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.

STATS PACKAGE: Full results and points after Saturday

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.

GLOBAL APPEAL: IndyCar drivers say series validated by European, F1 interest

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.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”