Entering the day 52 points back of Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden in fifth place in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, Will Power was actually six points closer to the lead than he was at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway last year compared to when he was second in points behind Simon Pagenaud, 58 points back.
Power won, Pagenaud crashed, and the gap was 20 points after this race last year between the two of them.
Fast forward 12 months and Power won again, but this time, his Penske teammate that was leading the points didn’t have a nightmare day and instead nailed down a critical result for his own title hopes.
Courtesy of a rally from several early race issues, Power leapfrogged to a surprise second straight Pocono win while Newgarden finished second.
What was a seven-point lead for Newgarden over the fourth Penske driver, Helio Castroneves, turned into an 18-point lead over new second place man Scott Dixon in today’s race.
Newgarden was understandably disappointed to lose his third straight win, but very happy with the result in the big picture standpoint.
“Will deserves the win. He had the car to beat. He was the class of the field the second half of the race,” Newgarden told NBCSN’s Robin Miller post-race.
“I did everything I could to beat him. But I’m second, Dixon’s behind us, Helio’s behind us, Simon… you don’t want to wreck your teammate or give up where you’re at. It’s a 1-2 for all of us. I’m disappointed for all of us but I can’t be disappointed for where we are.”
Power’s win, meanwhile, saw him close the gap down to just 42 points behind Newgarden, albeit still fifth in points.
Dixon moved into second with a sixth place finish and is now 18 points back. He started the day eight behind Newgarden.
Castroneves advanced from 20th on the grid up to seventh and is third in points, 22 back, yet still lost 15 points to Newgarden.
The incredibly consistent Pagenaud nailed down his 11th top-five finish of the season in 14 starts, yet somehow still ranks fourth in points, 26 back, having lost nine points on the day.
With ninth, Graham Rahal saw his slim title hopes fade – he’s not mathematically out of it but at 76 points back he’s in a tough spot after starting 58 behind. Similarly Takuma Sato, who started 71 out after winning the pole position, fell to 95 back in seventh – just five points ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi, who finished third.
Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe remain ninth and 10th in points.
With three races to play, after Pocono, it is now clearly a five-horse race for the championship with each of the top five within one race’s worth of maximum points (54).