LEEDS, Ala.—Penske driver Will Power went flag to flag in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park Sunday afternoon, running ahead of six restarts worth of chaos and destruction.
While the rest of the field collided in Turns Three through Six on almost every restart, Power motored away in a race he called easy; he said he had never felt so cool and relaxed in the car.
“I can’t think of as race where I have been so cool, so physically fine, and where we had everything go so right,” Power told the post-race press conference.
Power went on to clarify that he didn’t mean the race was easy. “I would definitely not say it was relaxing there at the end when Dixon was all over me. I meant that physically.
“At St. Pete I really suffered for some reason. I don’t know why. Maybe I was just dehydrated. Here I was really hydrated for the race—I felt physically great. I was relaxed and able to get the most out of the car.”
Power said it was the first time all weekend the car had good balance, and he made the most of it, stretching his fuel in the first stint and racing hard against Scott Dixon in the final stint.
“Dixon gave me a run for my money at the end—both of us were pushing as hard as we possibly could,” said Power. “It was great.”
Power said the first stint was challenging because he had to stretch his fuel—no one knew how many yellows might come. “We were saving fuel, so I had to lift going into the corners while trying to maintain laptime—it was quite difficult. And, the tires were going off.
“I tried to maintain a gap so the second-place car would have to push a little more, make his tires go off, and make a bit of a buffer—that was the key.”
Power was not challenged until the final twenty laps of the race when Scott Dixon pressured him. Dixon’s tires went off in the final five laps and Power motored home unstressed.
Chip Ganassi’s drivers filled the bottom steps of the podium: Scott Dixon finished second, while Dario Franchitti, who had used up all four tires and was fighting both under- and oversteer, struggled home third.
For Power the win was more satisfying because it was the first of the season, and because he felt hwe should have won at Barber in 2010.
“I thought we should have won last year,” he said. “We and such a good car, we led every single practice session, and the pole, and we didn’t get it. I was very intent to [win] this weekend—in a relaxed way. I wasn’t going to overdrive and do something stupid. Just happy to get a win this year to get things rolling give the team some confidence. It all flows from there.”
A bit of controversy arose between Scott Dixon and Will Power regarding restarts. Dixon apparently thought the rule was that drivers on a restart could not cross the center line, while Will Power understood the rule to be no leaving one’s lane until the Start/Finish line, after which, anything goes.
Apparently Power pushed Dixon almost off the track on every restart, protecting his position and trying to avoid the dirty side of the track, where cars do not usually race travel and traction-robbing balls of rubber, called “marbles,’ build up.
As Dixon understood it, Competition Director Brian Barhart had said that on the restarts, drivers had to stay in their lanes, and Dixon felt that Power had crossed the centerline and squeezed Dixon almost off the track on every restart (in fact, video review showed this to be the case.)
Power had a different interpretation of the rule. “I think the rule is you can be anywhere on the track after the start/finish line, simple as that—that’s what they told us,” Power said.
Dixon admitted that he probably couldn’t have caught Power anyway. “All in all I don’t think it would have changed much, but I think it was a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.
Next: Restarts, Wrecks