By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Sunday’s winning lottery ticket wasn’t pole sitter Will Power after his bid of scoring $100,000 were literally stalled in the pits due to a broken drive shaft under the only full-course caution in the inaugural INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Before heartbreak city in the Lone Star State unraveled, Power ran away from the competition all afternoon, leading all every lap to that point but was starting to face pressure from Alexander Rossi, who was slowly catching the pole sitter until Lap 44 when James Hinchcliffe made contact with Felix Rosenqvist in Turn 19.
After stealing headlines at St. Petersburg, where he finished fourth, Rosenqvist struggled all afternoon to find pace. This was highlighted with a car that struggled to hold onto the top-10 and even spun all alone in Turn 1, but it would get worse.
Both drivers had recently pitted for fresh red compound Firestone tires and were battling for 11th without giving much room for error until Rosenqvist went wide in the much talked about runoff area in Turn 18, as did Hinchcliffe.
This led the Swedish driver going low and resulted Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 ARROW Honda to run into the back of Rosenqvist’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda, sending him into the wall at pit road entry, destroying the front wing of his car. Rosenqvist’s car was pushed into the pits and was able to finish the race five laps down.
“I got caught up in the incident with Felix, and it’s unfortunate,” Hinchcliffe on making contact with Rosenqvist. “We had a really good battle back and forth, so it shows that Circuit of The Americas can put on a good race. Ultimately a bit of a racing incident in Turn 19; I feel bad for Felix – he was having a good race as well.”
While no action was taken by the race stewards, this brought out the full-course caution of the 60-lap event, and put Power in a difficult spot with a few laps remaining as he had yet to pit for his last stop, and pushing the danger zone of not making the distance. Once pit road was open on Lap 46, Power relinquished the lead to Colton Herta, who had already pitted.
Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet pit squad executed their stop to a tee, but Power’s car stalled once he was serviced and couldn’t get going despite his engine revving. His Team Penske crew tried multiple times to get it fired up and exit the pits, including the old school technique of pushing him off the pits, but their plans failed and for the first time since Road America last June, Power finished last in 24th after leading 45 of 60 laps.
“It felt like it didn’t pushed off. I just released the clutch snap and I can kind of hear it grinding together,” Power on his retirement. “Massively disappointing, like you lead so many laps and worked so hard all weekend to put yourself into a position. If the yellow didn’t get us, the drive shaft did.”
It’s also Power’s first retirement since that very race and was critical of IndyCar’s rule of closing pit road under full course caution conditions, knowing that he was in the danger zone.
“I hate the way this series does this pits closed BS,” said Power. “You can be the best guy out there, lead all day. Then a yellow could fall and someone can fall into a lottery. It’s the only series in the world that does it this way, and it needs to change.”
Additionally, Power felt that he would’ve been better off pitting early to avoid this difficult scenario which now puts him once again in deep hole in the championship after two races.
“I would’ve been keen to pit early. These guys were looking at the times and see better than I can. I was trying to cover Rossi I guess, but man, another hole at the beginning of the season,” Power in disgust. “The guys have done a great job and we’re quick every weekend, but I just don’t know want to do. I just want to have a good run man. I just want to have a normal run in the season without this sort of crap.”
Heading into Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, Power hopes to have a strong turnaround similar to his two wins from 2011-12 instead of a similar outcome like last season where he failed to finish the race as he’s now sixth in points, 46 markers behind points leader and teammate Josef Newgarden, but a long ways to go in this young NTT IndyCar Series campaign.