By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power came into Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway within striking distance of the NTT IndyCar Series points lead and he’ll leave it on top of the standings after a third-place finish.
As has been the case for a number of races this season, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet would have to climb though the field to make it happen.
Power started the race in fourth-place, but contact with Pato O’Ward on Lap 1 and additional contact with Helio Castroneves, dropping him all the way down to 16th place.
When the caution flag flew on Lap 4 for Dalton Kellett’s stranded car, Power and the team made the most of a bad situation, ducking off onto pit road and electing to go for a strategy play early on.
Cycling into the lead on Lap 24, Power stayed up front for seven laps before returning to pit road for his second stop of the day. He would make his final stop on Lap 59, two laps before the race leaders, cycling back into third-place behind Alexander Rossi and Christian Lundgaard.
Though he had to hit a specific fuel number to make it to the end of the race, Power conserved enough to keep his Team Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden in his rear-view mirror while maintaining third-place all the way to the checkered flag.
The finish was good enough to net him a points lead of nine points over Marcus Ericsson, who relinquished the top spot for the first time since winning the Indianapolis 500 two months ago.
“Considering the start of the race, yep, great recovery, man,” Power said. “Great recovery. It’s amazing some of the runs we’ve had this year. But yep, just kept my head and did what I could in the situation. I had to get a big fuel number and go as fast as I can.
“Very good day. Good day for the team all around.”
Power noted that the trouble early in the race actually became an advantage for him and the team, as they were able to divert to an alternate strategy, which ultimately allowed him to be in the top-three by the time the checkered flag flew.
“At that point you’re starting to think of what can we do, if there’s an alternate strategy, then the yellow comes and you’re like absolutely, all right, I think the guys understand, and we talked about it before the race, like we’ll pit, and try and make it on two more stops from there. Yeah, big fuel number, and that was a great call,” Power explained.
“Yeah, never got upset or — just yep, that’s what it is. That’s how it rolls in this series. Just kept going.”
With the points lead in hand, Power will look to keep it in his possession over the course of the next four races, but the elder statesman knows that he will have challengers for the crown down the home stretch of the season.
Behind him and Ericsson, Newgarden sits 32 points back, with six-time champion Scott Dixon in fourth, 38 points back, and Pato O’Ward rounding out the top-five in the standings, just 46 points behind.
“To this point we’ve had a fantastic year, obviously leading the points right now,” Power said. “Just got to keep doing what I’m doing. I know the game so well, been in it so long. We have great potential to win the championship, but there’s four other guys that also do. It’s going to be hard fought to the end.
“I’m enjoying it. I really am.”