Power holds off Aleshin to win ABC Supply 500

Will Power continues his championship charge with a win at Pocono Raceway
Will Power continues his championship charge with a win at Pocono Raceway

Will Power held off pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin by 1.1459s to win today's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. It was the fourth victory in six races for the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and 29th of his career tying Power for 11th on the all-time wins list with Helio Castroneves and Rick Mears. It was also Power's sixth consecutive top-2 finish dating back to his win at Detroit in June.

As for Team Penske, Pocono continued what has been a banner silver anniversary for Indy car racing's most storied team. Power's win was the team's ninth win in 12 2016 races and came at the site where the legendary racing organization scored its first 500-mile race win in 1971 for Mark Donohue.

And as an added bonus for Power, the win moved the 2014 series champion to within 20 points of series leader Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman finished 18th after a lap 157 crash.

"I love winning 500-mile races and this is one of the toughest ovals that we race on," said Power, whose other 500-mile victory came in the 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The 200-lap race was delayed a day after heavy rain Sunday forced its postponement. Starting eighth, Power gradually moved his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to the front, not taking his first lead until Lap 64.

"The car started off really, really difficult to drive," said the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, who led 55 laps on the day, including the last 36. "We adjusted on it all day and, for the second half of the race, the car was just awesome."

Meanwhile, points leader Simon Pagenaud crashed out of the race on Lap 158 in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, finishing 18th, and saw his cushion trimmed by 38 points with three races remaining on the 2016 schedule – the completion of the rain-suspended Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27, the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen on Sept. 4 and the double-points GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 18.

"We are chipping away at it and obviously there is still a lot to go," said Power, who sat out the season opener at St. Petersburg with an inner-ear infection but ran his string of finishing first or second to the last six completed races. "Now we will give it everything. We will give it everything because we really want to win this championship."

For much of the race, it was looking as though the battle for the win would be between Aleshin and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda was forced to start the race from the back of the field due to his car not being ready for qualifying after a practice crash. However, in characteristic fashion, RHR began picking off cars at the drop of the green flag. On lap 50, he moved around Aleshin for the lead and from there would spend much of the next 100-plus laps battling the determined Russian for the lead.

However, Pocono 2016 was not destined to go down as another classic RHR charge to victory. After the restart on lap 164, Hunter-Reay's car lost power entering turn 2. Forced to limp around to the pits, RHR was unable to reset the software until he had gone down a lap to the field. While a lap 176 debris caution would allow the American to get his lap back, and he was able to move from 11th to third before the end of the race, the software issues took RHR out of a possible repeat victory at The Tricky Triangle.

"I had to come through the field twice and that is heartbreaking for us," Hunter-Reay said. "This is the type of year it has been, really heartbreaking. The No. 28 DHL Honda really deserved to be in contention for the win there at the end.

"I was going through Turn 2 and (the car) just shut off. I (power) cycled the car once and nothing happened, then I came into the pits and power cycled it again – turned it off, on – and then it refired and we were a lap down. I had to come through the field twice, but the car was a rocket ship. It's a shame."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]That left Aleshin to battle with Power, who credited adjustments from his Team Penske crew as getting him to the front of the field. Although the Russian led a race-high 87 laps, Power was able to move to the front after pit stop cycle before Pagenaud's crash. Then, after being passed by Aleshin on lap 164, Power re-passed the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda and would hold the lead for the remaining 35 circuits.

"I'm very proud of my team and everyone who works on the SMP Racing car No. 7," said Aleshin, the first Russian driver to win an Indy car pole position. "They did a fantastic job today and it paid off. Will was just faster in the end and I couldn't do anything with him.

"When I was catching him, I almost put my car into the wall a couple of times but I still couldn't overtake him. He has a fair win, for sure, but I'm happy to be in second place because we had some difficult moments this race and this year, so this is a good position to move forward."

Power celebrates
Power celebrates

Last year's runner-up Josef Newgarden had the No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet in the top-5 most of the day and would lead 15 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. Newgarden now sits third in the championship 97 points behind Pageanud.

