Will Power showed why he should be the man to beat in IndyCar this year as he came from ninth on the grid to score an excellent win in round two of this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
Power leapfrogged to the front on a track where passing is difficult thanks to aggressive driving and keen pit stop strategy by Penske’s team leader Tim Cindric. On the final restart Power was able to pull away to win by 3.3 seconds from Scott Dixon with pole winner Helio Castroneves another 15 seconds behind.
Power was the fastest man throughout practice but was caught-out in qualifying by an ill-timed full-course yellow, which negated his quick lap so that he was eliminated from the final ‘Fast Six’ qualifying run-off. As a result Power started ninth but quickly went to work, making his way methodically to the front with Cindric’s help.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the end result,” Power said. “It was just working away through every stint. Tim Cindric kept putting me in such good position so we could really use our speed. I can’t believe we won. I thought that was never possible at this place. That’s definitely what I was thinking this morning. A great job by the team. I’m very happy – I can’t believe it.”
Dixon qualified third but ran a strong race, taking the lead after the first round of pit stops from pole man Castroneves thanks to quick pit work. Dixon led 38 laps but lost ground behind a couple of lapped cars going into and out of the pits from his last stop and found himself trailing Power for the final restart. Dixon finished second for the second week in a row.
“It was stupid for us to get ourselves in that situation,” Dixon said disgustedly. “We had a quick car but when you’re behind you lose so much downforce and grip and I burned the rear tyres off towards the end. It’s tough to swallow because I felt we had done a good job of the way we ran the race. But then we got caught up with Simona and then with Viso and that was a double whammy that lost us our track position.”
St. Petersburg winner Castroneves led the race’s opening 28 laps and came home third after a fierce battle with Graham Rahal in the closing laps. After two rounds Castroneves leads the IndyCar championship with 86 points from Dixon (84 points) and Power (77). “My front tyres were gone at the end,” Castroneves said. “Graham and I had a great race there at the end. It was tough!”
Simon Pagenaud also looked good in Alabama coming from 10th on the grid to finish fifth thanks to a series of aggressive passes. James Hinchcliffe qualified on the outside of the front row and finished sixth with Mike Conway seventh and Rubens Barrichello showing more comfort and confidence as he came from 14th on the grid to take eighth place. Sebastien Bourdais also looked good as he took Jay Penske’s Lotus/Judd-powered car to ninth after starting 17th.
Defending IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti had another difficult weekend. Franchitti has been struggling to find the right balance and set-up from the new Dallara DW12 and qualified eighteenth in Alabama. Nor did he make much progress in the first half of the race although Dario came through to finish 10th after passing Marco Andretti in the closing laps.
“It was a busy day and I passed a lot of cars,” Dario said. “I think that is the best my car has felt through all of the practices and races and qualifying that we have had this year. So I will take that as a positive and that will give us some kind of direction going into Long Beach. I have never been so happy for a 10th place finish.”