After sweeping to the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy, Will Power was emphatic that this was a race he wanted to win ... badly.
Power, who also started on the pole in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park course, finished three positions behind Team Penske teammate and race winner Helio Castroneves last April. It cost him points in the championship race over the course of the 17-event season, and he believed he let the victory slip away.
So the Aussie held it tightly in his grasp from the green flag on the picture-perfect spring Sunday.
“That is one of the easiest races I have done physically," said Power, whose 3.3828-second victory over Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon gave him a seven-point advantage in the driver championship heading into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17. “I have been training really hard for the season and Scott Dixon was pushing me to the limit at the end. It was a lot of fun and I am really happy for the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
“Leading the race from flag to flag just came down to getting the jump start and staying consistent the whole time with where I started. It came down to holding Scott Dixon off until the end.”
Dixon kept the pressure on through the final round of pit stops, trailing by less than a half-second before letting up on the final lap when the rear tires started to lose grip.
“It was a tough day for us,” said Dixon, the runner-up for the second consecutive year. “We cruised around and saved a bit of fuel and I gave it all I could with Will Power. I was trying to give as much pressure as I could on the restart with 20 laps to go and he just didn’t give any. It was an overall good day for Target and we earned ourselves some points.”
Dixon, who started third in the season opener at St. Petersburg two weeks earlier, had the promising outing wiped out when he was among the six drivers involved in the Lap 1 incident. Following repairs, he returned to finish 16th.
“It seems like St. Pete is a bit of a race that we shouldn't have turned up to, because it wouldn't have mattered points-wise,” he continued. “It's nice to get on the points table here. It's going to take a long time to try to regain what we lost at St. Pete with the competition being so tough and with Will and Dario (Franchitti) finishing so high every time.”
Eight different teams were represented in the top 10 for the second event in a row.
Franchitti, the reigning series champion who won the season opener, brought the No. 10 Clorox car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in third. Marco Andretti, who wound up upside down on the first lap at St. Pete, finished fourth for Andretti Autosport and Oriol Servia continued to impress with a fifth place for Newman/Haas Racing.
“It's like we said last year, every point, whether it's St. Pete, here or the last race, you have to fight for every position,” said Franchitti, who’s second in the standings. “So to get from seventh to third was a good team effort.”
Tony Kanaan advanced 18 positions to finish sixth and Castroneves had an adventurous run to seventh. Simon Pagenaud, who was filling in for the injured Ana Beatriz (broken wrist) was eighth after starting 23rd. Simona de Silvestro earned her second consecutive top 10, while rookie Charlie Kimball recorded his first.
"It was the first IZOD IndyCar Series race I finished and I definitely learned my lesson from St. Pete," said Kimball, who started 23rd and finished 22nd (contact). "The guys did some great strategy on the pit wall. All I had to do was drive by people on the track. I did that and I was able to come home 10th. Points mean prizes at the end of the year and now we can build on this for racing my home race at Long Beach."