LONG POND, Pennsylvania – Will Power kept telling himself to not give up. They wound up being winning words.
Power overcame numerous obstacles to get to the front today in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, then held off charging Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden to win the Verizon IndyCar Series race for a second straight year.
ABC SUPPLY 500: Box score
Power defeated Newgarden by 0.5268 of a second to become the first Indy car driver to post back-to-back wins on the three-turn, 2.5-mile oval in the event’s 24-race history. It was also Power’s third triumph this season and the 32nd of his 13-year career, moving the 36-year-old Australian into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time Indy car victory list ahead of Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy.
“It seriously means a lot. I love racing on ovals,” said Power, whose win today is his sixth on an oval track. “Every oval win I get, I really, really enjoy because we don't have many of them.
“To come back and win it again in a very different way this year – it was a crazy race, exciting to me – but feels fantastic to go back-to-back.”
The results also kept the battle for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship tight with three races remaining. Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by 18 points, Helio Castroneves by 22, Simon Pagenaud by 26 and Power by 42. The top 15 drivers in the standings remain mathematically alive for the title.
Starting the 200-lap race from fifth, Power made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop on Lap 66 to replace a front wing assembly on his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and went a lap down. He later had a damaged rear wing assembly replaced during a caution period. Still, Power persevered, was back on the lead lap with 75 to go and worked his way through the field.
A lightning-quick pit stop on Lap 177 put Power ahead of the other front-runners who had stopped before him. When race leader Marco Andretti, who was off pit sequence, stopped for fuel on Lap 190, Power assumed first place and withstood pressure from Newgarden and Alexander Rossi over the final 10 laps.
“Once I got my lap back, I was like, ‘All right, it's game on,’ I can definitely get back up there,” said Power, who has four top-five finishes in the last five races. “I was thinking like top-5 (finish), but when I was pumping out like 217 (mph) laps, I'm like, ‘OK, we're going to make some serious hay here.’
“The guys did a fantastic job in the pits having to do all that and still able to go ahead and win the race.”
Newgarden took consolation that his points lead expanded slightly with the second-place finish.
“It was a good day for points,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet. “Tough when you have an opportunity to potentially win a race at the end of it, but I don't think we had enough for Will, to be honest with you.
“I'm happy for Team Penske. It's a 1-2 at the end of the day, so keeping it in the family. When one car wins, we kind of all win.”
Rossi led 44 laps and finished third in the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda to earn his second podium finish in the past three races.
“It’s a really good result, but when you come so close to a win, it’s sometimes difficult to swallow,” Rossi said. “Looking back to where we were at Pocono last year, when we had a strong car and didn’t finish, to come back to be on the podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport and the entire team and the work that they’ve done all year.”
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud was fourth in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, with Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Dixon (who led a race-high 51 laps) finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
Hunter-Reay, who sustained left hip and knee injuries in a qualifying crash Saturday, charged from the 21st starting position to lead 12 laps before finishing eighth in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
The thrilling race featured 42 lead changes – a Pocono race record – among 10 drivers. At one point, Kanaan and Graham Rahal swapped the lead for 12 consecutive laps. The race was slowed by three cautions, including one when James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand collided in Turn 1 on Lap 125. Neither driver was injured.
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action on Saturday, Aug. 26 with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. It marks the return of Indy car racing to the St. Louis region for the first time since 2003. Live race coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.