Will Power has taken victory in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. The Australian, driving for Team Penske caught and passed Alexander Rossi, who was on an alternate fuel strategy, with eight laps to go to take the win. Championship leader Scott Dixon finished in third place.
Friday night’s qualifying session had been cancelled due to rain, which meant that the field would start Saturday night’s fifteenth round of the season in the order of the championship standings. This put points leader Scott Dixon on pole position, with Alexander Rossi rolling off alongside him.
At the drop of the green, Dixon was quick to assume the early advantage. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver soon built up a small advantage over the cars behind him, with Rossi – who sits second in the standings – unable to stick with his title rival as he fell behind the two Team Penske cars and into fourth place.
Dixon would dominate the opening half of the race, leading every lap except for those immediately after his pit-stops. However, on lap fifty, a legitimate change for the lead would occur, with Will Power suddenly lighting up the race track to take the lead of the race, passing Dixon up the inside into turn one. From there, Power would stretch his legs to create a seven-second advantage over the final one hundred laps, but the Australian would have to relinquish the lead during the final pit-stops.
A late caution on lap one hundred and seventy-three would set the field onto one of two strategies. Power, Dixon and a handful of other drivers chose to push hard and make an extra pit stop late in the race, whilst the remaining drivers, led by Alexander Rossi, tried to make it to the end on the fuel that they had.
Rossi briefly took the lead as the cars ahead of him made their final stops for fuel, but the Andretti Autosport driver was unable to juggle the pace he needed to finish the race with the pace he needed to keep the lead. Will Power would retake the lead inside the final ten laps of the race and would come home to take the chequered flag for the second time in 2018.
His last victory at this year’s Indianapolis 500 put Power firmly back on the right track in the championship. The Australian has had a difficult time of it in the races after that, however, but last night’s win at Gateway did move him back up into third in the championship standings; albeit sixty-seven points adrift of the leader Dixon with two races remaining.
Rossi’s fuel strategy may not have given him his third consecutive victory, but it did crucially move him ahead of the championship leader. Rossi would take second place, finishing just over a second off of Power, but Scott Dixon would have to settle for the final spot on the podium in third place.
This means that Dixon’s title advantage has been reduced for the third race in a row, with his lead over Rossi now standings at twenty-six points heading into next weekend’s penultimate race of the season at Portland. However, one moment in the night could well have ended Rossi’s hopes to catch Dixon in the championship, with Alexander having come within inches of hitting the wall after he got sideways as Power overtook him in turns one and two. Rossi made what was perhaps the save of the season as he somehow gathered his car back up and carried on. That near-incident just goes to show how in a series as close as IndyCar, one moment can have massive consequences.
Fourth place would go the way of Simon Pagenaud in the #22 Penske, with the Frenchman having moved up and down the top ten on the road after a tricky evening of racing. Rookie Zach Veach entered the race with many proclaiming him to have had the fastest car, but he was forced to start back in sixteenth place after qualifying was cancelled. Nevertheless, the Andretti driver used his speed, coupled with a great strategy call in the closing stages to race his way to an impressive top-five finish; which would also be the fourth consecutive top-ten result and the fifth overall of his debut season.
Spencer Pigot took his fourth top ten finish of the season after coming home in a solid sixth place for Ed Carpenter Racing. He finished just ahead of Josef Newgarden, who fell down to seventh place having been running right at the front for the opening stages of the race. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ed Jones took eighth place and was the final car to finish on the lead lap, with ninth-placed Takuma Sato the first of the lapped cars to take the flag. Sato’s team-mate Graham Rahal would complete the top ten in what was a solid pair of results for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Pietro Fittipaldi put in a great drive to go from last on the grid to eleventh place for Dale Coyne Racing. It was an impressive display by the Brazilian in only his fourth IndyCar race and his third race back from injury. He managed to come home ahead of seasoned veterans such as Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe; who occupied the positions immediately behind him.
It was a tough night for Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Andretti driver had worked his way up into the leading pack when his #27 Honda’s engine lost all drive on lap one hundred and seventy-three. The issue would later be diagnosed as a fuel pressure problem, which would put Hunter-Reay out of the race and now, almost certainly, out of contention for the championship.
No one had a worse night than Sebastien Bourdais, however. The Frenchman did not make it past lap one at Gateway for the second year in a row after the Dale Coyne Racing driver’s car turned around whilst in the middle of two cars at turn two. No one had made contact with Bourdais’ car, it was simply the turbulent air that sent Sebastien into the wall and into retirement. Bourdais will be hoping to bounce back next weekend at Portland, a venue that he took victory at back in 2007 in Champ Car.
It was an entertaining race, for sure, but the highlight of the evening may well have come just before the start of the race. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports released a statement which read that Robert Wickens, who was injured badly last weekend at Pocono Raceway, was breathing unassisted for the first time since his accident and that he was also taking with his family. Robert remains in the hearts and minds of his friends, competitors and fans as the 2018 IndyCar season heads into its final two races.
The penultimate race of the season, the 2018 Grand Prix of Portland from the returning Portland International Raceway, will take place on Sunday, September 2. Scott Dixon will be hoping to put an end to Rossi’s resurgence in the standings, as the 2018 season draws ever closer to its thrilling conclusion.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – Race results:
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