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Power Unstoppable on a Green-Filled day on the IMS Road Course

The second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis might be remembered for the green Angie’s List banners that lined the front straight as well as the exceptional amount of green flag racing that took place on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Team Penske’s Will Power dominated the 82-lap Verizon IndyCar Series event after starting from pole position, and with the exception of a multi-car crash that slowed the action in the first corner on the opening lap, open-wheel fans were treated to 80 caution-free tours of the 2.4-mile road course.

Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevy was an unstoppable force at IMS, and despite the threat of rain, the defending series champion ignored the clouds that blanketed the sky and motored to his 25th career Indy car victory.

“That’s the most physical race I think I’ve ever done,” said a visibly drained Power. “It never stopped. I was so determined to win that I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I didn’t want to get caught out by a yellow and wanted a clean race, and that’s exactly what we got. I’m really happy for the guys on the Verizon car. It’s pretty special to win here.”

Power’s lead was drawn down to 1.5 seconds at the finish after Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal recorded an improbable run from 17th on the grid to second. The first-lap crash that delayed numerous cars helped to clear a path for Rahal’s No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda, and with more cars stopping for minor repairs at the end of the lap, Rahal was promoted to sixth. He’d go on to lead nine laps on the way to capturing his second runner-up result in a span of three weekends.

“It was a good one today,” said Rahal, who was itching to overtake Power for his first win since 2008. “I think a lot of things went right for us.  Obviously the start was pretty good.  I think from the start we went from 17th to sixth.  From there really we just got everybody in the pits.  The guys did a phenomenal job.”

Rahal’s performance was one of few bright spots for Honda after the proud Japanese manufacturer won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indy in 2014, yet struggled to fill the top 10 with its drivers in qualifying or the race. Only Rahal and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato prevented the Bowtie from sweeping the top-10 on Saturday, and the second-generation driver credited the pit stop options he was given by going longer on a tank of fuel.

“The Honda had really good fuel economy today,” Rahal explained. “When the Chevys were pitting, they told me I had eight laps left before I had to pit.  We couldn't afford to get a yellow and get caught out.  All day long we played that game.”

Another strong finish for Rahal has moved the Ohio native to an equal share of fourth in the points (144) with Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. Third-place Juan Pablo Montoya retained his points lead, but with his Penske stablemate Will Power is now a close second (171-166).  The Colombian started fourth, improved one position when Dixon was hit and spun by Penske’s Helio Castroneves into the first turn, and spent the rest of race in hot pursuit of the lead. 

The 2000 Indy 500 winner would come up 7.1 seconds short in his quest, yet earned his third podium from five races in 2015—the best of any driver in the field.

“I saw them go eight-wide on Lap 1 and I knew that that wasn’t going to work,” said JPM. “(Scott) Dixon got in line and we got to the braking zone and I knew some were going to dive bomb and that wouldn’t work. We had really good pit stops and everyone on the No. 2 Verizon Chevy did a really great job today. It’s a shame that we lost touch with Will (Power) there at the end but I’ll take third place at a road course any day.”

Among the other notable performances at the Angie’s List Grand Prix, KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais captured his best finish of the young season (fourth), as did his rookie teammate Stefano Coletti (eighth). Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball closed an impressive event with fifth, earning the top result among the four Ganassi cars in the field. 

Of the drivers whose luck ran out before the checkered flag waved, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was on pace for a top 5 until electrical problems intervened in the latter stages of the contest. CFH Racing’s JR Hildebrand was also within reach of a stellar result, rising as high as third by Lap 60, but a painfully long final pit stop—one where a front suspension problem required a second, lengthy stop for repairs—negated an afternoon of flawless driving. Hildebrand would eventually be credited with 21st.

If Hildebrand was disappointed, his CFH teammate Josef Newgarden was the embodiment of loss at IMS. As IndyCar’s most recent race winner, Newgarden entered the Grand Prix on a high after scoring his first career win, but any chances of maintaining that momentum came to a halt on Lap 1 when his No. 21 Century 21 Chevy was hammered from behind. Left sitting backwards and stalled, the bright Tennessean would fight to keep the leaders behind him before losing a lap and placing 20th.

Now the conversation moves to the Indy 500 as Opening Day takes place on Monday. With his mastery of the Angie’s List Grand Prix, Power’s halfway to his ultimate goal. Power’s mantra has been consistent through the early stages of the month of May: He wants to lead four sessions as Indianapolis, and with the pole and win on the road course, he’s shifting his focus to the big event. 

With a pole and win at the 99th Indy 500, the Australian would own a special place in the history books.

“It becomes such a cool month,” Power noted. “You can win both. Could you imagine if you got all four sessions? You should get a $10 million prize for that! My mind, all this year, has been on the 500. That’s honestly all I care about. I won the championship. I just really care about winning that race now. I haven’t done that before—just had it on my mind. I really want to win it.”

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