For the 27th time in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Will Power piloted his racecar into Victory Lane. Taking advantage of a plethora of strategies throughout the race, he climbed through the field late in the going, taking the lead during the final pit stop of the race after the caution flew for debris with 24 laps to go in the ABC Supply Co. 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Holding off pole-sitter Mikhail Aleshin, who led a career-high 87 laps during Monday’s race, Power earned his fourth career oval triumph. For the Team Penske driver, he is now 20 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud for the championship lead after entering Pocono 58 markers behind. Power now sits 11th on the all-time wins list in the IndyCar Series after leading 55 laps en route to Victory Lane.
Starting eighth, Power stayed within the top 10 throughout the day. While his teammates fought ill-handling cars, the No. 12 team was able to adjust to the windy conditions at the 2.5-mile course.
Throughout the day, Aleshin and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay battled for the lead. The two Honda racers swapped the lead multiple times throughout the day, with Hunter-Reay taking charge during the second half of the race. With 55 laps to go, he held a 2.5-second lead over Aleshin.
But then the unpredictable occurred.
Hunter-Reay ran out of power after taking the lead on the restart with 36 laps to go. While coming onto pit road, he was able to re-fire the No. 28 car, staying on the lead lap.
“The throttle pedal didn’t work any more, but the engine was still running,” Hunter-Reay said on pit road after the race. “No downshifts. Nothing. I cycled it once. Nothing. Coming down pit road, I almost ran out of speed enough to stop. I tried it one more time and it fired back up.”
When the caution came out for debris, Hunter-Reay was able to catch back up with the rest of the field. He charged through the field, stalking those ahead of him and taking advantage of the draft. When he passed 2014 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya, the two battled side-by-side as Scott Dixon flew by the two. Evidently, the No. 28 car got around Dixon, charging through the field to finish third.
“It’s always tough for someone who isn’t in Victory Lane to say we should’ve won it, but everyone knows we would’ve been right there battling for it,” Hunter-Reay said. “If I could have set up to be second on the last lap, we were going to go by him [Power].”
For Aleshin, the runner-up finish ties his career-best result from Houston in June 2014. The Russian-born racer entered Pocono after leading 33 laps at Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course three weeks prior to returning to IndyCar’s first oval since Iowa Speedway in early July.
“It’s important for the team first of all because I got my first pole, but second of all, fortunately because I was hoping to win,” Aleshin said. “For the team confidence, it’s a very good result because we’ve been through a lot this year. I hope the end of the year is going to continue like this.”
On Lap 64, Alexander Rossi was exiting his pit stall when he slammed into Charlie Kimball’s car, launching the No. 98 directly onto Helio Castroneves’ machine. The original impact sent Rossi’s car into the air immediately, with the chassis making contact inches from Castroneves’ cockpit.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 22, 2016
Championship leader Pagenaud ran outside of the top 10 throughout the day. Qualifying 14th, he struggled with the handling on the No. 22 car. Eventually, he worked his way into the top 10 with pit strategy.
But on Lap 158, the four-time winner in 2016 hit the wall in Turn 1, giving Pagenaud an abrupt end to his day and enabling Power to close the gap in the standings.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 22, 2016
Takuma Sato, who started a season-best third, wrecked on Lap 1 exiting Turn 3. According to Sato, the heavy winds at Pocono Raceway had an impact on his car’s handling.
“It was quite tricky conditions today with gusty winds, but it shouldn’t be like that way,” Sato said. I had no time to catch it. Its a real shame. The car was working really well and especially in front of Pocono and ABC Supply.”
Josef Newgarden, who swapped a few times with Hunter-Reay and Aleshin, finished fourth on the day. Sebastien Bourdais took fuel-only on the final pit stop before the restart with 21 laps to go, giving him the track position needed to secure him a fifth-place result, his best of the year besides his Belle Isle triumph.
There were 29 lead changes throughout the 500-mile race, an increase from 16 in each of the first two seasons the IndyCar Series came to Pocono, but down four from last year’s 33. Additionally, there were nine different leaders on the day.
The IndyCar Series will compete at its second consecutive oval race next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.