If you look at the stats, it looks like another Will Power Benefit. Started on the pole position, led 65 of 82 laps and was never passed on the track in winning Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
And, make no mistake, Power was the class of the field in his Verizon Dallara-Chevrolet.
But, thanks to Graham Rahal, an otherwise ho-hum road race turned into a little bit of an unknown the final 20 laps. Rahal closed a 5-second deficit to 1.7 seconds before the defending IndyCar champion picked up the pace in the closing laps and held on for his 25th victory.
“Damn right he made me earn it,” replied Power when asked if Rahal made it tougher than he expected. “Tim (Cindric, strategist) told me the fuel number I needed to hit and that Rahal was closing so it was really hard.
“I was trying to save in the spots where we wouldn’t lose time and push like hell in other areas and I couldn’t use my push-to-pass because that uses too much fuel. I think it was one of the most physical races I’ve ever driven but we managed to hold on.”
The fact Rahal pushed Power and finished second (1.5 seconds behind) was the story of the day. After being blitzed in qualifying by Chevy (it had the first 10 spots on the 25-car grid) on the 2.6-mile IMS road course, Honda drivers figured rain was their only hope of being competitive.
It didn’t rain until after the checkered flag, but another force of nature changed the face of the fifth race of 2015.
As the field braked for Turn 1 on the opening lap, Helio Castroneves (starting third) drilled front-row starter Scott Dixon and turned him around (click here for video replays. It ruined Dixon’s race and effectively took out Ganassi Racing as Tony Kanaan (starting sixth) was forced into evasive action and emerged from the melee in 14ht place. Josef Newgarden got speared by James Hinchcliffe and Jack Hawksworth also spun to avoid Dixon (ABOVE, LAT photo).
Starting 17th in his Steak & Shake Dallara-Honda, Rahal (ABOVE, Marshall Pruett photo) dodged disabled or slowed cars and the second generation driver came out of the mess in sixth place. He picked off a couple cars and found himself leading on lap 22 before his first pit stop.
A great pit stop got him out ahead of Juan Montoya, Sebastian Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud and into second place and that’s where stayed the final two-thirds of race – running as fast if not faster than Power much of the time.
“Will was the class of the field, not sure I could have passed him if I caught him but this team did a helluva job again today,” said Rahal, whose charge to second place two weeks in Alabama was one of the highlights of this young season. “I decided to stay out an extra lap on my last stop and got held up leaving the pits so that cost me a couple seconds.
“This team has really turned the corner and a lot of things went right for us today but those Penske boys are no slouches. It’s hard to beat them.”
Montoya managed to hold off Bourdais for third and retain his point lead – although Power only trails by five with the 99th Indianapolis 500 up next.
Click here for full results.
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