Will Power survives crash-filled night to win in Texas (VIDEO)

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Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power assumed the lead in the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 after the opening round of pit stops following a lap 38 caution. Power emerged in the lead and thwarted off a series of challenges for the rest of the night to lead the most laps and dominate for his second win at Texas Motor Speedway (he won Race two of the 2011 doubleheader).

Throughout the night Power managed to fend off challenges from all comers, including the likes of Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and even Tristan Vautier, and later Tony Kanaan, who was in the crosshairs for another reason entirely courtesy of the night’s biggest accident.

“It was very intense. I could see (Scott) Dixon was able to pass me at the start/finish line. So, I was starting to think about what I was going to do there at the end,” Power said of the late-race battle.

The victory also holds personal significance for Power, whose wife Liz is a Texas native.

“We were just talking about it and her cousin said ‘Man you haven’t won for me here yet!’  And like, he has come year after year and I really didn’t think that it would be this weekend, but oh man, you don’t understand how good that feels,” Power added in victory lane.

Behind Power, carnage and chaos reigned in the remainder of the 22-car field, with only six cars running on the lead lap at the checkered flag.

The carnage began on lap 38 when Alexander Rossi got pinched in between Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan entering Turn 3, and spun before impacting the outside wall.

Shortly thereafter there was contact on pit road between James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves and Takuma Sato. Hinchcliffe got loose exiting the pits, spinning into Castroneves, who then spun into Sato.

Castroneves was the next to crash heavily, this time on lap 91 after an apparent mechanical failure saw his car shoot into the outside wall exiting turn two. He slid down the backstretch and impacted the inside wall as well. Although he took his time exiting the car, he did climb out under his own power and walk away.

Ed Carpenter then suffered a quick spin on a lap 103 restart, but managed to keep it going.

However, the big moment came on lap 153 when a huge pileup collected James Hinchcliffe, Tristan Vautier, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The subsequent cleanup necessitated a red flag.

Many drivers pointed the blame at Kanaan, with Hinchcliffe mentioning that Kanaan moved up into him to start the wreck. Kanaan’s team owner Chip Ganassi blamed Hinchcliffe, with Hinchcliffe then retorting “that’s adorable” to that accusation.

Castroneves’ earlier incident he blamed on a right front tire failure and fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden had to pit earlier on sequences owing to blistering. INDYCAR then dictated that competition cautions would need to be implemented to address the blistering tires, after no more than 30 laps of green flag competition.

Following one of these cautions on 190, Newgarden was the next victim on lap 201. Newgarden had tried to pit prior to the yellow but then was told he’d need to pit again. Alas, Newgarden tried a three-wide pass on the outside of Turns 3 and 4, but drifted too high and broke loose, sliding into the the outside wall in the process.

Following another competition caution on lap 225, Dixon and Takuma Sato brought out the final caution of the race, with Sato clipping the grass and sliding into Dixon. Both cars spun and impacted the wall in turn one, with Conor Daly and Max Chilton collected in the aftermath.

Power led the field home under caution ahead of Kanaan, who’d recovered from going a lap down for being assessed a stop-and-hold plus 20 second penalty for the avoidable contact, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Gabby Chaves, and Marco Andretti, with only six cars running at the end. Daly, Chilton and JR Hildebrand were listed as classified finishers but with damage on their cars.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE? The six cars and drivers who finished on the lead lap. Power, lost in all the chaos, led 180 laps in a dominating performance…Kanaan overcame a stop and hold penalty for his role in the lap 153 crash to finish second…Pagenaud returned to the podium for the first time since his win at Phoenix…Graham Rahal seemed to lack the outright speed to battle for the win, but made it through the night unscathed to finish fourth…Chaves brought the Harding Racing No. 88 Chevrolet home in fifth, giving the brand new team finishes in the top ten and top five in its first two starts…Marco Andretti had a quiet night, but like Rahal, missed all the crashes and finished sixth, his best result of the 2017 season…Conor Daly (seventh) and Max Chilton (eighth) were credited with top ten finishes despite getting collected in the late crash with Dixon and Sato…Vautier was stellar in his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series and was a top five contender all night long before getting caught up in the lap 153 crash.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Tough seasons continue for Ryan Hunter-Reay and JR Hildebrand, with both getting collected in the lap 153 wreck. Hunter-Reay’s fourth at St. Petersburg and third at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course remain his only top ten finishes of the year, while Hildebrand’s third-place at Phoenix is his only finish inside the top ten…Charlie Kimball’s potentially strong night ended shortly after it started on lap 41 due to an oil leak…Helio Castroneves hammered the turn two wall on lap 91. Though he took his time climbing out, he walked away under his power and alleged afterward that the right front tire went down to send him into the wall…like Hildebrand, Hunter-Reay, and Vautier, Ed Carpenter, Mikhail Aleshin, Ed Jones, and Carlos Munoz were victims of circumstance and innocent bystanders collected in the lap 153 crash, though Carpenter and Hildebrand returned to the track to finish 11th and 12th following repairs.

