Another road course. Another display of dominance by Will Power!
Taking his 5th win of the year, all on road courses, Will Power set himself up as best as possible for the home stretch to the championship.
Presented with the Mario Andretti road-course minor championship trophy by the living legend himself, Power was humbled, but appeared nervous that such dominant performances this year may still not be enough for the title as the remaining races on the calendar take place on circuits that do not play to his strengths. Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at all the action from Infineon Raceway…
It is no secret that despite a pole position at Iowa earlier in the year, oval racing is still a beast yet to be tamed by the championship leader. His main rivals in the championship, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and to a lesser extent, Ryan Briscoe, have all won on ovals this year and have proven themselves at the short-track venues. To further worry the Penske clan, Will Power has scored 46 points less on ovals so far this year than Dario Franchitti, and has only a 59 point lead in the championship with Chicago, Kentucky, Motegi and Homestead remaining in 2010. The pressure is still most definitely on the young Aussie and consistency will be the key to holding off the powerful Ganassi drivers.
For Infineon though, Power was on pole yet again, and led away at the drop of the green flag. Toward the back of the field, it was chaos already. A car was shown upside down, soon revealed to be that of Dan Wheldon. Entering the front straight for the start, Wheldon was inadvertently tipped over by Bertrand Baguette, who in all fairness, was in his correct starting position and was left nowhere to go by Wheldon. Replays of the flip looked fairly violent, however the roll-cage on the car did its job perfectly, and Wheldon was extricated and walked away unharmed. The first yellow of the day was out before a lap had been completed.
The restart, or new-start if you prefer to look at it that way, came on Lap 5.
Alex Tagliani locked a wheel into turn 7 on Lap 16, losing momentum and as it later emerged, flat-spotting a tyre. Over the next few laps, despite his best efforts and some near collisions, Tags dropped to near the back of the field.
The scene for plenty of action over the course of the weekend was the chicane at Turns 10 and 11, with more than a few off-track excursions by many drivers. On lap 24, Simona Di Silvestro tried a bold overtake on Raphael Matos. While a great indication of her bravado, it was attempted a bit hastily, and nearly resulted in the second overturned car of the day.
By Lap 32, the race had settled down, with the only noteworthy moment being when reigning Indy Lights champ J.R. Hildebrand, who was off-sequence on pit stop strategy, got himself caught up in a battle involving the Ganassi cars, Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson. Franchitti, at the head of this battle, managed to pass the slower Hildebrand through Turn 7, however the rest were all held up through the same corner. Franchitti seized his advantage and quickly put a gap between himself and his three chasers.
It wouldn’t be a true IndyCar event without Milka Duno causing a full-course caution at some point. This duly came on lap 33 as Milka spun on her exit of Turn 7. She was restarted and the green flag re-emerged on Lap 36. Another successful job done for the sponsors.
It wasn’t long before the next caution, on Lap 38. Also in Turn 7, Marco Andretti caught the eye of the stewards with a ridiculous pass attempt on Hildebrand which was more of a kamikaze punt. The collision pitched Hildebrand off to the side, stalling his car, while Marco gained the spot. A similar move a few laps later, this time on E.J. Viso, prompted a warning from the stewards to tone down the reckless passing moves.
From the restart on Lap 41, green flag running resumed. Will Power, having quickly pulled out a 5-second gap to Dario, made his final stop on Lap 57, lasting 7.2 seconds and resuming on a new set of Firestone red-sidewalled option tyres. Dixon minded the lead in the meantime before his pit stop reinstated the status quo a lap later. After the Ganassi boys made their final stops, with Dario choosing primary black tyres and Dixon taking the options, it was soon clear which was the correct choice. Dixon was all over his team-mate’s gearbox, and made the pass into Turn 7 on Lap 61.
The final caution of the day came as Bertrand Baguette squeezed himself out of room in the final corner while trying to pass Viso. After being clipped by Viso, Baguette hit Matos who was on the outside of him at the same time. At the restart on Lap 69, Dixon did all he could to give the crowd a grandstand finish, filling Will Power’s mirrors and giving the championship leader all he could handle.
It was not enough though, and Power held on to win from Dixon, Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe.
Leaving the road-courses for another year, Will Power had built a 59-point gap to Dario with the home stretch of ovals beginning next weekend at Chicago.
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]