After a frustrating race in Saturday’s doubleheader race in Detroit for the NTT IndyCar Series, Will Power used long stints to vault his way through the field to finish in sixth place in the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader.
Power started 20th after failing to advance to the second round of modified knockout qualifying for the 70-lap race. That prompted the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet crew to go for playing the long game, strategy-wise on the 14-turn, 2.35 mile street course on Belle Isle.
“We had a plan and then we went from there,” Power said. “Starting on blacks was a good idea, going long and then going long again, and then the reds helped at the end. That was the game from our position.”
The 2014 IndyCar Series champion went for a two-stop strategy like almost every other competitor in the top 10, but Power started the race on the black sidewall primary tires, one of only three drivers to do so. Because the Belle Isle circuit was abrasive on the softer red sidewall alternate tires, Power was able to stay out longer on what was the preferred tire compound, and stopping later meant that the later stop would be shorter because the car wouldn’t need as much fuel.
Power made his way up to second place before his first pit stop on lap 26 and third before the final stop on lap 51. Power ran the final 19 laps on the red sidewall tires while the vast majority of the rest of the field were on the preferred black tires, including eventual race winner Pato O’Ward.
“I have to say, both days the team’s done a phenomenal strategy and put me in great positions,” Power said. “Obviously yesterday there was nothing we could do with what happened with the car, but it would’ve been two very good results but I’m very happy with sixth. Very happy.”
The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner was leading late in Saturday’s race when a late race red flag for a crash started a chain of events that would take Power from the lead and knock the Australian down to 20th place.
Power’s electronic control unit (ECU) overheated and failed while his car sat on pit road waiting for cooling fans to be applied to the cars. INDYCAR allows the teams to cool their cars under red flag conditions, but not until all cars are stopped on pit road. The car would not fire up when the red flag was withdrawn and the field went around the motionless car.
The frustration boiled over Saturday on pit road, but Power had to put all of that behind him to try to go through the field and try to earn his first win since the second race in the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix.
“It was just upsetting. It’s so hard to win a race in this series, so many good guys,” Power said. “I kind of said, the guy who is the first two-time winner this year is probably going to be the champion and you just saw the guy that I reckon is going to be so hard to beat, [O’Ward]’s phenomenal. Like I’ve never seen a guy who can drive on cold tires like that, unbelievable.”
The next NTT IndyCar Series race is at Road America on Sunday June 20th. Power won on INDYCAR’s return to Road America in 2016 and is looking forward to another opportunity to shine at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
“Hopefully everything lines up for us and we’re quick,” Power said. “You never know in this series. As you can see, it’s not over until it’s over.”