The KVSH Racing team made an aggressive call to not take tires on the final pit stop in helping Sebastien Bourdais round out the top-5.

Of course, given the events of last year here at Pocono Raceway, combined with some hard practice crashes, a green track, windy day, and a host of other factors, there was a heightened anxiety entering today's race. But strangely, the scariest incident happened not on the 2.5-mile oval, but in the pit lane.

On lap 64, Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi was leaving pit road when he came into contact with the No. 83 of Charlie Kimball, who was entering his pit box. The resulting contacting shot Rossi's Honda airborne. The No. 98 would come down in on top of the No. 3 of Helio Castroneves, as the Brazilian was leaving his put area. As you can see from the video, Rossi's car nearly strikes Castroneves in the head. Scary stuff.

Fortunately, everyone was ok.

Kimball was able to continue, finishing a lap down in 15th. Rossi and Castroneves were forced to retire. While Rossi was initially scored ahead of Castroneves, INDYCAR issued a 20-second time penalty to Car 98 for an unsafe release, resulting in Castroneves finishing 19th, one place ahead of Rossi.

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this coming Saturday, where they will resume the rain-interrupted Firestone 600 from this past June. James Hinchcliffe will lead the field to the green flag on lap 72 of the 200-lap race.

QUOTES

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Penske Trucks Chevrolet): "The hum by Verizon ran well for most of the race. We had some problems with understeer and that made for a tough day. Things didn't turn out the way we would have liked it to, as we definitely hoped for better results. I'm very proud of the team and how they pulled together the whole weekend and throughout today. We will continue to hold our heads up and look towards the next race in Texas."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don't realize the Verizon IndyCar series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that. Very glad that nobody got hurt. It's just a shame. The Hitachi Chevy was really having a good day and we just had another good pit stop when I was coming out of the pits. All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to try and fix the car but there was a lot of damage. It's certainly unfortunate because this will hurt us in the championship battle but our team will never give up. We'll move on to Texas where, fortunately, we've had a lot of success."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was a solid top ten. It certainly wasn't the result we were hoping for after qualifying but if you heard the whole story of the race, I think you could understand that we're pretty pleased with that. We had a decent top-five run going for the first half of the race and then we had a piece of bodywork start to separate on the engine cover. It was not only creating a bit of drag but also changed the handling of the car quite a bit. We went wicked loose for about the last four laps of one of those stints and we were just really losing a lot of lap time. We came in and made some repairs to the bodywork. Anytime we're chucking tape onto a car during a pit stop in a race, you know things have gone a bit south, but the Arrow Electronics guys did a great job to get that fixed and we played some strategy a little bit there to stop early and have a shorter last stop than everyone else when that yellow came out. It wasn't the true pace of the Arrow Electronics car but from where we were around lap 135, I think we can be pretty happy with a top 10."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): "The team did an amazing job with all the pit stops and the car was good. We needed some changes on some of the stops. One of which wasn't very good and that's when I dropped (back) but on the next pit stop we gained everything (position) we had lost. Unfortunately, in the end, I just couldn't get Will (Power). He was just too fast. Seriously, I was on the edge. I almost crashed a couple times when I was right behind him. I had wiggles and I just couldn't get him." (About his enjoyment of ovals) "I didn't know for sure at the end of my first year, obviously after Fontana (crash) especially. But now I understand it and now I like ovals. I like them even more than most of the road courses. Here, it was just awesome, such intense racing. You're always at the edge. You're always at the edge and at speeds of 220 mph. You never know what is going to happen and plus today, you had so much wind coming in. So, I'm just happy to bring the SMP Racing No. 7 up to second place. We didn't get the victory, but we were very close. Will was just so fast. He deserves it. In the end I just couldn't do anything with him. I'm just happy for the team They just took an amazing step forward to bring my car home in second position and they had some amazing pit stops."