Starting ninth, Will Power drove his Chevy to victory in the Honda Alabama Grand Prix Sunday at beautiful Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. Scott Dixon had nothing for Power at the end and settled for second in his Honda after he cooked his soft red tires trying to stay with Power.
Helio Castroneves held off Graham Rahal for third and Simon Pagenaud was all over both of them in 5th.
James Hinchcliffe, Mike Conway, Rubens Barrichello, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti rounded out the top 10.
Make no mistake about it, the Barber track is the best road course on the IndyCar circuit right now and the new IndyCar is turning out to be a real raceable car. The on-track battles throughout the field were some of the best racing we have seen in America since the days of CART.
"Tim Cindric put me in such a good position. I can't believe we won from ninth – I thought that was impossible at this place," said Power. "Dixon was so quick, and it was hard to hold him off. I'm very happy – I just can't believe it."
Power was quick to give Firestone credit for bringing a good tire.
"I think that Firestone did a great job to build a tire that went off so there could be good racing. That's how I won today, because we played the strategy with the tires. I hope they do a lot more of that."
The first yellow was for the mechanical failure on Alex Tagliani’s car, a Lotus, on the first lap.
The top 3 remained the same as they started as the first round of pitstops approached, Castroneves one second up on James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon a further second back.
Lap 27 Dixon goes one lap later before pitting and Hinchcliffe has a slow stop and Dixon, thanks to fast pit work by the Ganassi team gets out in front of Castroneves and Hinchcliffe to lead.
Lap 31 and Will Power finally gets past Kanaan for 5th after a tense battle. Power accused Kanaan of blocking over the radio to his crew. Once past, Power then pulled away hunting down Graham Rahal in 4th.
Lap 77, with about 40 to go, Castroneves pits and gives up the lead to Dixon who was just ahead of Will Power. Power was picking off one car after another on his march toward the front from his 9th starting position.
23 laps to go and Katherine Legge spun into the pea gravel at Turn 6 bringing out a full course caution with road course ace 'Willie P' in the lead ahead of Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Helio Castroneves. Rahal, Pagenaud and Conway behind. Marco Andretti was strong all race and turned the second fastest lap behind Power was in 8th.
|Try as he might, Scott Dixon hung with Power but eventually dropped back|
The final green waved with 16 laps to go after a 2 wide restart. Dixon and Power were side-by-side going into Turn 1 with Power grabbing the lead on the inside.
Power and Dixon began to open a gap to Castroneves who was up to third after Hinchcliffe lost three spots on the green flag lap. Rahal was 4th and Pagenaud 5th.
With 10 laps to go the lead duo had gapped Castroneves by 5 seconds and the race was going to be decided between Power and Dixon. Both were on the softer red tires, and the question was who can push hardest and not abuse their tires.
With three to go Power had inched out to a 1.7 second lead with Castroneves now over 14 seconds back and fighting to hold off Rahal and Pagenaud.
|Will Power drove great and Team Penske was perfect in the pits|
With one to go the gap was now over 2 seconds at the front and Dixon was beaten.
It was the 16th career win for Power and he did it in style picking off one driver at a time. It was two for two for Team Penske as Castroneves won the season opener. Team Penske has now won all three races at Barber.
Next up for the IndyCars is the best street circuit race on the schedule in Long Beach, California in two weeks time.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, winner Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama): "Yeah that was an awesome race. Tim Cindric kept putting me in such a good position so we could use our speed. That last restart was kind of hairy. I knew Scott (Dixon) was going to be really quick and hounded me for a couple laps there. It's good to get the Verizon 12 car in victory lane with a Chevy engine. It was awesome. (About pit stops): "(My crew was) on the money today. Without these guys, there's no way we could have won today."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, finished second): "I think today we did a good job. We got caught up there in some traffic in the pit, the pit sequence kind of got us there. All in all, Team Target did a fantastic job with Honda, I think we're starting to get on something with this car, so hopefully in the next few races we might be looking at the top spot on the podium. It was a tough race, and huge congratulations to Team Penske and obviously Will (Power), coming from so deep in the field to come back and get on top, it shows they have a strong team."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet, finished third): "First I want to thank AAA, Shell/Pennzoil, Verizon, SKF—those guys give us great support. To be honest it was very difficult. Those are my tires from qualifying. Unfortunately, I locked a little bit too much, I used them a little bit too much. I mean it paid off starting from the pole position, but certainly hurt me a little bit, actually a lot, in the race. That's why (Scott Dixon) was able to go off of Turn 2, good run but I was just staying in the middle and not do too much. But in the end, I thought it was a great battle, I think that's what [racing's about], and I want to apologize as well to (James) Hinchcliffe. My car was already bad with those reds and as soon as we restarted the race it pushed so bad that we kind of squeezed him and I felt terrible. We were having a great race, hopefully we'll have a better one next time"
