Power goes from 12th to 1st to keep Penske perfect
LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Will Power kept Penske Racing perfect this season by picking his way through the field Sunday at Long Beach to win his second consecutive IndyCar Series race.
Power was one of the 11 Chevrolet drivers penalized for changing the engines as a precautionary measure when teams reported to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The punishment was 10 spots on the starting grid, so Power, who qualified second, rolled off in 12th at the start Sunday.
One race after driving from ninth to first to win at Barber, the Australian did it again.
"After last week, you can never say never, but I thought it would be very tough to win the race," Power said. "We worked hard, we got a penalty and we overcame it. I've been trying to win here for four years."
Penske won the season-opening race with Helio Castroneves, and Power has won the last two to make the team a perfect 3-0 on the season. The victory also gave Power the points lead.
In the end, despite the penalties, Chevrolet drivers claimed eight of the top-10 finishing spots.
After picking his way through traffic, Power still had to hold off hard-charging Simon Pagenuad to preserve the win — Penske's first at Long Beach since 2001.
Pagenaud made it close, but traffic hurt his chances, and the rookie settled for a career-best finish of second for Honda.
Takuma Sato seemed headed to a third-place finish, but was spun on the last lap by Ryan Hunter-Reay. IndyCar assessed a 30-second penalty on Hunter-Reay, so third place went to James Hinchcliffe in his first career podium.
It was a messy race from the start as rookie Josef Newgarden's aggressive move on leader Dario Franchitti backfired.
Newgarden was moved to the front row after the Chevrolet's were penalized, and the 21-year-old joked after Saturday's qualifying that he might try to pass Franchitti immediately because the four-time champion wouldn't be expecting such a bold move. Newgarden backed up his words, and tried to get past Franchitti on the outside as they headed into the first turn.
There seemed to be some contact between the two, and Newgarden's car sailed into the tire barrier, ending his race without a single completed lap.
"I just got touched on the exit, went right to the wall. Maybe it wasn't the right move," Newgarden said. "I thought I had a good run on him and got a good jump on him. Maybe I probably should have just — it's a tough call."
That immediate incident set the tone for a rough race, with a hard crash between Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal the most frightening moment of the day.
The drivers disagreed on who was to blame for the collision that resulted in Andretti's car sailing up and over Rahal's before spinning into a barrier.
"It's a cluster back there," Rahal said. "I think I surprised Marco. He wasn't going to make the corner no matter what."
Andretti thought Rahal intentionally cut him off and should have been penalized.
"There is one thing, blocking, but there is another thing, chopping," Andretti said. "That was a chop. I'm lucky I didn't get upside down. I could have been killed."
During the yellow flag for IndyCar to clean up the mess from the Andretti wreck, Scott Dixon's car came to a complete stop on the track to punctuate a rough day for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers. Franchitti never could stay out front, he was passed on the first restart by Justin Wilson, faded back through the field and suffered damage to his car when he ran into Ryan Briscoe on another restart.
Franchitti, who started from the pole because of the Chevrolet penalties, finished 15th.
Briscoe, meanwhile, never got to enjoy his pole-winning run. The penalties pushed him back to the 11th starting spot, and although he eventually made it back to the front during the cycle of yellow flags and pit stops, he wasn't able to stay there.
And, contact between Briscoe and teammate Helio Castroneves hurt Briscoe's chances to contend for the win.