IndyCar: Will Power Earns 35th Career Victory at Gateway Motorsports Park
The Australian forced championship rivals, Dixon and Rossi, to settle for less on Saturday night.
Team Penske's Will Power crashed the Dixon-Rossi championship party on Saturday night when he parked his Chevy-powered IndyCar on victory lane at Gateway Motorsports Park. Championship contenders Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon followed closely in second and third place.
After the qualifying session was scrapped due to heavy rains on Friday night, the starting grid order was set according to the IndyCar championship standings, which saw Dixon and Rossi start from the front row. However, with everyone's attention fixated on that duo, Power capitalized on his position as the underdog and charged hard from the moment the green flag fell. The Australian drove a calculated race that saw him use a mixture of fuel- and tire-saving strategies in the early stages of the race, which allowed him to run hard during the final 100 laps.
"We had so much speed in hand, it was kind of fun," Power said. "I've never passed so many cars. You just keep knocking people off one after another."
"That's the most fun way to go racing is when you can just go hard, you don't have to think about lifting and being in a lean fuel slot," he added.
Despite trading the lead with Power and Dixon throughout the race, Rossi had to settle with second place once it was all said and done. The American fell victim to his own fuel-saving strategy, which saw him lose precious ground to Power. However, finishing ahead of his rival Dixon helped him narrow the championship points gap to just 26 points with only two races left in the season.
"It's a mental game because you're trying to obviously hit a fuel (mileage) number to go X amount of laps, and it was a very, very big fuel number," Rossi said. "Unlike the (Indy) 500 in 2016, I didn't have a teammate to tote me around, so I had to figure out how to do it myself, which was a big challenge."
"Obviously, you want to win the race, but the goal really is to beat Scott (Dixon) and we were able to do that, despite it only being a couple-point swing."
Despite coming in third and keeping his championship lead, Dixon was the driver who technically lost the most after Saturday's result. The Kiwi led 145 laps from pole at the wheel of his Honda-Powered IndyCar—but in the end, it was all about damage control.
"There were two different (fuel) strategies that played out, and I'm a bit mad at myself tonight for not making a decision quicker on which one to take," Dixon said. "I'm not sure if it would have made a huge difference in the end, but it's a solid result and we lost just a small bit to Rossi (in the standings)."
With Saturday's victory, Power joined Dixon, Rossi and Josef Newgarden as three-time winners this season, and officially moved into the third spot of the championship standings, a place that his Penske teammate Newgarden previously held.
The IndyCar fraternity now heads to the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway on Sept. 2.