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda, finished fourth): "The Service Central Chip Ganassi Team did a fantastic job. We made no mistakes and that's what it's all about and at the end of the day we had a really solid finish. We move on from here on to Long Beach with a lot of confidence. We know we can run with these guys and we're going to try to do it again."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports, finished fifth): "P5 today is a really good result. We got caught up in qualifying, so we didn't get a good lap in. But I tell you today this car was probably the fastest one out there today. It's good to see that we can produce such a great job with a one-car team and to fight with the Penske and Ganassi teams. I'm very proud to be a part of this team. I have to thank the crew for doing great pit stops. They say you can't pass around here, but I have a few tricks I'm not going to tell anyone. It was a fun, physical race. I got held up by Ed Carpenter badly, that I know eventually cost me positions at the end. But that's racing. At the end of the day, I'm really happy with the result. With a sixth and fifth in two starts, I feel really confident going into Long Beach."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "The Go Daddy Chevy had a good pace, but I don't think we had the pace to run with Scott (Dixon) or Helio (Castroneves). We were running alright – pretty much on course for a third-place (finish). If we would have beat Helio out of the pits on that final stop then I just would have had to keep him behind me, which on this track isn't impossible. But that yellow came out and because of the way the time line works coming out of the pits they gave him the spot and again I got stuck on the outside for the restart. Graham (Rahal) got around me and that gave (Simon) Pagenaud the run and we lost two spots that we shouldn't have. It's pretty disappointing given where we started. I was hoping for a better result for the Go Daddy car but we brought home some points, we'll chalk it up to experience and move on to Long Beach."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, finished seventh): "Happy we finished in top 10 which is what we needed. Still struggling with certain level of grip out there. We're getting there in qualifying but we just need to work on long tire runs. Never easy on race weekends but we'll just keep clipping away at it. (About the start): "I was on outside of Scott (Dixon) and he clipped (Graham) Rahal and went wide. I was on outside and had to drift out on grass. As I pulled back in I got so much stuff on my tires, I couldn't get through Turn 2. So much understeer, would've run into people. I lost a bunch of positions but got a couple back. We just had to hang in there all day. Tough day."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/ Embrase – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished eighth): "I first need to say thank you to the crew and thank you for my first top-10 finish. It's hard to be happy with a top-10, but starting so far back and at some points in the race even further back, I think it was a positive that I was able to work my way back through the field. By the end of the race, I had one of the fastest running cars, so I think it was enjoyable to watch and for me to race. People race hard over here, but they were fair. I had many knocks and bumps, but the cars are so robust in this series that we can luckily get away with it. I enjoyed my day and thank my sponsors, BMC and Embrase and my team once again."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus, finished ninth): "It was a really good race. I honestly didn't believe we were going to hold off Justin (Wilson), (James) Jakes and (Dario) Franchitti and all these guys and race them this close because we know we're at a big power disadvantage. Every time we get in traffic, we get swallowed up like we don't exist, so I was a little down before the race. Expectations were not super high and it turned out extremely different. I was very happy with my car. Initially, the track was green enough that I could make moves on them, but when the other cars lost their tires, it really helped me put the moves of them. Our car held its tires very well and that put us in that position. We passed a lot of people and it was a pretty exciting day."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Clorox Honda, finished 10th): "It was a busy day and I passed a lot of cars. We lost some spaces on the first start and the last restart we pushed on the grass. No one was doing it intentionally. It's just people are trying to get out of each other's way and make some moves. We passed a lot of cars. That last yellow we didn't need. I think that is the best my car has felt through all of the practices and races and qualifying that we have had this year. So I will take that as a positive and that will give us some kind of direction going into Long Beach. I have never been so happy for a 10th place finish. There was some good racing though. We have some guys on new reds and some on used, and it made a big difference. Some comers some goers. There were some really good races out there today. If we could just figure out how to get race control to do something with the restarts. Hopefully it was a good day for the fans. There was a massive crowd and a lot of enthusiasm so it's cool."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Team Barracuda/BHA Lotus): "We took the green flag, went into Turn 1 and the engine just died. It seems to be a pretty heavy mechanical failure from what I understand. It's very disappointing for the Barracuda Networks and Bowers & Wilkins crew. What's sad is that we didn't get to use our red tires this weekend – we saved them all for the race and we didn't even have the chance to try one set of them this weekend. We made some pretty big improvements to the car and the reds are worth so much. Our whole strategy was to run reds all race and go as fast as we could. I think our car was decent but we're having a lot of problems right now with the engine."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "I'm pretty happy we finished the race. I think it's good for the team. We had a pretty solid car actually. Tire run was really good; tires didn't fall off too much. The good thing is that we finished and we can go to Long Beach with what we learned from this. We had a couple of boo-boos in the pits which didn't help us, but I think we had a solid car and drove pretty well. We really just have to take the positive out of this weekend and go even better next race."