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "I'm happy since that was my very first experience racing on the Tricky Triangle. That 500 miles seemed a lot longer than the Indianapolis 500 for some reason. I think we learned a lot though. We got through the whole race without incident as well. There was a lot of adjusting going on with the cars with the wind being a big factor. You constantly had to be adapting to the track and conditions. The last run was really close with all the cars packed back up and going for it. We started 18th and moved up in the race to 13th so that was good progress. I also learned a lot so I'm happy with the result for the Gallagher team in our first race here."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): "Well we started in the rear of the field and that didn't help our cause with the Target team. We got held up in the second to last restart and some lapped cars didn't go when they should have and that really cost us in terms of track positon for sure. We clawed our way back into the mix but with so many good cars out there today it was hard to get all the way to the front to contend."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "We just couldn't catch a break during the race today. Every time we'd make a run toward the front, something would go wrong. We had a mechanical issue that was affecting the fuel system and that caused a lot of problems for us. Then we lost a piece of our rear bumper pod that caused that last yellow. It just wasn't our day."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a pretty good day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We took some penalties with long pit stops to set the car up early on, but even though we were marginal on front grip we were running a pretty solid race. We passed Dixie (Scott Dixon), passed (Tony) Kanaan, passed some Penskes, not the top one, but when you do that, things are going pretty good. Then you end up finishing fifth after there was some computer confusion about our position on the restart. Overall, you have to consider that it was a great day. It was definitely our strongest showing on a super speedway. We learned something this weekend, something we have been missing. The crew did a really good job and the Hydroxycut Chevy machine was really strong. So I am really happy with the result."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was so hard to follow in traffic because we started very light on downforce but you know, we just kept adding and adding and adding. Then the team adjusted on the car a bit until it was awesome at the end and I was very good in traffic. I just have to thank Verizon and for all the access they give the fans and I also want to thank Chevrolet. The Chevy engine was awesome today and the body kit was obviously also awesome. So you know it was a very good comeback and I am very happy to win here. I love winning 500-mile races and this is one of the toughest ovals that we race on. We are chipping away at (gaining on the championship leader) and obviously there is still a lot to go. Now we will give it everything because we really want to win this championship. The car started off really, really difficult to drive. We adjusted on it all day and for the second half of the race, the car was just awesome. Awesome in traffic, really fast. Just a lot of fun to drive. The Firestones were really good today. Very consistent the whole stint. Just lost a little at the end there so thank you Firestone, as always awesome tires and very reliable. Mikhail (Aleshin, pole sitter) was giving me a lot of heat there at the end. I was like, 'Man is he going to get me?' He was close. I felt like if I could take his air in three but I felt if he had to lift there, I would be okay, but he was very strong. That is as good as it gets. No mistakes. Great stops. As an overall team effort, that was as good of a day you could possible get. Thanks to my team."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "It was pretty hard (hit) but thanks to the safety of IndyCar and Pocono Raceway I was able to walk away. I may have some bruises but I'm perfectly fine. I'm not sure (what happened). Obviously the conditions we have (for the race) are different from what we had for the last practice. We thought we needed more downforce on the ABC Supply car and we discussed the wind. The conditions were a little tricky, but I'm not sure what happened exactly. I went into Turn 3 and it just went free so quickly and I simply lost the back end."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Honda): "All in all it was one of those days. It's frustrating because we would have liked to finish higher up but for whatever reason we are lacking straight line speed. Cornering-wise we were able to pull up on a lot of guys exiting corners but when we get to the straightaways, they would leave us once I pulled fifth gear. We've got to figure out why that is, rebound and be better."

