Apr 1, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The lap that Will Power lost in Round 2 of qualifications – the one that drew his ire over the ruling and ended his streak of 20 appearances in the Firestone Fast Six – is but a distant memory for the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
For Power, who started ninth in the third Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, got that lap back and more over the course of 90 laps on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course he drove on multiple times in the past two months in developing the Chevrolet engine and new Dallara chassis.
Click it: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama box score
Power, who inherited the point when Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves pulled off for this final service stop on Lap 68, held off Scott Dixon for the remaining laps that included a Lap 74 restart and won for the second year in a row at the picturesque venue.
“That was an awesome race,” said Power, who tied Dan Wheldon with 16 Indy car victories. “(Race strategist) Tim Cindric kept putting me in such a good position so we could use our speed. That last restart was kind of hairy. I knew Scott was going to be really quick and hounded me for a couple laps there.
“Just with good stops and good strategy calls put me out in clean air so we could use our speed. We slowly passed one by one. It was a very good team effort, absolute team effort. The strategy was perfect. The stops were perfect.
“We were quick when we needed to be, put ourselves in a position to win, which I did not think was possible this morning.”
Dixon, who was 3.3709 seconds behind in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, has the distinction of being the race runner-up all three years (twice to Power and the inaugural race to Castroneves). He broke a tie with teammate Dario Franchitti with 27 on the all-time list and is one behind Castroneves.
Still, combined with a second place at St. Petersburg a week earlier, Dixon is off to his best start since his 2008 IZOD IndyCar Series championship season.
“We got caught up there in some traffic in the pit; the pit sequence kind of got us there,” said Dixon, who surrendered the race lead when he pitted for the final time on Lap 66. “I think we had the car to beat. We had the speed and for the most part the right strategy, but just wasn't our day today.
“All in all, Team Target did a fantastic job with Honda. I think we’re starting to get on something with this car, so hopefully in the next few races we might be looking at the top spot on the podium. It was a tough race, and huge congratulations to Team Penske and obviously Will, coming from so deep in the field to come back and get on top. It shows they have a strong team.”
Castroneves finished third to maintain the points lead in the young season and continue his resurgence after a disappointing 2011 season. He held off Graham Rahal in the No. 38 Service Chip Ganassi Racing car by 0.2245 of a second.
Simon Pagenaud finished fifth – up one place from St. Petersburg – and James Hinchcliffe was sixth after starting on the front row for the first time in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. Mike Conway, who provided A.J. Foyt Racing its best non-oval starting position (fourth) since 2007, finished seventh.
Rubens Barrichello, making his second series start, and Sebastien Bourdais made statements with top-10 finishes. Bourdais gave Lotus its first top 10.
"I first need to say thank you to the crew and thank you for my first top-10 finish,” Barrichello said. “It's hard to be happy with a top 10, but starting so far back (14th) and at some points in the race even further back, I think it was a positive that I was able to work my way back through the field.
“By the end of the race, I had one of the fastest running cars, so I think it was enjoyable to watch and for me to race. People race hard over here, but they were fair.”