By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. – A superb late-race restart by Will Power was all he needed to beat rookie Felix Rosenqvist and take Grand Prix of Portland victory, leading a race-high 52 of 105 laps.
The new ruler of the Pacific Northwest certainly made the most out of a disappointing Saturday, where he qualified second after flat spotting the tires in the Firestone Fast Six ended his bid of winning the pole, into a satisfactory Sunday as his win was the 37th of his Indy car career. Power is now tied with Sebastien Bourdais for sixth on the all-time win list.
“It’s definitely a great day,” said Power. “Was obviously disappointed not getting pole, making that mistake yesterday, but as you see, you never know how races can turn out, and it turned out great for us.”
RESULTS: Grand Prix of Portland
On the opening lap, a multi-car incident brought out the first full-course caution after Graham Rahal ran into the back of Zach Veach, causing an accordion effect that also ended the days of both ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers Conor Daly and James Hinchcliffe.
Among those involved but didn’t retire was championship contender Simon Pagenaud, who went on to finish seventh after passing Matheus Leist in the closing laps, and defending race winner Takuma Sato, who wound up a dismal 15th.
After cleanup was done, the race resumed on Lap 12 and made it through the action packed chicane unscathed. Two laps later, more carnage happened as Ryan Hunter-Reay ran into Jack Harvey, who was having a stellar weekend up to that point, and eliminated themselves from the fight.
Up to that point, pole sitter Colton Herta was in control of the race, but five-time champion Scott Dixon was hot on his tales and on Lap 37, he got the lead from the rookie and immediately pulled away.
Dixon’s day of potential triumph went into a complete nightmare yet again on Lap 52. Heading into Turn 12, his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda went silent and brought it to the pits. It turned out a battery problem was the cause and it gave the lead to Power for the first time of the afternoon.
Dixon ended up finishing 16th, three laps down and a shot for a sixth title is all but gone as he’ll head into the double-points paying finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 85 points behind Josef Newgarden.
With Dixon out of the mix, Power knew the dynamic of the race changed. Therefore, his task was to pull away from Dixon’s teammate Rosenqvist at all cause.
“It was just trying to pull as big a gap to Felix as possible. He was kind of frustrating me today,” Power said. “He went a lap longer, too, so I thought if he goes a lap longer he could jump us so I need to pull at least a three-second gap to cover the pit sequence.”
Power was able to pull away from the rookie and had a 7.2 second lead until the final full course caution came out for Santino Ferrucci’s car laying to rest on the frontstretch. The rookie points leader going into Oregon lost 28 points to Rosenqvist and ended up with his first retirement of the entire season, finishing 17th.
It came down to a four lap shootout between Power and Rosenqvist, with the leader executing the restart to a tee and went on to win by 2.7885 seconds.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Power on the final caution period and restart. “It’s never easy. I was very determined to get a good restart. I’m thinking, I’m not making this easy for anyone, so I made sure I went well. I think Felix’s tires had dropped quite a bit anyway, so there wasn’t much he could do. My car still felt really good.”
Part of Power’s key to victory was performing better on the black Firestone compounds which proved to be the ideal choice as it worked out for him better than the two Chip Ganassi Racing teammates.
“Our car was really good the second half of a stint on blacks,” Power said. “You know, and I think you could see Felix really fell off the second half, and I’m guessing that Dixon’s car would have been similar, so that was going to be our chance to get him, but obviously he fell out.”
Behind Power and Rosenqvist was title contender Alexander Rossi, who will head into the finale trailing Newgarden by 41 points after having a quiet but clean afternoon.
“It was kind of the best we could do today,” Rossi said. “I think that we didn’t have the pace of the two leaders, which is the most disappointing part. We were kind of just stuck in third, and I felt like we had Colton covered, but couldn’t really challenge Will and Felix. So good job to them. But yeah, as you said, Josef came from a pretty disappointing — or bad first lap for him and still finished fifth.”
Newgarden would up fifth after working his way from a dismal 13th starting position and all he just hopes is to leave California in three weeks time with his second NTT IndyCar Series title in the last three years.
“I would have liked more points, but at the end of the day, it’s not a bad result for us,” Newgarden said. “You know, we kind of — I made our bed for us yesterday in qualifying. You start 13th you kind of put yourself in a hole already, and we just tried to climb out of it today as best as possible, and I don’t think we can be mad about where we climbed to. It was pretty decent.”
16 rounds down, one more remaining as INDYCAR makes its return to Laguna Seca as the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will take place September 22. Live coverage of the event begins at 2:30 pm EST on NBC.
With double points, Newgarden knows he has to be on top of his game to lock up the championship as three other guys (Rossi, Pagenaud and Dixon) are still mathematically in the hunt.
“We just need to have a better weekend in Laguna,” Newgarden said. “Obviously, it’s still going to be quite tough with the double points. If it wasn’t double points I think it would be a lot easier, but double points is going to make it difficult.”