Will Power has taken victory in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis after starting from pole position. The Australian, driving for Team Penske, fought off challenges from drivers on opposing strategies and drove a terrific final fuel saving stint to take his team’s 200th race win in IndyCar.
After a superb pole lap yesterday in qualifying, Power nailed the race start at the drop of the green flag to hold off any potential challenge from Robert Wickens and the pack further back. Wickens would immediately fall in behind Power on the run to turn one.
The first few corners of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis have often been somewhat action-packed. This year may have been a touch more reserved than the last few years, but not every driver got through the bottleneck unscathed. Takuma Sato found himself on the grass on the exit of turn one and was pinched onto the inside of turn two by both Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.
Castroneves and Pagenaud would make light contact, with Pagenaud going wide and taking himself and Jordan King into the gravel trap. Pagenaud would somehow keep his car going, but King would have to wait to be recovered from the gravel trap and would subsequently fall back to being two laps down on the leaders; a tough break for the British driver who qualified so well for Ed Carpenter Racing yesterday.
Fortune didn’t favour King’s team-mate either. In the opening lap melee, Spencer Pigot would cut the chicane of turns five and six and would catch some air over the kerbs. This sent him back onto the track into the path of Sato, with the pair making contact and being forced down the order. Pigot would be awarded a drive-through penalty for the avoidable contact.
Further up the order, Will Power was continuing to hold the race lead ahead of Robert Wickens. When it came to the first pit-stop, the pair would opt for opposing strategies. Penske would put Power on the slower primary Firestone tyre compound, whilst Schmidt Peterson Motorsports would send Wickens out on scrubbed alternate red tyres. This would give Wickens the advantage for the second stint, with the advantage due to cycle back toward Power later in the race when the roles would be reversed.
Surely enough, Wickens would soon pass Power for the lead, using his faster tyres to pass the Australian around the outside at turn seven. He would go on to build a multiple second lead by the time the second pit-stops came around. Wickens would take the primary tyres for the next stint, with Power switching to the reds. This allowed Will to erode the gap to Wickens and retake the lead with just over thirty-five laps remaining in the race.
A caution on lap fifty-five threatened to throw a spanner in the works for Power, as the field bunched up and everyone made a pit-stop at the same time. Every driver was now forced to save fuel for the rest of the race, with Power now having to take care of that whilst holding off those behind.
Wickens’ challenge for the win seemed to fade away in the closing stage of the race, with second place being taken over, miraculously, by Scott Dixon. The Chip Ganassi Racing Driver started eighteenth and ran at the back of the pack in clear air for much of the early laps of the race. He was in third place when the caution ended with twenty-seven laps to go. He would then pass Wickens on the long run down into turn one a few laps later.
With Dixon, a notoriously excellent fuel saver, now running in second, Power and Penske may have been forgiven for breaking a sweat in the closing laps of the race. However, Power continued to pull away from Dixon and the rest of the field, with his lap-times not increasing too much as the laps ticked away. There was a brief threat of rain as the race reached the final ten laps, but only small drops would fall and no one would be forced to make a late pit-stop for wet tyres.
On the eighty-fifth and final lap of the race, Will Power would ease his #12 Penske Chevrolet home to take a dominant race win in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It would be his third win on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it would also be Team Penske’s two hundredth race win in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
After an incredible drive, Scott Dixon would come home in a fantastic second place; two seconds off of Power out front. After falling back from the battle for the lead, Wickens would hold on to take the final spot on the podium; his third top-five finish in his first five races in IndyCar.
Sebastien Bourdais finished right on the gearbox of Wickens after running in the top five for a majority of the race. Alexander Rossi would complete the top five for Andretti Autosport, with the returning Helio Castroneves taking a strong sixth place in the first of his two IndyCar races this year.
James Hinchcliffe would be unable to match his SPM team-mate at the front of the order. He would take seventh, with Pagenaud recovering from his first lap shenanigans to take eighth. Graham Rahal once again bounced back from a disappointing qualification to take a top ten finish in ninth place, with Takuma Sato completing the top ten after surviving the assault from Pigot on lap one.
Josef Newgarden had a tough race. He had been running toward the front in the early stages, but a spin whilst trying to pass Bourdais at turn twelve would send him down the order to an eventual eleventh place. He still holds the lead in the championship standings, but only by two points over Alexander Rossi.
Further back, Carlin would be unable to break into the top ten on the Indianapolis road course. Max Chilton would take sixteenth, with Charlie Kimball further back in twentieth.
Every driver would finish the race, but the last three on the table would be scored at least one lap down. Ed Jones and Zach Veach were both one lap down, with Jordan King two laps down in last place after being unable to recover from his gravel trap adventure on lap one.
Now, the focus of the Verizon IndyCar Series switches to the most important race of the year. The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 27, with qualifying taking place a week beforehand on May 19 and 20. Practice will begin on Tuesday.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Indianapolis – race results:
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