NOTABLE: Dixon retains the championship lead, with Pagenaud now 13 points behind him in second…tenth-place James Hinchcliffe is only 94 points behind Dixon as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Road America for the KOHLER Grand Prix (June 25, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

QUOTABLE: From Hinchcliffe (on the contact with Kanaan that precipitated the big wreck): “We had a run on (Tony Kanaan) and he had plenty of room on the left, but he just came to the right. If you look at the replay, he comes all the way from the white line to the middle of the racetrack, just pinched me into Mikhail (Aleshin). Either his spotter didn’t tell him we were three wide or what, but I couldn’t go anywhere, I was sandwiched in the middle. I was not expecting him to do that; Tony has more experience in this kind of pack racing than anybody. I went wheel-to-wheel with him last year for the win and nine times out of 10 would do that all day long, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t playing very nice today and wrecked a lot of good equipment.”

Results are below.

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Newgarden looks to continue streak of success at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – There are several drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series whose skill sets seem to be a perfect match for the mammoth race course at Road America. Josef Newgarden is one of those drivers.

In the three years since IndyCar’s return to the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course located in this lakeside resort region of Wisconsin, Newgarden has been a central part of the storyline.

In 2016, when he was driving for Ed Carpenter Racing, Newgarden was involved in a massive crash at Texas Motor Speedway with Conor Daly, suffering a broken hand and a broken clavicle. He had JR Hildebrand on standby to drive his car at Road America on Friday, but after he was cleared to return to the cockpit, Newgarden began his comeback on Saturday.

He was on a fast lap in his qualification group, but went into the Carousel portion of the course too fast and ended up qualifying 20th. Despite his injuries, Newgarden battled back to an eighth-place finish.

In 2017, his first season with Team Penske and a year when he would go on to win the NTT IndyCar Series championship, Newgarden started third and led 13 laps.

That was before a shootout with leading challenger Scott Dixon on a Lap 31 restart. Dixon hit the throttle at the green flag, raced Newgarden down the long front straight, and dove to the inside of Turn 1 to make what proved to be the race-winning pass.

Newgarden and Team Penske learned a valuable lesson, and made sure it wouldn’t happen again in 2018. Newgarden won the pole and led 53 laps in the 55-lap contest before fending off a strong challenge from Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the race.

Newgarden returns as the NTT IndyCar Series points leader and kicks off the second half of the season in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, Noon ET on NBC).

He comes off his third win of the season on June 8 at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. Road America, one of the classic road courses in the world, delivers a vastly different style of racing. But it does help to have some momentum on your side.

“Yes. I think we’ve had good momentum throughout the year,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com. “We’ve had some bobbles that can shake that, but we’ve been good at not letting a bobble shake our confidence. I feel really good about where we are at. This win at Texas was a good time to have it with everyone going into the break feeling pretty good about things and having a weekend off.

“We just need to pick back up now. We can’t slow down. It’s the second-half push for the championship. We have to stay on it now to the finish.”

There are nine races completed in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, which leaves eight races remaining in the fight for the title. Newgarden has a 25-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport and a 48-point lead over Team Penske teammate and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.

The second half begins in the “Land of Bratwurst,” just a few miles from Johnsonville, Wisconsin, and at a track that thoroughly earns the reputation as “America’s National Monument of Road Courses.”

“I’m a big fan of Road America,” Newgarden said. “It’s one of our last ‘old school’ tracks in the world. It’s an ultimate IndyCar track. It has a little bit of everything. It’s tantalizing. If you make a mistake around Road America it penalizes you. I think drivers like that. You don’t want it easy. You don’t want a ton of runoff. It has great high-speed sections. Very classic corners. It’s very high commitment brake zones, quick, long straights so an Indy car can open its legs up a lot. It’s really what you think of when you go to a high-speed, IndyCar road course. And, it’s a beautiful backdrop. Elkhart Lake is a gorgeous part of the country, especially in the summer time when we go there.

