By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Will Power claimed his fourth Verizon IndyCar Series win in the last six races and has pulled himself right into championship contention with a win in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
The race started out as the Mikhail Aleshin and Ryan Hunter-Reay show as Aleshin, who started from pole, led for a majority of the race’s opening 50 laps only losing the lead during green flag pitstops. Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay roared through the field after starting in last place after not making the qualifying line on Saturday following a practice crash.
Hunter-Reay took the lead on lap 49 while Aleshin slowly rode the coattails of the No. 28 DHL Honda for the next 10 laps before taking the lead again on lap 56 just before green flag pitstops began.
A scary incident on pit road eliminated Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves from the field and slowed the action. Rossi came out of his pit stall and made contact with Charlie Kimball, sending the reigning Indy 500 champion up and over Castroneves. Kimball continued on, however both Rossi and Castroneves saw their day end.
Following a short yellow flag, Aleshin held off Hunter-Reay on the restart. The two remained in tandem with each other for the next 20 laps before Hunter-Reay took the lead again on lap 90, just before the next set of pitstops began. Aleshin pitted a lap before Hunter-Reay which worked in his favor as he retook the lead and set the fastest lap of the race as Hunter-Reay was coming back on the racetrack.
Aleshin would then fall back as low as fourth following an aero setup change which hurt the handling on his No. 7 SPM Racing Honda. Aleshin’s fall back elevated Josef Newgarden to second and Power, who had been running a methodical and low key race in the top ten at that point.
As Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 151, Power inherited the lead as he made his way around Newgarden. A quick pitstop by Power’s crew kept the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet in front and he would get his break on lap 158 when points leader Simon Pagenaud suddenly drifted up into the wall and crashed out of the race. The crash eliminated the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet from the race and allowed Power to make up a crucial amount of points in the series championship.
With a clear track ahead of him, Power restarted the race on lap 163 with Hunter-Reay in tow. Hunter-Reay blew past Power on the restart but his time up front proved to be short lived as he slowed down suddenly at the end of the Long Pond straight.
He pulled the No. 28 DHL Honda on pit road while trying to recycle the electronics on the car and managed to get refired again but lost a lap in the process.
Meanwhile, Power continued to lead with Aleshin and Newgarden trailing him. Debris form the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet of Tony Kanaan brought out the race’s fourth and final yellow flag and thus eliminated the need for another set of green flag pitstops.
Power came out of the pits ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, who gambled on taking no tires and was followed by Newgarden, Kanaan and Aleshin. Hunter-Reay stayed out and was waived around to get back on the lead lap and try to make up some valuable track positions.
When the field lined up for the restart on lap 180, Kanaan vaulted from fifth to second but was soon inhaled by Newgarden and Aleshin tried to follow while Hunter-Reay was clawing his way through the field for the second time of the race. Aleshin made his way past Newgarden on lap 183 and pulled away, setting his sights on Power.
The Russian followed Power’s every move over the course of the run but was never quite close enough to mount a charge on the Aussie.
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay was capturing everyone’s eye as he was clicking of positions lap after lap while Kanaan and Bourdais put on a show of their own fighting for fourth place while Newgarden remained stable in third. After a fierce battle with Juan Pable Montoya and Scott Dixon and eventually Kanaan for fifth place, Hunter-Reay didn’t stop there as he then passed Bourdais on lap 194 and eventually made his way round Newgarden with two laps to go.
Concurrently, Power kept Aleshin at bay and crossed the line 1.15 seconds ahead.
In victory lane, Power acknowledged that the help of his crew constantly adjusting on his car helped bring him to victory lane.
“I felt like this place owed us,” he said. We’ve led a lot of laps here. 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.”
“Mikail 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.”
Aleshin matched his career best Verizon IndyCar Series finish in second place after leading a race high 87 laps.
“I’m very proud of my team and everyone who works on the SMP Racing car No. 7,” said Aleshin. “They did a fantastic job today and it payed off. Will [Power] 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.”
Hunter-Reay’s spectacular run ended in third place while Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five.