Will Power outlasts the heat, carnage for Indianapolis 500 victory

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Will Power

Through the heat, crashes, cautions and gamblers, Will Power was the man left standing today as he collected his first Indianapolis 500 victory in a month of May to remember.

Finally breaking through after years of disappointment at the Indy 500, a normally reserved Power was exuberant in victory lane as he celebrated with his wife, Liz, and team owner Roger Penske, who collected his 17th Indianapolis 500 win this afternoon.

Power made his 11th start in the “Greatest Spectacle” today and his previous best finish was runner-up to Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015.  It is his 6th top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500 with Team Penske.

It was a Chevrolet 1-2 as Ed Carpenter was strong all afternoon in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka machine, leading 65 laps while finishing runner up.  The first Honda in the running order was Scott Dixon who picked up a 3rd place finish as Chip Ganassi Racing rolled the dice a bit and stretched his fuel long enough to see the 200 miles.

It was an exciting day filled with a bevy of accidents.  The first caution flew on lap 45 when James Davison and defending champion Takuma Sato made contact in Turn 3, ending each of their days.

It appeared that Davison was well off of the pace after a rear bar malfunction made his car quite unstable, and while Sato was trying to clear the No. 33 Chevrolet the two drivers made significant contact that was eerily similar to the wreck that Scott Dixon and Jay Howard were involved in last year.

It wasn’t much longer until Ed Jones exited the race on lap 57 with a crash on the exit of Turn 2 that would be the symbol of the day for many drivers.  Jones lost the rear end of his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on the slick racing surface, a byproduct of not enough downforce on these cars with the incredible, near record-breaking heat at the Speedway today.

Jones would be taken to Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis after he complained of some head and neck pain after the incident, though he was awake and alert through the duration of the evaluation.

Again, 10 laps later it would be fan favorite Danica Patrick losing the rear end of her No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet near the center of the corner when the rear tires were overcooked.  Patrick’s car made a complete 180 degree spin and smacked the wall on the exit of Turn 2 very abruptly.

Patrick’s memorable career comes to an end today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the same place where she became a household name as the first female driver to lead at the Indianapolis 500.  She would finish 30th in her swan song.

Kyle Kaiser’s race would come to a close early with a mechanical issue while Sebastien Bourdais would be the next veteran to fall by the wayside on the track.

It appeared that Bourdais’ No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda had a mechanical failure on the entry to Turn 4 that saw his car dart quickly to both the left and right before it shot to the outside wall.  It was Bourdais’ day ending on lap 137 despite a top-10 run for most of the day.

Over the next 20 laps, the old saying “cautions breed cautions” rang true as three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves as well as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sage Karam both were swallowed up on the exit of Turn 4.

Castroneves cracked his No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet on the inside of the pit wall after the rear end of his car over-rotated on the exit of Turn 4 and slid to the inside of the track.  Much to the fans’ approval, Castroneves then walked the entire length of pit lane before making the mandatory trip to the IU Health Medical Center in the infield.

Team Penske president, Tim Cindric, made note in the post-race press conference that Castroneves will be in one of Penske’s cars at the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

Sage Karam

Sage Karam had been charging hard until his accident on lap 154 ended the 23-year-old’s day (Jim Haines/INDYCAR).

Karam was pushing hard on the restart before his misfortune struck on lap 154 and had just cracked the top-10 after being mired around 20th for most of the day.

It was the most laps completed for the Nazareth, Pennsylvania native since his rookie run in 2014.

The final turn of events came when A.J. Foyt Racing driver Tony Kanaan, who ran in the top five all day before a tire puncture put him behind during the second half of the race, lost control of his Chevrolet just as many had before him.

Despite leading 19 laps and being quite strong in his charge back up through the field, it was another hard-luck day for the 43-year-old Brazilian.

Through the 2 hour and 59 minute race, clean air was king as Carpenter led for long stretches of time until Power took the baton and slowly pulled gaps on second and third place.

There were a few drivers that scratched and clawed their way to respectable finishes after difficult qualifying efforts, including Andretti Autosport driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Rossi started in the final row as the 32nd place qualifier and worked all the way up to a 4th place finish in his No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda.  Rossi will be second in the IndyCar championship moving to Detroit next weekend, trailing only Power who will benefit from double points at the Indianapolis 500.

Fellow Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz had another great run at Indianapolis this afternoon after picking up a 7th place finish from the 21st place starting position.  Munoz continues to show his prowess at the historic 2.5-mile oval and will try to parlay this run into another full-time ride in 2019.

Finally, Graham Rahal represented his family well once again with a top-10 run after starting 30th in his No. 15 United Rentals Honda.  The run was good enough to elevate Rahal to 6th in the IndyCar standings.

Rounding out the top-10 were Ryan Hunter-Reay in 5th, Simon Pagenaud with a sneaky-quiet 6th place finish, Josef Newgarden in 8th and Robert Wickens 9th.

Wickens would be the highest finishing rookie on the day and outlasted fellow first-timers Matheus Leist (13th), Zachary Claman De Melo (19th) and Kaiser (32nd).

Remarkably, the story could have been much different today.   As late as lap 180 it were Oriol Servia leading while trying to stretch the fuel mileage just long enough to eliminate a stop at the end of the race.  Pushing the same strategy were Andretti Autosport’s Stefan Wilson and Michael Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey.

Servia led until lap 192 when he was overtaken on a late restart by Wilson.  A popular lead change at the time, the hundreds of thousands of fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were on their feet cheering on the brother of the late Justin Wilson.

Stefan led until he relinquished the lead for fuel on lap 196, and Harvey ducked into the pits with him.  That essentially signaled the end of the road for the rest of the field as Power essentially coasted home to victory – a 3.158 second margin over Carpenter.

This win allows Power’s career to come full circle as he breaks through at the Indianapolis 500.

Over the last four years, Power has won four times at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is now the first driver to win both the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.

Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com as we continue to provide coverage of the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and wrap up the month of May at Indy.

Results of the 102nd Indianapolis 500

  1. Will Power, Team Penske, Chevrolet
  2. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet
  3. Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda
  4. Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, Honda
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, Honda
  6. Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Chevrolet
  7. Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport, Honda
  8. Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, Chevrolet
  9. Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda
  10. Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda
  11. J.R. Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Chevrolet
  12. Marco Andretti, Andretti/Herta Autosport, Honda
  13. Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Racing, Chevrolet
  14. Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing, Chevrolet
  15. Stefan Wilson, Andretti Autosport, Honda
  16. Jack Harvey, Michael Shank Racing, Honda
  17. Oriol Seriva, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Scuderia Corsa, Honda
  18. Charlie Kimball, Carlin, Chevrolet
  19. Zachary Claman De Melo, Dale Coyne Racing, Honda
  20. Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet
  21. Conor Daly, Thom Burns Racing with Dale Coyne, Honda
  22. Max Chilton, Carlin, Chevrolet
  23. Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport, Honda
  24. Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda
  25. Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Racing, Chevrolet
  26. Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Chevrolet
  27. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, Chevrolet
  28. Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing, Honda
  29. Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing, Chevrolet
  30. Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet
  31. Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda
  32. Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda
  33. James Davison, A.J. Foyt Racing with Belardi/Byrd/Hollinger, Chevrolet

Images courtesy of Chris Owens/INDYCAR Media.

Tanner Watkins

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