E.J. VISO – No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Coming into the race I believed we would keep up with the pace that we showed in qualifying and in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the general pace of my car today was slower than the rest of the field. We didn't have a balance issue, but a pace issue and that cost us a lot of time. This is also a track that if you overheat the tires, push a little too hard, it will make you pay and that also happened. The crew did a great job in the pits, we just had a pace problem. The team is going to sit down and review the data and I am confident we will get everything resolved for Long Beach.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "We had a reasonable start. It's always exciting going through two or three corners side-by-side. I gained a few positions and the race settled down quickly. After the pit stop, we struggled with the balance of the car on the primary Firestone tires. As soon as I got back on the alternate Firestone's on the next stint, the handling was much better and I was starting to overtake people. We were on the way to recovering positions but then all of a sudden I lost power. It is disappointing to have mechanical failures in two consecutive races but there are some positives from the weekend. I hope in Long Beach we are able to be competitive again and have a strong finish."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog Flex Pen Honda): "That was a little disappointing. We had a decent car there for a while. The tires definitely made a big difference to the lap times and how the car handled. It's kind of a shame. We had a small problem with the car, which put us out of the race. We learned a lot… learned about how to go racing with these cars and engines. We'll be in good shape come Long Beach."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "We had a tough day out there today in the Hitachi car. We were gaining track position over the middle stint of the race but then we had some tire issues and it cost us position. It's great to see two Team Penske drivers on the podium and good job by Will (Power) to get the win. It's not the finish we were hoping for in our first race with Hitachi on board but I'm excited to get to Long Beach and go for the win there."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I don't know what happened today. We tried some things in the warm-up this morning and the car just wasn't happy. So we went back to the setups we used in qualifying. And that was pretty good yesterday, but the car had just a ridiculous amount of understeer today. I couldn't get through any corners. Then we tried to save fuel and turn it into a two (pit) stopper. But that didn't work either. It was just a long race. It wasn't much fun from where I was sitting today. Actually, this was the first day we have run here with so much sunshine and the track surface was very slick. The conditions changed a lot today, but some guys were able to figure it out. This new car seems to have a very small window to make it handle. I hope things go better on Wednesday when we test at Indy and the car will be better on the ovals."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I thought we had a quick car today. Qualifying up front would have made things a lot easier for us. I think we're learning and getting better every time though. Eventually we're going to get it all put together and be right up there. On the last run I lost a ton of grip in the Firestone reds and I couldn't carry any speed into the corners. Our reds were a little older than others and that hurt us."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): "The car was good, and we were really fast through the middle of the race – that was fun – and we were as fast as anyone. But, I got into (EJ) Viso and broke the upper-right segment of the front wing. I was a lot faster than he was and just got into the back of him. My guys did a great job in the pits, but after that, I didn't have the downforce on the front end that I needed. I did what I could on the late restarts, but that's why we dropped back at the finish."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "We were dynamite in that middle segment of the race. That was the only stint where we had a new set of (Firestone) reds, and it was fun being able to pass so many guys. We lost some spots in the pits, and then we just didn't have the rear of the car hooked up as well after the last restart (on Lap 74 of 90 laps). I had to crawl along those last few laps just to keep it on the track and not lose the back end."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "Barber tends to go to understeer so we tried to adjust to avoid that as much as possible, and we thought we'd have a neutral race car. In the end though, the rear tires wouldn't stay underneath me. I tried as hard as I could for as long as I could, but at the end of the stints it was pretty difficult. Particularly at the end of the race, we had a scuffed set of reds that that probably had about five laps too many on them and that ended up catching us out a little bit. But the good news is we made big strides in qualifying in the National Guard Chevy this weekend and we usually have great race cars at Panther. We're going to keep putting all the pieces together and we'll be all right."
|17||15||67||Josef Newgarden||Honda||1 LAPS||1 LAPS||1:12.9486||Running|
|18||7||5||EJ Viso||Chevy||1 LAPS||1:01.7780||1:13.5460||Running|
|19||19||18||Justin Wilson||Honda||1 LAPS||2.0071||1:13.0229||Running|
|20||21||78||Simona de Silvestro||Lotus||1 LAPS||0.4013||1:13.8627||Running|
|21||6||11||Tony Kanaan||Chevy||1 LAPS||10.0966||1:13.4996||Running|
|22||23||20||Ed Carpenter||Chevy||2 LAPS||1 LAPS||1:15.0263||Running|
|23||24||6||Katherine Legge||Lotus||6 LAPS||4 LAPS||1:14.8484||Running|
|24||16||15||Takuma Sato||Honda||38 LAPS||32 LAPS||1:13.1996||Mechanical|
|25||22||83||Charlie Kimball||Honda||45 LAPS||7 LAPS||1:13.3781||Mechanical|
|26||25||98||Alex Tagliani||Lotus||90 LAPS||45 LAPS||0||Mechanical|
Winners average speed: 102.081
Time of Race: 02:01:40.1127
Margin of victory: 3.3709 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 10 laps
Lead changes: 9
Castroneves 1 – 24
Dixon 27 – 47
Castroneves 48 -49
Dixon 50 – 65
Castroneves 66 -67
Power 68 – 73
Power 75 – 90
Point Standings: Castroneves 86, Dixon 84, Power 77, Hinchcliffe 60, Pagenaud 58, Hunter-Reay 53, Rahal 50, Briscoe 46, Conway38, Barrichello 37.