PIPPA MANN (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It's definitely been a tough weekend here at Pocono Raceway for lots of reasons. I was actually much happier with my car in the race today than I've been all weekend. I feel like we made progress. We got unlucky with a couple of yellows where we could've got a couple of laps back. We also got unlucky with a slight mechanical issue where my anti-roll bar got stuck in the stiffest position. Which isn't terrible for one end of the track, but it meant that for the vast majority of the race I had my hands very full at the Turn 3 end of the track. We resolved it on one of the pit stops but it happened again for the last stint. Overall I felt that we made real improvements with the car in the race and I'm sure I'm echoing Conor (Daly) when I say I wish we could start the race weekend again right now. I know it's not the finish Bryan (Clauson) would have wanted but I hope he got to enjoy getting to start and run this race with Conor and I today."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "Ed Carpenter Racing has performed so awesome this year and the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka car can't catch a break. I haven't finished a full race this season. I made one mistake at Phoenix, but other than that we've just had things happen. Some of it shouldn't have happened and could have been avoided, so there's just a lot of frustration. This is one of my last two races this year and I felt really good coming into today. I'm not going to comment on what happened specifically, it won't do any good to talk about it out in the open. It's just frustrating."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet): "First off, I want to say thanks to all the fans that came out. It's such a shame we got washed out yesterday. We had a lot of people come back out to watch this race and I think we put on a good show. Thank you to everyone in Pocono that supports INDYCAR. The No. 21 car was strong; We were just lacking a little bit. I was trying so hard to hold Ryan (Hunter-Reay) off there at the end, I just couldn't quite do it. He was so fast, he had an incredible drive so congrats to him. Also to Will (Power) and Mikhail (Aleshin), they were just a little better than us. I think we were a top five car for sure, maybe a podium, but it was tough to beat those couple of guys in front of us."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader): "I don't know what happened at this point. The car bottomed and I went straight to the wall. Really weird because I had bottoming but not to that extent. I just lost control of the steering. It felt okay leaving the pits. Turn 1 was fine. Turn 2 was fine. I don't know. That one's weird but it's definitely a bit of a shame. It's really disappointing because the Menards Chevrolet wasn't great, but was good enough to score some points. There's nothing we can do about it now, so we'll move on to Texas. I don't think it changes anything. We've gone all out all season and that's not going to change."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "A little disappointed with the result of the race after running almost the whole race in the top-five. In the end, I don't know, we lost the speed that we had and it was just a battle in the end."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "It was a tough day for the UFD / Snapple car. I had a big imbalance end-to-end (of the car), turn entry to mid corner – the car was doing something different every lap. I tried to add downforce, but all we did was slow down and still have those same problems. It was definitely a long 500 miles."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "I had to come through the field twice. It's heartbreaking. This the type of year it's been for us. Really heart breaking. The No. 28 DHL Honda really deserved to be in contention for the win there at the end. Going through Turn 2 it just shut off. I cycled the car once, nothing happened and then I got on pit lane and cycled it again. Power cycle. It turns off then it re-fired and we were a lap down. I had to come through the field twice. The car was a rocket ship. It's a shame."

CHARLIE KIKBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "I don't know what the 98 (Alexander Rossi) and 3 (Helio Castroneves) were doing there. We were coming into pit lane and they just sent the cars into the side of me. I'm just really disappointed with all of that. We had such a good car. The 83 crew has just really been on it all weekend with fixing the car and having to go to the backup car right before qualifying. I had so much confidence in the car every time I climbed in and for something silly that was completely out of our control on pit lane to put us back like that is just frustrating. After the incident on pit lane, the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet just wasn't the same. We just had to try and finish the race clean, get a lap back when we could, and really just help our teammates by staying out of the way when we could."

CONOR DALY (No. 88 BC Forever Honda): "I came into this race wanting to learn as much as I could in the first place, and I definitely learned a lot. It's just a shame, we need something in the car to allow us to get more speed. Everyone was just pulling away from us and we couldn't use the draft as well as anyone else. But overall, I'm happy to finish a 500-mile race, I hadn't done that since my first Indy 500 in 2013. It's nice to get all that experience. I can come back more ready next year. Despite our finishing result, I hope we made Bryan (Clauson) proud this weekend."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "Everyone is going to have their own opinion but I was staying in the slow lane, (Charlie) Kimball was obviously trying to come in his box but then Helio (Castroneves) was being released. So I don't know. It's very unfortunate. This car was awesome today. We were at the front with relative ease and we were waiting for the end to go to the front for the final time. Obviously I'm not in charge of releasing cars so I don't know the gap that needs to be had. I was sent. I knew there was a car to my right and I stayed in the slow lane. So, that was all I could do."

