Power Commands a Fuel-Saving Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Turn One (Photo: Larry Clarino/RIS)

INDIANAPOLIS -RIS- (MAY 12, 2018) - Fuel mileage. On America's highways. And Speedways.

Those who excelled in today’s running of the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway juggled the new IndyCar chassis’s aero grip and two significantly different tire compound options to take the checkered flag up front today.

Taking the top step on the podium at the race’s end was Will Power, earning his first win of the season, and his third Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory in the last four years.

A late-race full course caution allowed the field to pit on Lap 59, but forced fuel mileage performance to stretch to 24 laps from the usual 20. Power was given the fuel number he had to hit in the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy, and he successfully held off a hard-charging Scott Dixon.

“That was a big number. It really was. I was doing my absolute best in the corners to make that number,” Power said after the victory - his 33rd career victory, and Team Penske’s 200th.

“It was very tough on the blacks,” Power said, commenting on the softer red compound and firmer black compound options. “It made for good racing, because you could switch up the strategy. The reds were really, really good.”

Every car is required to run each option at least once during the race.

A long day for the talented Australian: “I’m exhausted, I’m tired.”

Unofficial Race Results

It was a difficult day for Chip Ganassi Racing, but they persevered with team captain Scott Dixon’s #9 PNC Bank Honda. Dixon had qualified a disappointing 18th, but knifed through the field to pass rookie Robert Wickens for the second position on Lap 64.

”Big credit to the team. We really chased our tails this week,” Dixon said with a laugh. "We changed everything but the kitchen sink. Guess we should have changed the kitchen sink, too.”

Dixon led the contingent of seven Hondas in the top ten, as the Hondas still seem to attain a better fuel mileage number than the Chevrolets.

“The Honda did a really good job,” Dixon said, confessing that his late-race inability to challenge leader Power was not a power plant issue. “I just burned the rear tires off at the end.”

Canada’s amazing rookie, Robert Wickens was clearly dejected after the race, bringing in the #6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Racing Honda to an admirable third place.

“I have to work on my fuel save game a little bit. I guess I’m not as efficient on fuel saving as [the Penske and Ganassi teams] are.”

“It’s frustrating. It wasn’t comfortable, by any means,” he admitted. “We were having problems with my push-to-pass all day.”

Sebastien Bourdais, a front-runner all day, struggled with challenges by Alexander Rossi, but successfully completed a pass on the last lap to take the third step on the podium for his Team SealMaster Honda.

“He was tricky to follow,” Bourdais said of race winner Power. “I was loose most of the race. I could barely keep up with him on the reds. I don’t think we had anything for Dixie at the end, either.”

“I guess it’s fourth place or nothing for us here, but I’ll take it,” said Bourdais, whose two best finishes here were fourths in 2014 and 2015.

In IndyCar Series points going into Monday’s opening day of practice for the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden retains the lead by 2 points by finishing 11th, and Rossi falling back a position on the last lap. Newgarden was punted on the first lap, entering Turn 1, by rookie Jordan King, and had to fight his way back through the field.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson noted the irony that Jordan King finished two laps down to the leaders, yet still finished last in the field. In today’s budget driven IndyCar business, King might have saved precious tires and engine wear if he’d just parked his car following the accident. But that’s obviously not racing.

Today’s race saw nine lead changes, mostly under pit stops, between seven drivers - Will Power leading 56 of the event’s 85 laps. There were two cautions for a total of eight laps.

Tom Beeler

Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992. He was invited to join the staff as a full-time reporter/editor in 1995, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.

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Volume 2018, Issue 5, Posted 6:36 PM, 05.12.2018