Eventually, Will Power will probably feel pretty good about opening the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with a win and a runner-up.
But immediately following today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Australian wasn’t entirely happy after his second-place finish behind winner Mike Conway – not so much because he couldn’t reel in the Englishman in the final laps, but because of his contact with Simon Pagenaud off a restart at Lap 32.
Going into Turn 6, Power maneuvered to the inside of Pagenaud while battling for fourth and wound up hitting him. The contact sent Pagenaud’s No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda into the tire barriers.
Upon backing out, Pagenaud’s left-front tire and suspension was partially enclosed by a piece of a Tecate banner that had covered the tires.
Pagenaud ultimately recovered to finish fifth but the Frenchman was spotted wagging his finger at Power on the cool-down lap; he later noted to NBCSN that he was careful to use “the right finger” and not the one that can make for lighter wallets.
Power, for his part, was apologetic afterwards.
“Man, I’m really sorry for what happened,” Power told NBCSN. “I honestly thought he had a problem because he went back really slowly, so I went up his inside and then realized he was just going to turn and try to back out and I got him.
“My bad. I feel bad. That’s – I don’t like to be raced like that and I’m surprised I didn’t get a penalty…He should be angry. I’d be the same.”
Power’s victory two weeks ago in the season-opener at St. Petersburg also came with controversy, as he appeared to lead the field to a mid-race restart slower than expected. The subsequent accordion effect caused rookie Jack Hawksworth to spin out and collect Marco Andretti in a crash.
But his issues with Pagenaud aside, Power did have a good day after failing to advance out of the first round of yesterday’s knockout qualifying in a surprising setback.
A key part of his drive to second was being able to evade the multi-car pileup that ensued on Lap 54 after Ryan Hunter-Reay got into race leader Josef Newgarden in Turn 4.
“I could see that happening – when Hunter-Reay went to go up [Newgarden’s] inside, he wasn’t quite there and I just kind of hung back,” Power said. “I was ready for something to happen because they were all on cold tires.”
Power ultimately takes away a 27-point championship lead over Mike Conway going into the next race in two weeks’ time from Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
However, the Australian’s mindset appears solely set on checkered flags – at least, for now.
“[I’ll] definitely take second from 14th,” he said in the post-race press conference. “Good for the championship – not that I want to think about that crap anymore.
“I just want to race. I’m just going to race to win every time.”