Will Power returns to Indy GP determined to snap one-year win drought

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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power has been in this spot before, where the frequency of wins hasn’t come as quickly as they used to.

After winning three of the first four races in 2012, Power fell into a 25-race winless drought before the 2013 race at Sonoma. He punctuated a year where he fell out of the championship fight early on with three wins in the final five races, adding further triumphs in Houston and Fontana.

As he heads into this weekend’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, it’s been one year and 14 races since he last won, as the race’s defending champion.

Power – who holds himself to the highest of standards and has been the speed standard bearer in the series for the last five or six years – admitted a bit of frustration with himself in noting the mistakes that have cost him early in 2016.

“Yeah it’s coming up. Yeah, it does feel so long,” Power told reporters in Charlotte at Team Penske’s headquarters earlier this week, including NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan.

“We were so quick last year but it didn’t work out. It becomes frustrating.

“This year at Phoenix, I made a mistake in the last pit stop. Dixon won. Long Beach, I screwed up in qualifying. Definitely was gonna be right there. Barber was just an average race.

“I’m determined to have a good month and put me back in position.”

The Grand Prix has already, traditionally, served as a good warm-up act for the remainder of the month of May in advance of the Indianapolis 500.

Power, who said a ‘500 race win would be “everything” for him with more to come in a separate post, described the preparation you need to maximize the Grand Prix to set up for the rest of the month.

“You get a lot of time on the track. Cars are pretty sorted,” Power explained. “You do use all your tires up. The road course race is part of it. You win both, that’d be a pretty cool thing to do in your career. The Grand Prix is just like another race. The 500 is like another month.”

As he heads into this month, the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is fully back to good health after his ear infection-induced absence from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener.

“I’m feeling much better. I struggled there for a while with ear infections and so on,” Power admitted. “Now I’m at a spot where I feel better. Back to where I was last year.

“Yeah I think Phoenix was the test for me, the hardest race of the year, and then we had two full green road courses. Barber was toughest road race we’ll do all year.

“Indy is more mentally demanding. You go a lot faster, but the car isn’t so loaded. Maybe 2 or 3 Gs only. It’s a lot less.”

Power, who sits seventh in points with half his teammate’s total – points leader Simon Pagenaud (188-94) – isn’t giving up hope he can still win this year’s crown.

“I’m not out of it. If it’s mathematically possible, you have to keep pushing,” he said.

And lastly Power noted the ascendance of Pagenaud within the team this year. The two were briefly intense rivals during 2014 and the prospect of the two of them on the front row at Barber was a mouth-watering one.

Nonetheless, Power isn’t surprised by Pagenaud’s rise to open the season.

“Last year, I think he had the pace. But things didn’t work out. He had a bit of bad luck and was finding feet in team,” he said.

“Now this year, things that have flowed for him. He has a big points lead… but as you know, just with the amount of points between qualifying, Indy road course and the 500, that can switch pretty quickly.

“His strength is consistency. I can’t see him making mistakes. He’ll be tough to beat in the championship. But it’s not impossible. Montoya and Dixon are close.”

Power’s points rise and quest to return to victory lane – and by default the need to knock off Pagenaud in the process – is one of the key story lines going into this weekend.

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

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It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway