IndyCar Gateway Report: Power triumphs under the lights as Rossi closes in on Dixon

Will Power took his fourth win of the season after a close strategy call saw him take the lead from Alexander Rossi in the closing stages, moving the Australian up to third in the championship. Championship leader Scott Dixon saw his advantage cut by another three points to 26 after he was unable to pass Rossi on the last lap.

Will Power wins the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Image courtesy of Team Penske

Power didn’t have it all his own way, it was Dixon who took the pole, by virtue of being the championship leader after qualifying was rained off, and Power didn’t lead until 150 laps of the race had past. However, once Power was in the lead, he looked fairly untouchable – that was until Ryan Hunter-Reay caused the second caution of the day, the first coming courtesy of Sebastien Bourdais. This came at a time when it was very touch and go as to whether the drivers could make it to the end of the race with the fuel they had after the stops under the caution.

There were two options: push, burn the fuel and accept that you have to come in for a splash-and-dash or stretch out the fuel to make the end of the race, sacrificing pace. Power, Dixon and the like went for the first option, Rossi, true to his 2016 Indy 500 performance, opted for the latter. It very nearly didn’t work out for Power, but he came out of the pits just close enough to Rossi to be able to get past him – Dixon was not so fortunate with Rossi aided by traffic. Regardless of that, Power was the one who took the victory, putting himself within 70 points of leader Dixon with just two rounds to go.

Rossi remains second in the championship after coming home second on the road with his ambitious strategy not quite paying off. Rewind to earlier in the race and Rossi was trying for a move on then second-placed Power when he drifted high, missing the wall by the narrowest of margins. It was the save of all saves, not just for the Gateway race but also for the championship – a DNF at this stage of proceedings would spell disaster. When the questions over fuel mileage surfaced after the final caution, you could be fairly sure, given his previous form, that Rossi would hang it out until the end of the race, even if no one else did.

For a while, it looked like Rossi’s Andretti teammate Zach Veach might be in for a surprise result when he took the lead following the fuel stops for both Power and Dixon. However, it was too good to be true – Veach had pushed too hard and was forced to pit with just a few laps remaining however, his fifth-place finish is nothing to be ashamed of!

For championship leader Dixon, this race could’ve gone a lot better, given he started on pole, but, equally, it could’ve been a lot worse. This continues his so-so run of races since his win at Toronto, presumably with the championship firmly in mind. Dixon can afford to give two or three points away to Rossi but what he can’t afford is a DNF – it’s a smart move from IndyCar’s ‘Iceman’.

The often-forgotten Penske of Simon Pagenaud had a fairly decent race, finishing in fourth, but it was a tail of what could’ve been after a wide moment cost the Frenchman a sizeable amount of positions. He reckons he would’ve been in the lead battle had that moment not happened but fourth is what he got out of it in the end. The #22 Penske is long out of the championship but insists his future at the team is not under question, despite various silly season rumours surrounding him.

The other Penske of Josef Newgarden had a less than good day, finishing down in seventh and losing yet more ground in the championship – dropping down to fourth. It was a very frustrating race for Newgarden, he couldn’t match the more fuel-efficient Hondas and that was pretty much that for the final stint. It certainly wasn’t the repeat of last year’s victory that he’d hoped for with his gap to the championship lead now large but not insurmountable.

Will Power, Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon on the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 podium. Image courtesy of Team Penske

Another one to struggle was Hunter-Reay who is now just a few points away from dropping out of championship contention after two straight DNFs. If the crash with Robert Wickens at Pocono hadn’t extinguished his championship hopes, Gateway has with a loss of fuel pressure being cited as his reason for retirement.

Speaking of Wickens, just before the race got underway Schmidt Peterson released the promising news that the Canadian is now breathing unaided and speaking with his family. It’s a long road to recovery for Wickens, but at least there is one. Teammate and close friend James Hinchliffe struggled this weekend, clearly shaken by Wickens’ crash and sporting finger-less gloves as a result of his injuries sustained in that crash.

With Wickens still firmly in everyone’s minds, the paddock moves onto the penultimate race of the season at Portland which marks the end of the last triple-header of the season.

Full Race Results:

  1. Will Power
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Simon Pagenaud
  5. Zach Veach (R)
  6. Spencer Pigot
  7. Josef Newgarden
  8. Ed Jones
  9. Takuma Sato
  10. Graham Rahal
  11. Pietro Fittipaldi (R)
  12. Ed Carpenter
  13. Tony Kanaan
  14. Marco Andretti
  15. James Hinchcliffe
  16. Matheus Leist (R)
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Gabby Chaves
  19. Charlie Kimball

DNF – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais

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