Will Power wins at Road America

Will Power conceded the thought had crossed his mind. Would he ever win another NTT INDYCAR SERIES race?

Of course, that question was answered Sunday when he passed fellow Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin to win the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. The victory ended a drought of 34 winless races over a two-year period.

Power last went to victory lane June 5, 2022, in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at the Raceway at Belle Park.

Only four active former race winners have gone longer without taking a checkered flag: Graham Rahal (115 races), Felix Rosenqvist (66), Rinus VeeKay (56) and Colton Herta (37).

In between Power’s victories, nine drivers have won races, including both teammates at least four times each. Newgarden has been the most productive during that span, becoming a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge among his series-leading eight victories. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou and Scott Dixon each won seven races. McLaughlin netted four.

Other winners: Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (twice) and Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson (then with Chip Ganassi Racing) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard.

“I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen,” Power said of winning another race. “I’ve been digging all year. Sometimes it just works out.”

Sometimes life works out, too. The undercurrent of Power’s winless 2023 season was the health of his wife, Liz. She had emergency spinal surgery related to a staph infection, and he said there were moments during that stressful time when they weren’t sure of the outcome.

“In the offseason, when my wife was sitting in the hospital, we’re just wondering what’s going to happen here – she almost died,” he said. “You start thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m going to have to stop (driving) now, take care of my son.’”

The sight of Liz and their son, Beau, in victory lane was the special moment following Sunday’s race. There were tears of joy and thankfulness. On several fronts, the doubts have subsided.

Power Squarely a Title Contender

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet received more than the 42nd race win of his career, a total that pulled him level with Michael Andretti for fourth place on the sport’s all-time list. He moved into the points lead with nine races remaining.

Power’s lead over Palou is five points, and he has an 11-point advantage on Dixon. Clearly, there are a lot of miles still to go before the Astor Challenge Cup is awarded, but it’s shaping up to be a fight between those three drivers.

O’Ward is 52 points out of the lead, McLaughlin and Kirkwood 57, Herta 60 and Newgarden 67.

Much has been made of Dixon chasing A.J. Foyt’s record of seven series championships, but a third title for Power or Palou, the reigning champion, would be significant. Only 12 drivers have at least three titles in their career. Dixon is the only active driver in the group.

The Penske Sweep

The 1-2-3 finish by Roger Penske’s drivers – Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin in that order – was the ninth such result for the organization. The most recent was in 2017 with Simon Pagenaud leading Newgarden and Power across the finish line at Sonoma Raceway.

Podium sweeps are rare in this competitive sport. Consider that five of the occurrences for Team Penske happened in that dominant 1994 season when it won 12 of the 16 races with Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy.

The lineage of Andretti Global has accomplished it three times, the most recent in 2020 with Herta leading Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay to the finish line in the second race of the doubleheader at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The organization has the only 1-2-3-4 in the sport’s history in 2005 with Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – in that order – dominating the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Chip Ganassi’s team had its only 1-2-3 finish at Pocono Raceway in 2013 with Dixon leading Charlie Kimball and Franchitti to the finish line. No other team has had such a result based on records dating to 1946.

Newcomers Start Strong, End Disappointed

Series rookie Linus Lundqvist earned the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole of his career, but his time at the front of the 27-car field was fleeting. In fact, he only led for the first pass through the front straightaway.

Contact from Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Armstrong, a second-year driver, prompted both cars to spin in Turn 1. Herta, who started on the front row with Lundqvist, spun, too, thanks to contact from Newgarden. Armstrong was penalized for avoidable contact; Newgarden was not.

By the time Lundqvist, Armstrong and Herta pitted, they were the last three cars on the lead lap. Lundqvist scrambled to finish 12th. Armstrong retired his car in 26th position.

Behind them in the initial accident was rookie Luca Ghiotto running into the back of Graham Rahal. Like Armstrong, Ghiotto was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

Rookie Kyffin Simpson also couldn’t capitalize on his career-best starting position. Running 10th on Lap 6, the Ganassi driver’s car was struck from behind by fellow rookie Christian Rasmussen, sending him spinning into the inside wall at Turn 14. Hence, Simpson’s 12th-place starting position was wasted. Rasmussen, the Ed Carpenter Racing driver who started 16th, was penalized for avoidable contact – he was issued a stop-and-go penalty -- and finished 20th.

Second-year driver Sting Ray Robb was the other driver penalized during the race. He had to yield seven positions for bumping Felix Rosenqvist off the track in Turn 5.

Odds and Ends

* Rookie Nolan Siegel was faced with a nearly impossible task by standing in for Agustin Canapino on short notice, but he did an admirable job for Juncos Hollinger Racing, qualifying in the 21st position and finishing 23rd. This was just the second official race for the 19-year-old Californian, who participated in the non-points event in March at The Thermal Club.

* Palou’s fourth-place finish helped him gain 13 points toward the championship leader. He entered the weekend trailing Dixon by 18 points. Now he trails Power by five.

* Kirkwood was happy to finish fifth. Herta was not happy to finish sixth. But the Andretti Global drivers still have title aspirations. Kirkwood is tied with McLaughlin for fifth in the standings; Herta is a close seventh.

* Romain Grosjean’s seventh-place finish was his best result with Juncos Hollinger Racing. He had finished eighth in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

* Andretti Global’s Jamie Chadwick not only scored her first INDY NXT by Firestone victory Sunday at Road America, it was her second podium finish in the past four races. She finished third in the first race of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course doubleheader.