Will Power has stated his intentions for the 2011 IZOD Indycar season by leading from flag to flag to win the Grand Prix of Alabama today, doing so for the first time since Dario Franchitti at Sonoma in 2009.
It was almost Australia Day in two different states in the southern US today. About 400 kilometres away in Augusta, Georgia, Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day were locked in a tie for the lead of the prestigious US Masters golf tournament, a lead which unfortunately didn’t hold as South African Charl Schwartzel took the tournament at the final hole. Back in Alabama, there were no such slip-ups for Will Power, as our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon writes…
Power and fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe headed the field and led away at the green flag, with Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves close behind. With all the hype and talk over what might happen at the first corner, sighs were no doubt heard as the entire field made it through the first corner unscathed, with the worst being a bit of dirt thrown up by Graham Rahal further back.
Hopes for a clean opening lap were not realised though, as debutant James Hinchcliffe spun heading towards Turn 3, but thankfully kept it going. Further ahead, JR Hildebrand and Raphael Matos banged wheels, spinning the latter around. The safety team got both going again easily, restarting the race on Lap 4.
In the lead-up to Lap 28, there were a couple of minor spins and arguments over the same piece of track, but none that resulted in a caution period. The first scheduled pit stops began on Lap 28 with Ryan Briscoe taking standard service, with Dixon and Power following soon after, but Power did not lose the lead. The next caution came on Lap 37 when Alex Tagliani spun and beached his rear tyres on the exit of the final corner. The restart came on Lap 41.
The first corner didn’t seem to be the problem on the restarts this time, with the field preferring to wait until Turn 4 to engage the safety crews. Three consecutive restarts gave way to three consecutive caution periods, pretty much all resulting from too many cars all trying to gain ground where there was no ground to be gained. James Hinchcliffe, EJ Viso and Mike Conway all came to grief here and saw early ends to their afternoons.
On Lap 59, following a few more laps under the green flag, Ryan Hunter-Reay saw an opportunity while following Ryan Briscoe through the Turn 7 chicane that was never really on, diving up the inside, not getting fully alongside, bouncing over the kerbs and punting Briscoe off and into the gravel, ending the Aussie’s race. Briscoe was not happy about it either and made his point well known when interviewed back in the pits.
This caution period enticed the majority of those on sequence into the pits, with only those a few laps down staying out. After the standard fuel and tyres, the status quo resumed at the front. The big mover in these pit stops was Danica Patrick, who by virtue of taking fuel only and no tyres, jumped four spots to third place. This move didn’t last long though, as her tyres wore out towards the end and she lost about ten spots in quick succession. Moving in the other direction was Marco Andretti, quietly moving toward the right end of the field through the tried-and-true method of a well-executed strategy.
So despite one final late caution involving Justin Wilson and Raphael Matos trying to merge their cars into a single entity on the side of the track, the race settled down for the final 15 or so laps, leaving Will Power to take the win by three seconds from Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Marco finished a respectable fourth, with Oriol Servià and Tony Kanaan rounding out the Top 6.
Honda Indy Grand Prix of St Alabama – Final Standings (90 laps):
|1.||Will Power||Verizon Wireless Team Penske||90||2:14:42.9523|
|2.||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||90||+ 3.3828|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||90||+ 15.5243|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Venom Energy Drink Andretti Autosport||90||+ 28.9601|
|5.||Oriol Servià||Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing||90||+ 29.8817|
|6.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||90||+ 30.3853|
|7.||Hélio Castroneves||Shell/AAA Team Penske||90||+ 30.7807|
|8.||Simon Pagenaud||Lubrizol Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||90||+ 31.2095|
|9.||Simona di Silvestro||Entergy HVM Racing||90||+ 32.5812|
|10.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing||90||+ 35.0038|
|11.||Sébastien Bourdais||Boy Scouts Dale Coyne Racing||90||+ 35.9883|
|12.||Vitor Meira||ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises||90||+ 42.6440|
|13.||JR Hildebrand||US National Guard Panther Racing||90||+ 44.2950|
|14.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||DHL Andretti Autosport||90||+ 1:00.7427|
|15.||Alex Tagliani||B&W Sam Schmidt Motorsports||90||+ 1:10.6879|
|16.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||90||+ 1:12.1719|
|17.||Danica Patrick||GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport||89||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Graham Rahal||Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing||88||+ 2 laps|
|Justin Wilson||Z-Line Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||62||Contact|
|Raphael Matos||AFS Racing||62||Contact|
|Ryan Briscoe||IZOD/PPG Team Penske||57||Contact|
|Mike Conway||GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport||45||Contact|
|EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||40||Contact|
|James Hinchcliffe||Sprott Inc Newman/Haas Racing||40||Contact|
|James Jakes||Acorn Stairlifts Dale Coyne Racing||30||Mechanical|
|Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||27||Mechanical|
[All images via IZOD IndyCar Series]