Will Power takes emotional first Indianapolis 500 victory

by Jordan Groves

Australia’s Will Power has won the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, with the Team Penske driver re-taking the lead of the race within the final ten laps. Power, who started on the front-row of the grid, looked in good shape heading into the final thrilling fifty laps of the race, but a late caution threw a spanner in the works when it allowed several drivers to have a chance to make it to the end on a fuel-saving strategy.

Power had been running near the front of the field for almost the entire duration of the two-hundred lap race. However, a handful of drivers on the alternate strategy were running ahead of him as the race entered its final stages. Oriol ServiaStefan Wilson and Jack Harvey were all banking on a late caution period to help them make it to the end without having to come in for more fuel. Miraculously for the trio, that caution came.

The lower downforce aero package for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series was proving to be a challenge throughout the race, with multiple drivers – all with varying experience levels – losing control and hitting the wall. This would ultimately be the fate of veteran Tony Kanaan, who lost the rear of his #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet on the exit of turn two with just over ten laps to go.

This meant, that when the final race restart came with seven laps to go, Servia would be leading Wilson and Harvey, with the trio aiming to hold off the likes of Power, Scott DixonEd Carpenter and Alexander Rossi; with the latter quartet all having fresher tyres and no doubt that they could make it to the finish.

On the restart with seven laps to go, Servia was unable to get a good jump on the cars behind in his #64 Scuderia Corsa Honda. Wilson was able to steal all of Oriol’s slipstream to slingshot his way around the outside to take the lead. Servia also had Harvey attacking him on the inside, with the log-jam of cars forcing Power to back out of any potential early moves on the leading three.

Wilson managed to build a solid gap over Harvey and Servia, with all three hoping and praying that they had enough fuel to make it. Whilst they were trying to coast their way home, Power was busy putting his foot to the floor. With his fresher tyres, he was easily able to pass Servia to third, but he was not catching Wilson and Harvey at the rate that many suspected he would. However, this would not matter.

Wilson was hoping that he could honour his brother, the late Justin Wilson by taking a sensational and shocking Indy 500 victory, with second-placed Harvey hoping to take the win for himself to give Meyer Shank Racing an unbelievable win. Neither of these scenarios would pay out, with both drivers – along with Servia behind them – being heartbreakingly forced into pitting with just five laps remaining. The trio of drivers and their teams gave it everything to try and steal shock victory, but they were just shy on the amount of fuel they needed to make their dreams a reality.

For Power, he just had to bring his car home. He had a sizable advantage over the cars behind him and was just a matter of miles away from taking the biggest win of his career. The former Verizon IndyCar Series champion used to really struggle with oval racing when the Indy Racing League merged with Champ Car in 2008. He continued to work at it and eventually took his first oval win at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011.

His improvements on the ovals, coupled with his ever-present incredible speed on road courses and street circuits allowed Power to take his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2014, but he admitted that on numerous occasions he believed that he may never win the Indianapolis 500.

After today, however, he will never need to worry about that ever again. Power would cross the line on lap two-hundred to take a hard-fought and emotional win in the 2018 Indianapolis 500, with the Australian screaming with joy on the radio for much of the final lap and the cool-down lap back to the pit-lane.

Credit: John Cote / Courtesy of IndyCar

Pole-sitter Ed Carpenter ran at the front for a vast majority of the event, but he seemed to struggle when he fell behind cars and needed to make some overtakes. He would take his best-ever finish at the Brickyard, but he will have to get yet another year to see whether he can translate his fantastic qualifying pace into a victory.

Scott Dixon would use an alternate strategy to get an eventual third-place finish, with Alexander Rossi pulling off a stunning performance to take fourth place after having started the race from thirty-second on the grid. Rossi wowed the crowd with several audacious passes, putting everything on the line as he passed a number of cars around the outside of turns one and two. Ryan Hunter-Reay would complete the top five, proving that Andretti Autosport had not lost their impressive race pace that they have showcased during the last few years.