“It’s a classic facility. One of my favorite tracks in the world.”

Newgarden also has high-praise for the Wisconsin race fans, who come out in the tens of thousands and start camping on Thursday and stay through the end of Sunday’s race, which regularly draws over 50,000 fans.

“There is tremendous support there,” Newgarden said. “The place seems full on race day. It adds to the ambience of the track. It’s pretty, even when nobody is there, but when you feel it up with all the people and the campers, it takes it to a different level. They really do come out and support it. They are very knowledgeable people to our series and what is going on. I think the drivers appreciate that. They know what is going on all year.”

From a driver’s standpoint, this race is fairly straightforward, strategy-wise. According to Newgarden, the variance of strategy depends on who can go the longest on one tank of fuel. The normal fuel window is between Laps 11-15. If a driver dives into the pits early, then he’s committed to racing as hard as possible to build up a gap on the field in order to get in and out of the pits before the other drivers on a normal pit stop strategy.

“Fuel matters there and the longer you can run on a stint, it seems to help you. That is where you see the strategy difference,” Newgarden explained. “Overall, the general layout of pit stops is pretty straightforward in that race. Unless an oddball yellow comes out, if you are running out front, that is the strategy you can going to run.

“We have conversations before the race what we are trying to do. There are different points where you need to be pushing and are flat-out and not worried about fuel and other points where you need to be saving as much as you can. There is always a fine-line. You are generally always trying to save some fuel by going as fast as possible, which is a very conflicting thought process, but that’s what we are always trying to do.

“It really depends on how the race flows. At Road America, when the yellows fall, that will dictate what we are doing, and I will get feedback from the pit. It’s all relative. It depends on whether I’m in the front or in the back. If I’m up front and the yellow falls at a weird time, they will let me know what other people are doing and if that changes our game. If it does, then I will adjust what I’m doing.

“It’s always a moving target, but you try to plan this stuff out. If it’s a green race all the way through, here is the plan and if the yellows fly, then this is what we are going to do. We try to plan all of that out before the race starts and stuff starts happening, you know how to react.”

Newgarden has learned from his mistakes at Road America and that is one reason why he is once again a major threat to win this race. Despite his broken hand and broken clavicle in 2016, his eighth-place finish was in many ways a victory.

“It was a very good weekend in a lot of ways,” Newgarden recalled. “Just getting back out on the track and not lose ground in the championship as very important to me. I was very satisfied we were able to do that. It took a lot of support and help, and everyone pitched in to get it done. I was a little bit disappointed. I think we had a much faster car than eighth place in 2016. I made a mistake in qualifying. I pushed wide in the Carousel and it put us 20th. We could have probably started in the top five in that race and had a shot at the podium and maybe a win there. If anything, I was disappointed at where we qualified and where there that put us.

“But it was a great recovery. It was a great weekend overall. Getting a top-10 was really a win in a lot of ways. I think there was more to be had that weekend, though.”

In 2017, he was ready to challenge for the victory, but was a victim of bad timing.

“We got nipped by that yellow at the wrong point,” Newgarden explained. “We were on the wrong tire. Right as we came out of the pits on the Black tires, Scott came out on new Reds. It was a yellow when we didn’t need it. To get the tires up to temperature for the restart was really our challenge in that race. Ultimately, it did us in, in Turn 1. We didn’t get a great launch off the final corner, Scott dragged alongside and completely the pass in Turn 1.

“We didn’t make that mistake last year, tire-wise, when the yellow came out at the end of the race and had a shootout.”

His win last year gave off the image of having the field under his control. But the driver pointed out it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“That was actually a very tough drive,” Newgarden recalled. “I wish that drive was a lot easier than it was, but it was very difficult to keep Ryan Hunter-Reay behind us last year. He was really the guy hounding us the whole race and had a lot of pace, probably more pace than us in different parts of that race. Trying to keep him at bay and doing what we needed to do to get in the right window, it was not an easy drive. If it was an easy drive, we would have sprinted off into the distance a little more. We really had to work hard to hit our windows and make sure Ryan stayed behind us.

“It was a tough day; it was a long day. We had to do a lot or work to run that whole race. We had a very consistent race car. It was very predictable and easy to drive. I had the speed and the car underneath me so that I could manage the situation.”

The ability to manage the situation is a great quality to have for any driver in the NTT IndyCar Series. In Newgarden’s case, it may be the key ingredient to winning a second IndyCar championship.