IndyCar

POWER-ful show: Will Power dominates to capture 3rd INDYCAR Grand Prix

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Will Power held off low fuel, a few late rain drops and a hard charging Scott Dixon to win his second consecutive INDYCAR Grand Prix and third overall Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Power led 55 of the race’s 85 laps to earn his first win of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season and his 33rd career IndyCar win. It was also the third time he won the Grand Prix from the pole in the race’s five-year history.

“I definitely am going to relax for a couple days because I’m exhausted, I’m tired,” Power said.

Now, Power turns his attention to the Indianapolis 500, perhaps the biggest void to his career as he’s never won the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I can’t wait,” Power said.

Power’s win was also Team Penske’s 200th career IndyCar win.

“It’s amazing, it shows the dedication that Roger has to winning, the quality of the team and it’s just a real honor to drive for him,” Power said of team owner Roger Penske. “I’m real privileged to drive for him.”

Dixon finished second, 2.2443 seconds behind Power, followed by Robert Wickens.

“We really chased our tails this weekend,” Dixon said. “We made a kind of bad change in qualifying (on Friday) and changed just about everything but the kitchen sink. And I guess we needed to change the kitchen sink, too.

“We made some big gains this morning and got the car fairly well-balanced and just played strategy.”

Wickens admitted he needs to become more proficient at fuel saving, as he was in save mode for most of the second half of the race.

“I guess I’m not as efficient at fuel saving, but we made it,” Wickens said. “(Dixon) got past me on push-to-pass … but at the end, I got on the podium.

“It’s the first time I had to save fuel like that, would have liked a higher finish, but I can’t complain.”

St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five.

“I was loose most of the race and when I’d gain on someone, I’d lose just enough grip that I couldn’t really quite close the gap,” Bourdais said. ”

Sixth through 10th were Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, two-time Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Action was hot and heavy right from the green flag.

On the opening lap, Simon Pagenaud touched wheels with Takuma Sato and was then tapped from behind by Jordan King coming out of Turn 2, spinning Pagenaud. While Pagenaud was able to continue on, King was stuck in the gravel and had to be towed out.

Then, just a couple turns later, Spencer Pigot soared over the rumble strip and went airborne, clipping Sato, who was able to continue. Pigot was penalized for avoidable contact and had to do a pass-through on pit lane.

Pole sitter Will Power held the lead through the first 24 laps before outside pole sitter Robert Wickens was able to get by Power for the lead.

On Lap 51, Power edged past Wickens to regain the lead and began to pull away – until an incident involving Power’s Team Penske teammate.

On Lap 55, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden came into Turn 12 too hot while trying to pass Sebastien Bourdais, looped it around and landed in the grass, unable to exit under his own power.

Power broke out to another big lead shortly after the restart on Lap 62, while Wickens and Scott Dixon traded places (second and third) on Lap 64.

Dixon, who started an uncharacteristic 18th, methodically worked his way through the pack and continued to close in on Power in the final 20 laps.

Wickens fell more than 5.5 seconds off the pace between laps 65 and 75, while Alexander Rossi tried to keep pace in fourth. Both drivers – as well as second-running Dixon – needed a late caution, but they would not get it, and Power would roll to his second straight win in the GP and third overall (also won in 2015).

Newgarden finished 11th but maintains a two-point lead in the series’ standings over Rossi.

 

Now, the series begins two weeks of preparation, practices and qualifying (May 19-20) before the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

Follow @JerryBonkowski