be the defining stint for the two drivers, stretching their lead over the rest of the field to ten seconds with one pit stop remaining. The battle behind for P3 saw Kanaan and Montoya trade spots several times, but Kanaan would soon find his tyres fading, letting both Montoya and Dixon by before the race's end.
The ensuing pit-stop, which was also under green, nearly threw the race away for Power because of his penalty, but his gamble after Sato's caution allowed the race's polesitter to reclaim second place – and the lead in the IndyCar points standings.