Will Power scored his first podium of the season in Road America’s first of two races in the REV Group Grand Prix, but he was left wondering what might have been after another delay in the pits cost him the lead, and the wrong second-gear ratio hurt his start and restarts.
When teammate Josef Newgarden fell out of contention after stalling in the pits at the second round of stops, Power took the lead thanks to undercutting the majority of his rivals having twice stopped early.
However, when Jack Harvey suffered a brake problem that spun him into the gravel, a full-course caution came out, all the cars bunched together behind the Safety Car, and made their third and final scheduled stops with 15 laps to go. Power’s right-rear wheelchanger was slightly slow, as was his release from the jack, and that was enough to allow Dixon into the lead.
The restart – and the one that followed shortly afterward when the yellow came out to retrieve Dalton Kellett’s AJ Foyt Racing car from a sandtrap – graphically demonstrated the problem the #12 Penske driver had been battling all race, which was a second gear that was too long for strong acceleration.
He finished 2.5sec behind Dixon and little more than half a second ahead of deeply impressive rookie Alex Palou in the Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh machine.
“Obviously [the race] was looking like it was going to be better,” said the 2014 IndyCar champion. “Unfortunately the yellow fell, a mishap in the pits – had a bit of an issue. Had a wrong gear in the car, too, making it difficult to get a good restart to challenge Dixon.
“I would say all in all it was a good day for us. I mean, we had a very good strategy as far as doing that undercut there, because the tires degraded a lot. The team did a great job in that respect obviously. But we need to go one better.”
Explaining the gearing issue, Power said: “It was simply a mistake. My engineer was just typing it in. This guy never makes mistakes. He just happened to type the wrong number in. It was just a simple mistake. He has no clue how it happened because he gave my gears to Newgarden!
“Yeah, it was a wrong gear ratio, second gear, which made it very tough for us. A very, very tall gear.”
Speaking of his battle with Dixon following the second pitstops, in which Power on cold tires had to brake extremely late and protect the inside line in Turns 5 and 6 to fend off his longtime rival, he commented: “I enjoy fighting with Dixon. We’ve been racing for years. We’re both older guys – if you want to say older. Getting towards your 40s is older, but we’re still kicking ass. It’s good to see.”
Power’s runner-up spot, after lowly finishes in the first two races of the season, have at least elevated him to seventh in the championship on 72 points, but Dixon has won all three races so far, is the runaway championship leader and has more than double Power’s points haul.
“It’s tough, he’s won three in a row,” said Power. “That is a start to the season, let me tell you… That’s what was a little frustrating for me today because I’m pretty far back in points. Scott is the guy I need to get close to and he finished ahead of us again.
“We’ll come back tomorrow, obviously keep chipping away, chipping away. Can’t get desperate, just keep chipping away at it, see if we can have a very good second half of the year.”
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