Storm of controversy around Will Power continues with latest penalty (VIDEO)

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At Houston last week, Will Power survived a dreadful pair of races without losing any points in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship chase.

At the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco on Sunday, he not only lost the points lead, but re-entered the IndyCar Race Control doghouse.

The first 158 laps of the race went green but after the race’s lone restart, Power made a pair of questionable moves on his two Team Penske teammates entering Turn 1 that ultimately netted him his latest penalty.

First, he made a move to defend against eventual winner Juan Pablo Montoya that cost Montoya his left front wing endplate, but the move did not draw a reaction from Race Control.

But a second move on Lap 172, where he sliced from the outside of the track to the inside twice on Helio Castroneves caused Castroneves to slightly back off to avoid contact. Power was called for blocking and served a drive-through penalty on pit lane.

Neither Power nor Team Penske president Tim Cindric were amused. See the below tweet from MoreFrontWing.com’s Paul Dalbey:

That penalty and another pit stop on Lap 189 to top off for fuel dropped Power to an eventual 10th place finish, despite leading 69 laps. With Castroneves second and the race a double-points affair, Power’s 39-point gap was erased and the two are now tied.

A somewhat speechless Power, undoubtedly frustrated in the heat of the moment post-race, then told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis, “I’m sure Townsend (Bell) and them up in the booth will have their say on it.”

Both Paul Tracy and Bob Varsha had comebacks for the attempt. PT’s take? “They told me to call it like I see it, and that was a double move.” Tracy tweeted this after the race:

Varsha, filling in for Leigh Diffey this weekend and calling his first IndyCar race since the 2003 Champ Car season, simply said “It is what it is, dude,” when a graphic flashed up showing Power’s five penalties called this season.

Power hit pit equipment in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, got a pit speed violation in the Indianapolis 500 and at Texas, got a contact penalty for taking out Josef Newgarden, Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal in Detroit Race 2, and now had this penalty for blocking issued today. Surprisingly, Power has not been placed on probation by INDYCAR despite the rash of penalties.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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