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Will Power completes Penske perfect weekend at INDYCAR GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power took the lead in the first stanza, Helio Castroneves the second, Power the third and additionally the last en route to winning the warmup act for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Round 5 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

More importantly, it also caps off a weekend where Power led every session. He paced first and second practice, qualifying where he took his 47th career pole position, and this morning warmup, before leading 61 of 85 laps.

The win means there are now five winners in as many races this season, as Power broke through for the first time since Pocono last August. This is Power’s second INDYCAR Grand Prix win after also winning in similar dominant fashion in 2015, when he led 65 of 82 laps.

Power joked yesterday he hoped all race weekends would adopt this abnormal format as part of a two-day weekend schedule, but after the way he performed this weekend, he might well be bloody serious.

“It was definitely — you know, you’re on the toes all day because you had the autograph session in between and then some appearances. I didn’t mind it,” Power said. “If you can get on it pretty quickly, it’s good. But if you were here — yeah, obviously it worked out for me, so we should keep doing this.

“I don’t think it mattered. I mean, yeah, all the sessions have been 40 — yeah, it’s good to have a night to think about it before qualifying, but definitely shortens the weekend up.”

As the run to the notorious and treacherous first corner was done without incident, it meant there was less chance of a caution happening. Only seven have happened in three years.

Today’s race ran caution-free, the first in IndyCar since Long Beach 2016, and was almost entirely dictated by pit strategy. Although the race was lengthened three laps this year from 82 to 85 laps, it made little difference to the grand scheme of things.

There wasn’t much in the way of on-track passing, either. Scott Dixon made a good move on Castroneves for second on Lap 69, at the inside of Turn 7. But with Dixon on Firestone’s red alternate tires and Roger Penske opting to put Castroneves onto the primary black sidewall tires for the final stint, it was always a question of when rather than if he’d get around him.

On Lap 74, Castroneves lost his podium position as Ryan Hunter-Reay passed him on the inside of Turn 7. Simon Pagenaud got Castroneves later as well for fourth.

Behind the top five, it was Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Alexander Rossi, Spencer Pigot and Juan Pablo Montoya in the top 10.

Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais went out early with mechanical problems, both stopping on the oval Turn 4.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).