Will Power overcomes adversity to win Pocono thriller (VIDEO)

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LONG POND, Pa. – Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 was a record-setting day for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Pocono Raceway, as they set a race record for lead changes in an IndyCar race at the 2.5-mile triangular oval, with 42 passes for the lead and over 500 on-track passes in total over the 500-mile race.

Ultimately, it was Team Penske’s Will Power who overcame damage to the front and back of No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, went a lap down, and made an unscheduled pit stop early in the race (part of 10 pit stops total) to come back and claim his third victory of the season, and his second straight at Pocono Raceway.

“What a day, what a day. Dramatic day. Lot of fun,” an exhausted Power told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis in Victory Lane. “(I had to) hang in there. I saw Hunter-Reay got his lap back last year. I was so cautious on the restarts. You can never give up in IndyCar. Got a lap back and made it to the front.”

Power fell off the lead lap after an unscheduled pit stop on lap 67 for a new front wing, which also saw the team struggle to get the tires on in what was a lengthy pit stop. However, a lap 112 caution, when Sebastian Saavedra clouted the wall exiting turn 1 and stopped on track, allowed Power a chance to get back on the lead lap.

Another caution, this one on lap 124 as James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand crashed together in Turn 1, allowed Power a chance to go off strategy and top off the fuel as well change out the rear wing and bumper pod assembly, which had also been damaged earlier in the race. Hinchcliffe’s accident came following a save earlier in the race, just past half distance, which was incredible.

Power then charged to front through the following sequence of green flag stops, his fuel strategy allowing him to go longer and put in some of the fastest laps of the race before pitting. He emerged from the pit stop sequence, the second-to-last of the race, with a four second over the rest of the field.

Power held the lead through the final sequence of pit stops, though teammate Josef Newgarden and Andretti’s Autosport’s Alexander Rossi made late charges on Power at the end. Newgarden in particular mounted a big challenge on Power, forcing the Australian driver to play significant defense, taking the far inside line entering turn 3 for several laps in a row.

However, Power was able to keep all advances at bay, outlasting both Newgarden and Rossi to the line for the victory.

Newgarden revealed to NBCSN’s Robin Miller afterward that, even though he was able to catch Power at the end, he didn’t think he had enough to pass him.

“Will deserves the win. He had the car to beat. He was class the second half of the field,” Newgarden admitted. “I did everything I could to beat him. But I’m second, (Scott) Dixon’s behind us, (Helio Castroneves) is behind us, Simon (Pagenaud)… you don’t want to wreck your teammate or give up where you’re at. 1-2 for all of us. I’m disappointed for all of us but I can’t be disappointed for where we are.”

Rossi, too, admitted that he didn’t have the speed to really make a bid for the win, though his was down to a fuel mixture problem, the adjuster having broken earlier in the race. “We didn’t have full power at the end,” Rossi explained to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “The car was great all day. Stellar all day. When you come so close to the win it’s difficult to swallow. Last year we didn’t finish. To be on podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport.”

Simon Pagenaud came through the field after the final stops to finish fourth, making a late pass on Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan, making it three Team Penske cars in the top four. Kanaan held on for fifth.

Scott Dixon ended up sixth ahead of Helio Castroneves while Ryan Hunter-Reay had a strong run and led a handful of laps after a brutal crash in qualifying, but faded to eighth at the end. Graham Rahal, too, had a strong run and swapped the lead with Kanaan several times during the race, but he also faded over the final two stints and ended up ninth. Carlos Munoz had a quiet, but solid day for A.J. Foyt Racing to finish tenth.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Power, obviously rallied in a big way. But Newgarden (14th to second), Castroneves (20th to seventh) and Hunter-Reay (21st to eighth) all made huge strides. … Beyond the top eight, Rahal and Munoz were the two drivers outside the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams in the top-10.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Polesitter Takuma Sato fell from first to 13th. … Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves fought the balance in traffic all day and ended 15th after starting eighth, but it says something about the small team in its third race that that was its first finish outside the top-10. … Needing to impress, Sebastian Saavedra made contact in Turn 1 to cost a potential top-15 result. … Dale Coyne Racing was again unlucky to fall back from promising qualifying runs, Ed Jones stuck in 17th again to continue his results rut while Esteban Gutierrez’s early 11th place running came undone with contact in Turn 3.

NOTABLE: The win is Power’s 32nd of his career, which breaks a three-way tie between himself, our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti for ninth all-time. … The win is Team Penske’s 10th at Pocono and eighth this season (Power 3, Newgarden 3, Pagenaud 1, Castroneves 1). … Pagenaud’s fourth place is his 11th top-five finish of the year. No one else has more than eight.

QUOTABLE: Power, describing his comeback once he got back on the lead lap: “Once I got my lap back, I was like, all right, it’s game on, I can definitely get back up there. I was thinking like top 5, but when I was pumping out like 217 laps, I’m like, okay, we’re going to make some serious hay here.”

RESULTS

LONG POND, Pennsylvania – Results Sunday of the ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (5) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (14) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (6) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
4. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (4) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, Running
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (20) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (21) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
10. (18) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (16) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
12. (22) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (1) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
14. (17) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (8) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (3) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 200, Running
17. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, Running
18. (10) Max Chilton, Honda, 129, Mechanical
19. (19) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 124, Contact
20. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 124, Contact
21. (15) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 114, Contact
22. (13) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 23, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 183.737 mph
Time of Race: 2:43:16.6005
Margin of victory: 0.5268 of a second
Cautions: 3 for 17 laps
Lead changes: 42 among 10 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Kanaan 1-11
Rossi 12-27
Kanaan 28-29
Dixon 30-53
Rossi 54-55
Power 56
Hildebrand 57-58
Dixon 59
Rossi 60-65
Dixon 66-81
Rossi 82-83
Hinchcliffe 84
Rossi 85
Hinchcliffe 86-87
Dixon 88-97
Rossi 98-99
Hunter-Reay 100-103
Rossi 104-114
Newgarden 115-117
Hunter-Reay 118-122
Rahal 123
Kanaan 124-133
Rahal 134
Kanaan 135
Rahal 136
Kanaan 137
Rahal 138
Kanaan 139
Rahal 140
Kanaan 141
Rahal 142
Kanaan 143
Rahal 144
Kanaan 145-146
Rahal 147
Kanaan 148-149
Rahal 150
Hunter-Reay 151-153
Power 154-176
Rossi 177-180
Newgarden 181
Andretti 182-190
Power 191-200

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 494, Dixon 476, Castroneves 472, Pagenaud 468, Power 452, Rahal 418, Sato 399, Rossi 394, Kanaan 351 and Hinchcliffe 327.

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Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.