Will Power fades to fifth after critical error in the lead at Barber

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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.

It proved to be an important moment in the race, as Hunter-Reay went on to earn his first victory of 2014. As for Power, his car’s performance faded as the 2.37-mile Barber Motorsports Park circuit gradually dried out and he eventually finished fifth.

“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.

Lewis Hamilton enjoys epic trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston earlier this week, a thrill for the driver of a land-speed rocket for Mercedes AMG Petronas to then see actual ones.

In today’s pre-race coverage for the United States Grand Prix, NBCSN takes you behind the scenes of the trip in Houston. You can see that video, above.