Will Power will enter the Month of May at Indianapolis as the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader, but a critical error while leading today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama may have cost him further momentum.
After the race finally started after a weather delay of several hours, Power gradually pulled away from Ryan Hunter-Reay and the rest of the field. But on Lap 16, he went in too hot at the left-hand Turn 5 hairpin known as ‘Charlotte’s Web.’
Power couldn’t hold on and he ended up taking his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet through a gravel trap before swiping a nearby tire barrier. The Australian got back on track, but while he narrowly avoided disaster, Hunter-Reay took control of the lead.
“I just locked up. Once you lock a wheel in the wet, you just go straight,” Power said to NBCSN afterwards. “That was alright, we had a big enough lead to only lose one position. But man, I missed that [barrier] there – missed it by an inch, I reckon.
“We just didn’t have the pace in the dry. Maybe just a little heavy on downforce, but in that half dry, half wet condition, we kind of struggled.”
Power was able to hold on to second after the mishap but Hunter-Reay and him were shuffled to second and third while Sebastian Saavedra stayed out on his wet tires to take the lead under caution at Lap 22.
Another caution bunched up the field at Lap 31, and shortly after the subsequent restart, Power was jumped by Marco Andretti going into ‘Charlotte’s Web’ for the runner-up spot (Saavedra had finally pitted by this point).
Power settled in third position as the race crossed into the final half-hour of its 100-minute time, but a round of green-flag stops began a few minutes later.
With 26 minutes to go, Hunter-Reay and Power pitted together but when the cycle was over, Power had fallen to fifth behind Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud, with whom he had contact and a post-race argument with two weeks ago in Long Beach.
However, it’s still a Top-5 finish and that helps Power big-picture wise. He holds an 18-point advantage over Hunter-Reay in the championship going into the two races in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Grand Prix of Indianapolis road race in two weeks (Sat., May 10) and the Indianapolis 500 on Sun., May 25.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.