|Power takes the checkered flag|
For the second time this month, Will Power came into an IZOD IndyCar Series race expecting nothing more than a top-five finish to secure valuable points in the championship.
But with two victories in the young season – from starting ninth at Barber and 12th at Long Beach – the hard-charging Aussie might be changing his outlook. Pole starts – of which he has 10 over the past 20 races, including one this year – might not be the automatic ticket to Victory Circle.
Power, who started 12th in the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 because of a 10-grid position penalty assessed to all Chevrolet teams for unapproved engine changes, squeezed 31 laps from 18.5 gallons of fuel on the 1.968-mile street circuit while being chased down by Simon Pagenaud the final 15 laps. He won by 0.8675 of a second.
"I could not believe it," said Power, who notched his 17th Indy car victory. "You always believe that it is possible to win or get on the podium, but it was very unlikely, the fact that it was going to be a twoâ€'stop race. But it was just amazing that Simon did three stops and I did two stops, like two different strategies and the result was similar. There was hardly any time between us as we crossed the finish line.
"It's just always a surprise in IndyCar, I think. You can never predict; you can never assume going into a race. You just have to be smart as it plays out.
"This was a very sweet victory because I've been on pole here in 2009, '10 and '11, and it just frustrated me that every year something would happen and I couldn't win. Once again this weekend, I'm starting 12th and I felt as though, 'That's impossible to win. I've got another bad year at Long Beach.'
"But it was just a good race. I pushed hard all the time, no mistakes, great strategy, and just a great team effort again."
The team effort has led Power to the top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings by 24 points over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he's won the past two years.
Last year after not converting the Long Beach pole into a podium (he finished 10th) in the third race of the season, Power was seven points to the rear of Dario Franchitti. He wound up second in the standings – by 18 points, which included eight bonus points for a corresponding numbers of pole wins — for the second consecutive year.
Power added that the team effort is spread across the organization, which has swept the three races (Castroneves winning the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg). The Long Beach Indy car win was Team Penske's first since 2001, when Castroneves prevailed.
"I think it's just that they've been probably one of the best prepared with the new car," Power said. "We did a lot of miles (since manufacturer testing began in November). Chevy has worked very hard, and obviously our first hit of the year â€'â€' obviously the 10â€'spot grid penalty was a precautionary thing and didn't affect us too badly.
"To me, it has been hard work. I think my guys feel very confident no matter where we start now that it's always possible."