Power wins Pocono with strategy, persistence
20 August 2017 – Will Power delivered a precise and tactical final two stints in an eventful race at Pocono on Sunday to hold off Josef Newgarden in the ABC Supply 500.
Power had, at different points in the race, suffered handling problems, a broken rear wheel guard, gone a lap down and nearly had a front wing change.
A slow and steady strategic race ensued for the Aussie while a slew of drivers up front delivered scores of lead changes, but it was Power who came out on top after the penultimate round of pit stops, and he couldn't be caught.
Newgarden delivered the strongest challenge, but Power would weave way off-line to break his draft in the closing laps. This allowed third-place Alexander Rossi to close up on Newgarden, slowing him slightly.
Power eventually held on by a mere 0.5268 seconds to deliver the Penske 1-2.
At the start, cars were in perfect two-by-two alignment exiting Turn 3 but soon spread seven abreast heading across the line into Turn 1.
Tony Kanaan, a long-time fan of superspeedways, immediately jumped three spots and into the lead, slowly building a half-second lead through the first stint.
Rossi gave chase after he and team-mate Power both dispatched pole-sitter Takuma Sato. Rossi would take the lead on lap 13 while the Japanese driver plummeted down the order to P15. He would only gain two more spots by the chequered flag.
Esteban Gutierrez brought out the first caution of the day on lap 23 after a piece of his right rear wheel guard dislodged. He slid wide on the exit of the final turn and brushed the wall and inflicted terminal damage to his Dale Coyne Racing chassis.
Carlos Muñoz also came in with damage to his rear wing from an unrelated incident, but he was able to continue.
This gave the field an opportunity to pit for the first time. Rossi maintained first on pit exit, but Power jumped Kanaan for second. Scott Dixon, who started ninth, also entered the top five in front of James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Those two gained five and six spots, respectively, on that round of stops.
Hinchcliffe's march forward continued on the restart, but the same could not be said for Rossi. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner was swarmed at the line by the two Ganassis of Kanaan and Dixon. A lap later, Hinchcliffe also got by, as did Newgarden, the championship leader.
The Canadian eventually pounced when Dixon overtook Kanaan on lap 30, following the Kiwi toward the front of the field.
Dixon would relinquish the lead by pitting under green on lap 55, and within two laps the rest of the field followed suit. When everything cycled through, he remained in front, but not for long.
Rossi had gained ground by staying out a lap longer and easily took over the lead. Close behind, Power's chances seemingly came to an end on lap 68 when the Aussie pitted with a slowly deflating left front tyre. He would fall to 21st and eventually a lap down.
Back up front, Dixon took a turn in the lead while Rossi and Hinchcliffe alternated second.
He would return to the pits for a 6.1-second service at the end of lap 82. Pagenaud, Kanaan, Newgarden and several others followed a lap later, as did Rossi from the lead on lap 87.
Hinchcliffe rolled the dice by going an extra lap but overcooked the entry into his pit stall, losing valuable time as his team rolled him backward. He would fall to 12th.
Dixon's lead grew after this round of stops, but he was soon overtaken by Rossi and a storming Hunter-Reay.
Hunter-Reay, who crashed heavily in qualifying and required a trip to the nearby hospital, fought back from a P21 starting position all the way to first by the midway point of the race and eventually finished P8.
Dixon's strategy of pitting early continued on lap 112 to open the next round of stops, but chaos ensued on lap 117 when a slowing Sebastián Saavedra brought out the race's second caution.
The Colombian had gotten high into the marbles and slid into the wall, spreading carbon fibre across the track. At the same time, half of the leaders were already in pit lane.
Rossi, who pitted from the lead, fell six spots down the order after his right rear tyre got away from his pit crew and began rolling out of his stall. They scrambled to retrieve it, but their mistake handed the lead to Hunter-Reay.
His lead was brief, though, as he was easily taken on the restart by Kanaan and Graham Rahal.
Their battle lasted mere seconds before, on lap 126, Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand collided in Turn 1 to bring out a yellow. Neither was hurt.
After the restart, Rahal and Kanaan traded the lead back and forth for the entire stint, each setting personal best times throughout.
Dixon once again opened the next round of green flag stops on lap 150 with most of the leaders only waiting one lap to respond. Even that wait proved too long, as Dixon inherited the effective lead with fewer than 50 laps remaining.
Instead, Newgarden, Power and a handful of others stayed out another ten laps before pitting around lap 160.
Power was the last of that group to pit, and his extra laps proved crucial, as he was able to take a full service and stay in the lead. Dixon at this point was over three seconds behind.
This afforded Power the chance to short-pit with 21 laps to go, fully back on-sequence with the field after multiple stops earlier while he was a lap down.
But he would have to endure a long, tense chase to the end by Kanaan, Rossi and Newgarden, all of whom were on fresher tyres and were now a second and a half behind.
His tactics of breaking Newgarden's draft kept the American from winning his third race in a row and allowed Power, who started fifth, his third win this season and his second straight at Pocono.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes in a little under a week's time for the Bommarito Auto Group 500