Will Power ends IndyCar winless drought with fifth victory at Indianapolis road course

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INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power rediscovered his road-course mojo, delivering a convincing victory Saturday in the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After starting second, the Team Penske driver took his first lead on Lap 21 and controlled the rest of the race in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile layout to win for the first time this season.

Despite radio frustration that he was held up by James Hinchcliffe as a big lead shrunk by several seconds around the halfway point, Power led a race-high 56 of 85 laps and won by 1.1142 seconds over Romain Grosjean as a Penske car won for the eighth time in 11 races on the road course at the track owned by Roger Penske.

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With his 40th career victory, Power moved into sole possession of fifth place all time on IndyCar’s all-time win list. He also broke a tie with Michael Schumacher and Jeff Gordon with his sixth victory at IMS (a record five on the road course, plus the 2018 Indy 500), tying two-time NASCAR champion Kyle Busch’s record.

“We needed it as a group,” Power told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “I can’t tell you how good these guys have been this year. Flawless in pit stops and just given me the car, and we’ve just obviously had some bad luck, and I’ve made some mistakes as well.

“What a relief, man. When that yellow came and then another one. You’ve got to survive those yellows. We had a really good car that was solid up front. I was very focused coming in here. We just put it all together, man.”

The Australian’s most recent IndyCar victory had been 12 races ago on the same layout last October.

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Colton Herta finished third, followed by a season-best fourth for Alexander Rossi and pole-sitter Pato O’Ward in fifth.

Jack Harvey, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top 10.

Jimmie Johnson started 22nd and finished 19th in the first lead-lap finish of his career.

Power held off Grosjean on a restart with six laps remaining after the race’s second caution flag flew when Rinus VeeKay was spun by Scott McLaughlin (who was penalized for avoidable contact).

With four races remaining in the 2021 season, the championship picture dramatically changed after points leader Alex Palou suffered an engine failure in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda on Lap 68 of 85 while running fourth.

The caution flew for the first time as white smoke wafted from the rear of Palou’s car, setting up a restart duel between Power and Herta.

But Power got a great jump, and Grosjean slid around Power for second.

Palou had entered the race with a 42-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon and by 48 points over O’Ward, who moved up a spot to second in the standings with his first top five in two months. Going off sequence with an early pit stop, Dixon finished 17th after starting 26th.

“We still don’t know what happened,” Palou said. “We were running really good and had really good strategy and really good pace, and we were catching the guys in front for the podium. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fight today, but it’s just a bump in the road, and we’ll keep on fighting.”

In his IndyCar debut, F2 driver Christian Lundgaard started fourth and led two laps early in the race before his first pit stop. The Alpine F1 Team reserve driver, who is exploring the possibility of racing full time in IndyCar next year, finished 12th despite an overnight bout with food poisoning.