Simon Pagenaud faded from his front-row qualification spot to take sixth place, with Carlos Munoz once again putting in a fantastic drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take seventh on his one planned outing this year. Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden finished in eighth place for Penske, with Robert Wickens just behind in ninth place; the highest rookie finisher of the race. Graham Rahal would round out the top ten after once again coming from the rear of the field to take a reasonable race finish.

After their fuel strategies failed to reward them with strong results, Wilson, Harvey and Servia would have to settle for fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth respectively. Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball was the last car to finish on the lead lap in eighteenth place.

Nine drivers retired from the race before the chequered flag flew. The aforementioned Tony Kanaan had been running in contention at the front when a puncture put him off the lead lap. He would regain that lap on a later caution, only to spin into the wall with thirteen laps to go whilst trying to complete a comeback drive.

Sage KaramHelio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais all lost control of their cars in a similar manner within a handful of laps of each other. For Castroneves, it was a disappointing end to a race where he hoped he could prove to team-boss Roger Penske that he deserved his spot back in the full-time IndyCar field. Bourdais was similarly sad after hoping to come back from his injury a year ago to take a strong finish.

Rookie Kyle Kaiser would fail to finish after a mechanical issue befell his #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet. He retired a few laps after Danica Patrick, who lost the rear of her #13 GoDaddy ECR Chevrolet off of turn two; sadly ending her final race before retirement in the wall. Ed Jones suffered a very similar incident at the same turn earlier on, retiring his #10 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet due to the sustained damage.

The final two non-finishers were last year’s Indy 500 race winner, Takuma Sato and A.J. Foyt Racing’s James Davison. James had been running off the pace in his #33 car and appeared to have not gotten sufficiently out of the way of the cars around him. Sato ploughed into the back of Davison’s slow-moving Chevrolet, with both drivers being forced to retire after less than fifty laps of racing.

So the Indianapolis 500 has come and gone for another year, with another driver etching their name into the history books and their face onto the famous Borg-Warner Trophy. Will Power has also become the first driver to win on both the road course and the oval at Indianapolis in back-to-back races.

Power will be hoping that his run of good form continues into next week, with the teams and drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series having no time to pause for breath as they head to the Duel in Detroit next weekend. Two races will take place at the Belle Isle street circuit on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3.

Credit: Karl Zemlin / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Race results:

112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske3Leader
220Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing1+3.159
39Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing9+4.593
427Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport32+5.224
528Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport14+6.719
622Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske2+7.236
729Carlos MunozCOLAndretti Autosport21+7.838
81Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske4+8.692
96Robert Wickens (R)CANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports18+9.311
1015Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing30+11.337
1166JR HildebrandUSADreyer & Reinbold Racing27+12.735
1298Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta12+14.074
134Matheus Leist (R)BRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises11+14.780
1488Gabby ChavesCOLHarding Racing22+15.117
1525Stefan Wilson (R)GBRAndretti Autosport23+33.675
1660Jack Harvey (R)GBRMeyer Shank Racing31+34.797
1764Oriol ServiaESPScuderia Corsa26+38.232
1823Charlie KimballUSACarlin15+41.515
1919Zachary Claman De Melo (R)CANDale Coyne Racing13+1 Lap
2021Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing6+1 Lap
2117Conor DalyUSADale Coyne Racing33+1 Lap
2259Max ChiltonGBRCarlin20+2 Laps
2326Zach Veach (R)USAAndretti Autosport25+2 Laps
247Jay HowardGBRSchmidt Peterson Motorsports28+7 Laps
2514Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises10DNF
2624Sage KaramUSADreyer & Reinbold Racing24DNF
273Helio CastronevesBRATeam Penske8DNF
2818Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan5DNF
2932Kyle Kaiser (R)USAJuncos Racing17DNF
3013Danica PatrickUSAEd Carpenter Racing7DNF
3110Ed JonesUAEChip Ganassi Racing29DNF
3230Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing16DNF
3333James DavisonAUSA.J. Foyt Enterprises19DNF

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