Results

P No Name Laps Diff Gap Pits LPit FL FTime Led ST FSpeed Engine PTS
1 12 Will Power 200 0.0000s 0.0000s 8 177 151 41.190 55 8 218.499 Chevy 477
2 7 Mikhail Aleshin 200 1.1459 1.1459 8 177 122 41.436 87 1 217.203 Honda 287
3 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 200 5.9076 4.7617 9 178 191 41.351 31 22 217.651 Honda 330
4 21 Josef Newgarden 200 7.0750 1.1674 8 177 150 41.605 15 2 216.321 Chevy 397
5 11 Sebastien Bourdais 200 7.5285 0.4535 9 177 174 41.559 3 18 216.558 Chevy 283
6 9 Scott Dixon 200 7.8896 0.3611 9 177 194 41.651 3 19 216.080 Chevy 357
7 26 Carlos Munoz 200 11.5938 3.7042 8 177 171 41.636 5 216.159 Honda 328
8 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 200 13.4345 1.8407 9 177 172 41.583 15 216.437 Chevy 299
9 10 Tony Kanaan 200 13.7988 0.3643 8 177 121 41.615 1 9 216.269 Chevy 357
10 5 James Hinchcliffe 200 14.2235 0.4247 9 177 36 41.739 6 215.628 Honda 329
11 15 Graham Rahal 200 14.3471 0.1236 9 177 194 41.706 11 215.797 Honda 324
12 27 Marco Andretti 200 16.3334 1.9863 8 178 192 42.020 13 214.182 Honda 237
13 8 Max Chilton 200 17.1907 0.8573 10 177 107 41.896 17 214.816 Chevy 187
14 41 Jack Hawksworth 200 18.5585 1.3678 9 178 169 41.810 12 215.261 Honda 162
15 83 Charlie Kimball 199 1 LAPS 1 LAPS 11 177 43 41.802 16 215.302 Chevy 318
16 88 Conor Daly 198 2 LAPS 31.7254 10 176 190 42.131 20 213.619 Honda 254
17 19 Pippa Mann 197 3 LAPS 1 LAPS 10 175 180 42.221 21 213.164 Honda 46
18 22 Simon Pagenaud 157 32.5206 5.2402 7 156 117 41.654 1 14 216.067 Chevy 497
19 3 Helio Castroneves 63 53 LAPS 0.8535 4 63 39 41.626 4 216.211 Chevy 384
20 98 Alexander Rossi 63 73 LAPS 19.1465 4 63 40 41.804 4 7 215.292 Honda 327
21 20 Ed Carpenter 57 59 LAPS 6 LAPS 4 57 44 41.757 10 215.531 Chevy 54
22 14 Takuma Sato 1 115 LAPS 56 LAPS 0 1 1:15.775 3 118.773 Honda 265

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 180.198 mph
Time of Race: 2:46:28.9856
Margin of victory: 1.1459 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 20 laps
Lead changes: 29 among 9 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Aleshin 1
Newgarden 2 – 10
Aleshin 11 -31
Rossi 32 – 33
Dixon 34 – 35
Bourdais 36 – 37
Aleshin 38 – 48
Hunter-Reay 49 – 55
Aleshin 56 – 60
Newgarden 61
Rossi 62 – 63
Power 64 – 65
Aleshin 66 – 89
Hunter-Reay 90 – 93
Newgarden 94 – 95
Kanaan 96
Dixon 97
Power 98 – 99
Aleshin 100 – 119
Hunter-Reay 120 – 122
Newgarden 123 – 125
Power 126 – 128
Pagenaud 129
Aleshin 130 – 133
Hunter-Reay 134 – 150
Power 151 – 156
Bourdais 157
Power 158 – 163
Aleshin 164
Power 165 – 200

Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Pagenaud 497, Power 477, Newgarden 397, Dixon 386, Castroneves 384, Kanaan 380, Munoz 354, Hinchcliffe 349, Rahal 343, Kimball 333.

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