Team Penske’s Will Power may have had a trying afternoon in Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, but it didn’t impact his Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead all that much.
Power was one of multiple drivers that fell victim to a partially wet, partially dry NRG Park circuit when he lost control and spun into the tires at Turn 9 to bring out a caution with 28 minutes left in the race.
But while he wound up 14th at one lap off the pace, his closest rival in the championship and teammate Helio Castroneves finished ninth after starting on the front row.
As a result, Power’s 39-point lead over Castroneves going into today was only shrunk slightly to 33 points ahead of tomorrow’s second race in Houston (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
You figure Power will gladly take that after today. He was unable to get out of the first round of this morning’s qualifying session and had to start 18th. Then in the race, he was never able to make much progress.
Castroneves was running third at the time of Power’s spin behind James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais. However, those three along with others in the lead pack pitted under the caution, while Wilson, eventual race winner Carlos Huertas, and six others stayed out for track position.
In the race off pit road, Castroneves was fourth and had to line up 12th for the restart with 21 minutes left behind those that stayed out plus Hinchcliffe, Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Brazilian still managed a Top-10 in the end, but perhaps today was a missed opportunity for him.
As for Hunter-Reay, he finished seventh and cut his own championship deficit to Power from 60 points to 50; he remains third in the table ahead of fourth-place Simon Pagenaud (finished 16th today), who is 91 points out.
Juan Pablo Montoya, by virtue of his second-place performance behind Huertas, moved up two positions to fifth in points. He is 123 points behind Penske teammate Power.