Power wins Texas wreckfest

Power wins Texas wreckfest

IndyCar

Power wins Texas wreckfest

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Team Penske’s Will Power dominated an ugly night of constant crashes, blistered tires and respect-free driving at Texas Motor Speedway. The 2014 series champion took the checkered flag under the final yellow of the event with his No. 12 Chevy as only six cars were left on the lead lap and only nine were running at the finish. Ten of the 22 starters ended their nights against the walls.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan, who was directly involved in two of the crashes that depleted the field, recovered from receiving a stop-plus-20-second penalty and being two laps down to take second in his Honda-powered entry. Power’s Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud took third on a night where Hondas were strong early but had no answer for the Penske Chevys as the sun fell on the horizon.

“It was very intense,” said Power, who led 180 laps of 248 laps, earned his 31st career victory, and moved up to fifth in the championship standings. “I’m so stoked; shows you how good that Chevy engine is. This feels awesome. I wanted to win here in Texas and we did it. We’re coming, we’re coming.”

Pagenaud didn’t have enough to challenge Power, but did his best to play the role of tail gunner in the final laps.

“It was very much pack racing,” said the defending series champion. “I was trying to protect him, which worked out really well. It got a little crazy at the end.”

Graham Rahal and Gabby Chaves drove clean races, barring the lap where Chaves hit and nearly spun Rahal on the approach to Turn 3, as the two protagonists survived to take fourth and fifth. Marco Andretti, who lost a lap during a long pit stop to replace his rear wing, fought his way back to sixth on a night where stupidity and aggression were seen on a regular basis.

Only CGR’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato, who were directly behind Power with five laps remaining, had a chance to challenge for the win. But a silly error by Sato – one where he dropped his left-front tire onto the grass on the front straight for no reason – triggered the last caution of the evening which ended the race behind the pace car.

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With Sato’s car in the midst of a spin due to driving off the pavement, his broadslide allowed the Andretti car to hit Dixon’s left-rear wheel guard, which caused Dixon to spin. Dixon’s CGR teammate Max Chilton, left with nowhere to go, plowed into the points leader, and thanks to Sato, second and third place were out of the race, Chilton’s chances of a top five finish were lost, and Conor Daly was left sitting stalled in the Turn 1-2 complex. Daly was eventually restarted but lost a lap and was credited with seventh. Chilton, who eventually made it back to the pits for a new front wing, lost three laps and fell to eighth.

Although four cars were involved, the last crash of the Rainguard 600 was nowhere near the biggest.

That honor went to the three-car sandwich of Kanaan on the inside heading to Turn 3, James Hinchcliffe in the middle, and Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin on the outside.

Hinchcliffe, charging hard out of Turn 2, had plenty of room on entry to Turn 3, but as the trio got close to their turn-in point, Kanaan crept high and hit the Hinchcliffe’s SPM Honda, which then hit Aleshin’s SPM Honda, and both SPM drivers were headed into the wall.

As a result of Kanaan’s right turn on the approach to the corner, both the two SPM cars, both Dale Coyne Racing Hondas, the Andretti Honda of Ryan Hunter-Reay and the A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy of Carlos Munoz retired on the spot. The Ed Carpenter Racing Chevys of Carpenter and JR Hildebrand were also damaged in the eight-car pileup, but both would eventually return, albeit many laps down.

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Due to the widespread carnage from the Lap 152 crash, IndyCar officials made the choice to go red to conduct the prolonged cleanup. The incident was especially unfortunate for DCR drivers Tristan Vautier and Ed Jones. Vautier, who shocked the field by qualifying fourth, drove like a rabid dog, leading on multiple occasions, and Jones, in a new oval comfort zone, was rarely far behind.

Incensed by what took place, Coyne walked over to Kanaan, who was sitting in his car under the red flag, and gave him a piece of his mind before an IndyCar official escorted him away from the No. 10 Honda. Asked if he felt Kanaan deserved the criticism, Kanaan’s team owner Chip Ganassi placed the blame squarely on the SPM drivers…

The race started with pole-sitter Charlie Kimball enjoying a brief taste of the lead as Vautier shot to second and the Penske duo of Power and Newgarden moved forward. Ragged passing and a torrid pace was slowed for the first time on Lap 38 as Alexander Rossi bounced between the Ganassi duo of Kanaan and Dixon on entry to Turn 3. As the unwilling member of the Honda crunch, Rossi found himself making side contact with Dixon on the low side, then rebounding into the side of Kanaan up high and spinning backwards into the wall with the left side of his Andretti car.

