Will Power leads the field in Turn 5 during the opening lap of the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America
NTT IndyCar Series

Power wins in INDYCAR’s successful return to Road America

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: Jared DePouw

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016RoadAmerica/SunL1T5Power.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}Will Power leads the field in Turn 5 during the opening lap of the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America{/boxplus}

Verizon IndyCar Series fans clamored for a return to Road America. Their wish was granted in spades today, with Will Power winning an intense and exciting KOHLER Grand Prix on the iconic permanent road course. Power led 46 of the 50 laps around the 4.014-mile circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, but was hounded late by a charging Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. Power held off Kanaan at the finish by 0.7429 of a second following a Lap 44 restart to win his second straight race in the 2016 season and the 27th of his 11-year Indy car career, tying the Australian with Johnny Rutherford for 13th place on the career victories list.

“You always dread that late restart, but I thought, ‘I’m going to make the absolute most of it and do the best I can and try to get a jump.'” Power said. “I knew I had push-to-pass in hand, which I thought before the race is going to be the key here, to keep that for the end, and that’s what I did.

“Very satisfying race. Very satisfying because I felt like I’m back where I was, and that’s a good feeling for me.”

Today’s race was the 26th at Road America but the first since 2007 on the track steeped in Indy car history with past winners bearing names the likes of Andretti, Fittipaldi, Sullivan, Franchitti and Zanardi. The Verizon IndyCar Series was welcomed back by what Road America president and general manager George Bruggenthies called a record crowd for any event in the venue’s history. By finishing second, Kanaan notched his best result in six Road America races and best finish of 2016. He battled Graham Rahal much of the day before pulling away from Rahal’s No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda at the end.

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016RoadAmerica/SunKanaanCanada.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}Tony Kanaan navigating Canada Corner at the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America{/boxplus}

“Will (Power) did a really good job of saving his push-to-passes until the last lap,” said Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and 15-time race winner. “We had the red (alternate) tires (in the closing laps), which was a little quicker and we were just chasing Will down. Towards the end, we had one push-to-pass which gave us extra power, but he had three so he had an advantage on us. But what a great race.”

Rahal earned his second third-place finish in as many races at Road America. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver led two laps during an early pit stop sequence, but suffered the consequences of a different tire strategy by not saving his one new set of Firestone alternates until the end of the race.

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016RoadAmerica/SunRahalExitCanada.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}Graham Rahal exits the wooded section following Canada Corner at the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America{/boxplus}

“It’s great to get a good result,” Rahal said. “I’m pleased with what we did today and accomplished for the Gehl team. We just made the wrong tire call and it definitely hurt. It is what it is and we still came out of here third.”

Championship leader Simon Pagenaud also led two laps in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet and was in second place with five laps to go until an engine issue dropped him to a 13th-place finish. Pagenaud’s lead after nine completed races is 74 points over teammate Helio Castroneves. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon dropped from second to fourth in the championship after a mechanical issue ended the No. 9 Clorox Chevrolet driver’s day in 22nd place.

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016RoadAmerica/SunDixonRetirement.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}The Target Chip Ganassi crew getting ready to tow away the #9 of Scott Dixon who was suffering from engine issues{/boxplus}

“We had a really good race going in this wonderful setting at Road America,” Pagenaud said. “The atmosphere was perfect, the race strategy was perfect. It’s tough when you have an opportunity and you can’t maximize it in the championship. It’s a tough day today, but we’ll bounce back.”

Power, who sat out the season opener at St. Petersburg with an inner-ear infection, jumped four spots in the standings to third, 81 points behind Pagenaud. With seven races remaining, Power still has his sights on a second Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

“I was talking championship even before this race,” he said. “There are seven races to go and we’re still in it. There could be a 100-point swing in the last race. We have to go for it.”

Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot had impressive performances to finish eighth and ninth, respectively. Newgarden, driving with a fractured right clavicle and fracture in his right hand sustained June 12 in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway, improved more positions than any driver from start to finish (12).

“We got good points, we gained points on the guys we needed to in the championship,” Newgarden said. “I’ll try and heal up a little better for Iowa since that will be harder than this one.”

Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series race, posted his best career finish and first top 10. He was the highest finisher among the four rookies in the race.

The next event on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 9-10. Race coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET July 10 on NBCSN.

Road America, INDYCAR laud successful return to track

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016RoadAmerica/SunCrowds.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}Record crowds at the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America helped fuel an extremely successful return to Elkart Lake{/boxplus}

Road America and INDYCAR officials were ecstatic about the fan turnout and excitement shown throughout the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend. George Bruggenthies, the track president and general manager, didn’t have final attendance figures but was certain the race drew the largest attendance in track history.

“The crowds really came out,” Bruggenthies said. “I have to congratulate the Road America staff and the whole team that does all the operations here. They worked very hard preparing. I think we delivered. The crowd came out and they had a great time. Beautiful race, I think they’ll be back.”

Bruggenthies announced that the 2017 race will be run on June 25 in the second of a three-year contract with INDYCAR. Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said the sanctioning body was pleased with the entire weekend.

“We had a tremendous event weekend here at Road America and we’re certainly looking forward to the Verizon IndyCar Series returning next year on June 25,” Frye said. “The fan support and hospitality since we arrived has been phenomenal and we can’t thank George Bruggenthies and his entire staff at Road America enough for making this such a special event for INDYCAR. We can’t wait to come back next year and do it again.”

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.

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