BY JIM MILLER WEEKLY INDYCAR WRITER
Will Power started the KOHLER Grand Prix up front at the pole position and finished in the same position to win the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this past Sunday.
This was Power’s second win this season and his 27th career victory tying him with Johnny Rutherford for 13th on the all-time wins list.
Fans who were eager to see Indy Cars running on this highly regarded 4.048-mile, 14-turn permanent road course were treated to brilliant driving and excitement during the 50-lap 202.4 mile race. This was the first time this series has raced at this historic venue since 2007, and according to track president George Bruggenthies, this was the largest-attended event in Road America history.
Power, in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, led the field at the drop of the green flag with Scott Dixon (No. 9 Clorox Chevrolet/Chip Ganassi Racing) in near pursuit until Lap 6 when Dixon coasted to the side with mechanical issues. He was done for the day and with a 22nd place finish lost precious points in the season championship battle.
Pit strategy and tire degradation early on controlled the day with Power being chased by Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet/Chip Ganassi Racing) and Graham Rahal (No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) who benefitted from a great pit crew to jump from his fifth-place starting spot to third.
Laps 27 through 33 saw the leaders staying close until Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) passed Rahal in Turn 5 to take over third and then did the same move in the same place on Kanaan to put himself into second place with 16 laps to go. Pagenaud gained the lead on Lap 38 when Power headed into the pits, but relinquished it back to Power on the next lap when he couldn’t get out of the pits quickly enough.
The only caution of the day occurred on Lap 39 when Conor Daly (No. 18 Honda of Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality), which had been running strong in the top 10 all day, experienced left-rear suspension failure in Turn 1 causing Daly to spin and hit the outside tire barrier ending his day. Daly was uninjured.
The yellow caution lifted with six laps to go for an all out shoot-out to the finish.
With Power out in front extending his lead Kanaan got past Pagenaud to take over second place. Rahal then cleared Pagenaud for third. Pagenaud continued to fall back with engine issues where he would ultimately finish the race in 13th place.
While other positions in the top 10 were frantically fought over for valuable points Power managed to hold off Kanaan by 0.7429 for his second win in a row, following the second race of the Belle Isle doubleheader weekend. Rahal claimed third on the podium.
Josef Newgarden (No. 21 Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing) surprised everyone by driving this week with a surgically repaired collarbone and wrist cast following his terrifying crash two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway. Newgarden qualified in 20th position and raced hard to finish eighth.
Pagenaud now leads the Season Championship with 375 points, followed by Helio Castroneves who is 74 behind and Will Power at 81 back. Scott Dixon slipped to fourth trailing by 90 points.
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to oval racing with the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on Sunday, July 10.