“It’s unfortunate because the car was getting good,” said the Californian, who was unhurt in the crash, and watched the same exact scenario play out 114 laps later in Turn 3. “To have that happen so early is unnecessary and unfortunate.”


The field pitted under yellow on Lap 42, and more drama happened when Hinchcliffe leapt out of his pit box but couldn’t control his spinning rear tires and oversteered into Helio Castroneves, who then ricocheted into Sato. Hinchcliffe’s car was undamaged but Castroneves and Sato needed new front wings, which dropped both drivers to the back of the field. Complicating matters, Kimball’s car sat motionless on pit lane as an oil leak ruined his day.

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Prior to the clash, Newgarden, Power and Scott Dixon beat Vautier out of the pits, but Newgarden and Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand were moved to the back for speeding.

The return to green on Lap 49 saw Power lead Vautier into Turn 1 and again, the Frenchman refused to play a waiting game as he challenged the Australian for the lead. Hinchcliffe paid a visit to pit lane for a drive-through penalty for the incident he caused and was swallowed up by the leaders upon returning to the track.

Lap 91 drew the next yellow when the Penske 1-2-3 of Power, Pagenaud and Castroneves, lost the Brazilian, who tagged the Turn 2 wall hard with his right-front corner. Castroneves had been complaining of a vibration with the No. 3 Chevy. Like Rossi, Castroneves was uninjured in the wreck.

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“Unfortunately, I felt a vibration four laps before the incident,” he said of a suspected tire blister, which plagued many drivers Saturday night. “The right-front tire gave up. It was a big hit.”

The green flew again on Lap 103 and went right back to yellow as Ed Carpenter spun without making contact after Vautier drifted down and lightly touched Carpenter’s right-front wing endplate with his left-rear wheel guard. Carpenter stopped for fresh tires and started a charge back.

A quick yellow for debris allowed drivers to breathe on Lap 139, just moments before another round of pit stops were needed. Chilton stayed out, which allowed the Briton to lead when the green flew on Lap 148. The strange decision meant Chilton’s worn tires were no match for Power, who drove past with ease, and then the Lap 152 wreckfest brought out the third red flag in four events.

After the crash, only 11 of the 22 cars that started the race remained. Thirty minutes later, drivers started rolling to warm their cars up, and with rampant tire blistering causing concerns, the series announced an unprecedented mid-race change of plans. After consulting Firestone, IndyCar implemented a 30-lap limit on green-flag running before a competition yellow would wave and all drivers would be required to take on four new Firestones.

The series also required the field to pit before going to green after the red-flag resumption and start the stage with new tires. Once the NASCAR-style procedure was completed, Power led Dixon, Chilton, Pagenaud and Kanaan to the green flag on Lap 160.

Kanaan pitted on Lap 162 at the direction of IndyCar for his penalty, and Carpenter, whose team worked a miracle to fix the car, returned on Lap 165. Hildebrand would emerge later in the race.

The competition yellow hit at Lap 190 just after Newgarden broke from third place and made a solo stop to replace his tires; Team Penske’s attempt to grab an advantage by pitting just as the yellow was about to come out was negated by IndyCar, which called Newgarden in with the rest of the field. Despite falling to the back and having to do another stop, Newgarden only dropped from third to eighth due to the extreme attrition.

A drag race from the pits saw Dixon beat Power to the line to take the lead, and behind them, Pagenaud, Sato, Rahal, Chilton, Chaves, Newgarden, Daly and Andretti followed as the only cars left on the lead lap. Dixon led the field to green on Lap 198 but it didn’t last long as Power and Pagenaud went past.

Newgarden, who tried to go around Dixon in Turns 3 and 4 using the third lane – going three wide on the high side, which nobody had tried in those corners – promptly lost the rear of the car on the dirty, unused track surface. Newgarden hit the wall twice before coming to a rest in the infield grass, but in a nice twist from last year’s bone-breaking Texas crash, he was unhurt.

“Third lane was not the right idea,” he said. “It’s my fault. I’ll put that on me.”

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Lap 210 had the depleted field resume the race with Power leading Dixon and Pagenaud and Power, with Dixon and the charging Sato pitting in sequence on Lap 226 for the final competition caution and tire change. The Lap 230 restart had Power holding off Dixon with Sato close behind.

Sato made things easy for Power with five to go after he summoned the last yellow, and in light of the hyper-aggressive driving and often careless maneuvers that left so many cars dangling from the wrecker’s hook, at least there were a handful of Chevys and Honda left to cross the finish line. Power was the class of the field, made no mistakes, and should hold his head high after a spotless performance. Pagenaud and a few others can say the same, but not as many as one would expect.

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