Portland IndyCar: Power beats Rosenqvist, Rossi for 37th win
Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power scored a comfortable second victory of the IndyCar season when his prime opposition, Scott Dixon, pitted from the lead with a dead engine, while Alexander Rossi clawed back to second in the title race with a podium finish.
From the second pole position of his career Colton Herta made a flawless start, but when Power moved his Team Penske-Chevrolet left to tuck in behind him, he found Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda already there and had to move out to the left, and concede the inside line to not only Dixon but the top primary-tired car, Jack Harvey in the Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM-Honda.
Further back, Graham Rahal misjudged his braking just enough to jack Zach Veach into the air and knock him into James Hinchcliffe’s Arrow SPM-Honda, with teammate Conor Daly getting collected in the melee. Also damaged was the second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda of 2018 Portland winner Takuma Sato who trailed back to the pits for wing damage repair.
Avoiding the pile-up was championship leader Josef Newgarden but swerving through the Turn 1 run-off dropped him almost to the back of the field. Behind him ran his closest title challenger and Team Penske-Chevy teammate Simon Pagenaud, who was clipped as he avoided the accident by braking heavily, and he was spun to the very back.
The restart would thus see the alternate-tired Herta and Dixon leading primary tired Harvey, alternate-tired Power, and then the Andretti Autosport cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rossi and the Ganassi car of Felix Rosenqvist, all three on primaries. Tony Kanaan’s AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet had advanced from 19th to eighth ahead of Charlie Kimball (Carlin) and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport).
Under yellow Newgarden was re-ordered to restart 11th ahead of Santino Ferrucci’s Dale Coyne Racing-Honda and teammate Sebastien Bourdais. However, the two DCR cars pitted along with Max Chilton (Carlin), the two Ed Carpenter Racing cars of Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones, and Matheus Leist in the second ECR car.
That Lap 13 restart saw Power immediately zoom onto the tail of Harvey and outbrake him into Turn 1 to grab third, as Herta held off Dixon to retain the lead.
Next time by, Rossi threatened Hunter-Reay’s fifth place down the front straight, RHR moved over to defend but then tried an impossible dive down the inside of Harvey to claim fourth. It didn’t work, and both cars sustained heavy damage, bringing out the caution once more.
The Lap 18 restart saw Dixon again threaten Herta but then lose momentum, so that he came under threat from Power temporarily. Meanwhile Andretti moved past Kanaan to claim sixth, and the Penskes of Newgarden and Pagenaud moved up to ninth and 12th respectively.
That became eighth for Newgarden as Kimball fell briefly off the road and ceded four places, and Newgarden then zapped Kanaan for seventh on Lap 21. The top three were on alternates, the next five were on primaries.
By Lap 26, the top five – Herta, Dixon, Power, Rossi, Rosenqvist – were running pretty much equidistant, blanketed by 2.5sec. Pigot (on alternates and having topped off his fuel under yellow) passed Kanaan and moved swiftly onto Newgarden’s tail as the primary-tired Penske driver was held up by Andretti. Two laps later, Pigot was through and into seventh, and he took just another lap to demote Andretti. Next time by, Kanaan stopped and rejoined 15th, while Newgarden levered Andretti out of seventh on Lap 34.
Herta started coming under serious pressure from Dixon from Lap 35, the car squirming as he tried to put the power down, and along the back straight on Lap 37 Dixon drafted past along the back straight to grab the lead. Herta’s subsequent lost momentum through the final sequence of turns made him easy meat for Power down the front straight, and while he initially held off Rossi, Herta would fall to fifth behind his semi-teammate and Rosenqvist. Herta pitted for primary tires at the end of Lap 39. Next time by, Pigot made his second stop, and on Lap 41 Dixon, Power, Rossi, Newgarden and Andretti also stopped.
Rosenqvist waited one more lap before taking on new tires, and that worked well as he slotted ahead of Rossi. As late stoppers Leist, Chilton and Bourdais stopped, Dixon was left with a 3sec lead over Power, both now running primary tires.
Behind them on alternates were Rosenqvist, Rossi, Newgarden and off-strategy Ferrucci, with Herta (primaries) now seventh ahead of Andretti, Pagenaud, Kanaan and Pigot. Despite now running primaries, Pigot would soon pass alternate-tired Kanaan.
Toward the end of Lap 52, while leading Power by 3sec, Dixon suddenly slowed and trickled down pitlane, engine dead. For the second straight race, the five-time and reigning champion’s hopes of race victory had ended with a long pitstop. He would rejoin three laps down.
Ganassi’s hopes of race victory weren’t over yet, however, because Rosenqvist was still within a second of new leader Power and appeared to have kept his alternate compound tires in reasonable shape, while pulling 1.4sec over Rossi, who in turn was 4.7sec ahead of Newgarden. By Lap 60, however, Josef was having to watch his mirrors, as primary-tired Herta was closing in, sometimes by as much as half a second per lap. Sure enough, Herta made an easy move down the inside of Newgarden at Turn 1 to claim fourth on Lap 67.
By then, Pigot had not only passed Pagenaud’s Penske, but on Lap 70 outbraked Andretti for sixth at Turn 1. As last year, the ECR driver was looking very fast in race trim, and overcoming his innocent involvement in the Lap 1 mess.
Herta had closed right up onto the tail of third-placed Rossi by the time he stopped for fresh primaries on Lap 72. Pagenaud also stopped that lap.
To protect from being overcut should a yellow come out, Power – holding a 3.1sec lead over Rosenqvist – pitted for the second and final time, while Rossi and Newgarden also pitted. Andretti, having his best race of the season in sixth, had to take on a new nosewing assembly after an incident with Pagenaud and fell down the order to 14th.
Rosenqvist, who went one lap longer, had pulled 3.2sec over Rossi and so he rejoined in second, while Alex was again left watching his mirrors for the feisty Herta. However, by Lap 80, Rossi – now running 11sec behind Rosenqvist – appeared well able to fend off the polesitter who was 6.6sec up the road from Newgarden.
The race order was largely static through much of the final stint, Power’s lead over Rosenqvist between 2.5 and 3sec depending on traffic, Rossi a further 11sec down and not being attacked by Herta, and Newgarden seven seconds back, but 9sec ahead of Pigot.
Pagenaud in seventh was the highest of the runners using alternates, but provided he could make them last, he didn’t seem under threat from the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan machine of Bourdais.
However, with seven laps to go, Ferrucci ground to a halt on the front straight. Out came the full-course caution, and the lapped cars were moved to the rear of the field.
With four laps to go, the field got the green once more, and the order stayed static down to Turn 1; indeed, Power pulled out a 1.47sec lead in just that one lap, and he led comfortably to the checkered flag for the 37th win of his career and his second of the season. It lifts him to joint sixth – with Bourdais – in IndyCar’s all-time winner list.
Rossi held on to claim third ahead of Herta, Newgarden, Pigot, Pagenaud and Matheus Leist.
Championship standings: 1, Newgarden 593; 2, Rossi 552; 3, Pagenaud 551; 4, Dixon 508; 5, Power 469; 6, Sato 397; 7, