After somehow losing Saturday’s opening round of Dual in Detroit despite dominating qualifying and much of the race, Team Penske made good on its second chance Sunday afternoon.
Will Power, mired in a 19-race winless streak that started after last May’s Angie’s List Grand Prix, came to life and made a ballsy outside pass of teammate Simon Pagenaud on lap 52 – it was for fifth at the time, but that turned out to be the difference as they finished 1-2 in Roger Penske’s second-favorite track.
Power held off polesitter Pagenaud by less than a second to score his first victory in over a year and 26th of his career to tie Rodger Ward for 14th place on the all-time IndyCar list. It was Power’s third top-5 this season (he finished third at Phoenix and fourth at Barber).
“Man, it’s been a long time and we really needed this,” said Power, who started eighth in his Verizon Chevy and took the lead for good on lap 61. “My guys did a great job of getting me out ahead of Ryan (Hunter-Reay) on my last pit stop and then I stuck it on the outside to get Simon on that last restart. “It wasn’t a big risk because it was on the outside. But there was a space and I went for it.”
Pagenaud, who now owns three wins, three runner-up finishes and an 80-point lead in the standings over Scott Dixon, marveled at his teammate’s move.
“Will made a great pass and had to brake really late,” he said. “I was struggling on cold tires and he made a helluva move. I got beat.”
Pagenaud pushed his teammate to the checkered flag and lost by 0.9203 seconds but increased his points lead in the Verizon series to 80 over Dixon and 86 over teammate Helio Castroneves.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was third, Josef Newgarden fourth and Scott Dixon fifth. Sebastien Bourdais, winner of Dual 1, finished eighth.
It appeared that a different Penske driver would be standing in victory lane until Castroneves got a bad break. After making a nifty outside-in move to pass Pagenaud for the lead on lap 41, Castroneves was out in front of Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and Power when everything turned. That trio ducked into the pits on lap 49 but Castroneves stayed out after a late call by Roger Penske and then a full-course yellow flew on lap 50 for the stalled car of Jack Hawksworth.
The three-time Indy winner screamed into his radio because he knew the chance of him winning for the first time since Belle Isle in 2014 was toast. When he pitted on lap 51, he rejoined the race in 16th place and ended up finishing 14th.
“Helio got real unlucky with the yellow today because he had the race in hand,” said Power, who moved into seventh in the point standings despite missing the season opener.
Hunter-Reay started second in his DHL Honda and finished third to salvage a rough weekend for Andretti Autosport.
“It feels good to be on the podium and I drove as hard as I could,” Hunter-Reay said, “but nobody seemed to have anything for Team Penske this weekend.”
Josef Newgarden bounced back from a tough Saturday with a fourth place in the Preferred Freezer Chevy, Conor Daly had another strong result for Dale Coyne by charging from 21st to sixth in the Byrd’s Hospitality Honda.
An opening-lap incident on the first corner (left) took out James Hinchcliffe and rookie Max Chilton after Charlie Kimball squeezed Carlos Munoz, who sent Hinchcliffe into the wall. Both Hinchcliffe and Chilton would not be able to continue. Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti also sustained damage but were able to continue.
It was also an eventful race for Power’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. He ran into the back of Scott Dixon in Turn 7 on lap 23, damaging Montoya’s front-wing assembly and giving Dixon a flat tire. His race ended after his lap 34 pit stop after he hit the wall in Turn 8 and spun into the Turn 10 barrier. Montoya wound up in 20th.
“Helio (Castroneves) just smashed into us on the start and put us into the wall,” Dixon said. “We lost a ton of track position after that. I didn’t see the replay with the contact with Juan [Pablo Montoya] but I tried to give him room while getting to the corner. That obviously gave us a puncture and dropped us a ways back. But after the hit I took from Helio at the start I could turn right pretty well, but I just couldn’t turn left and it’s hard to move up in the race obviously like that.”
Power became the sixth different winner in eight races in 2016 as the circuit heads to Texas this Saturday night.
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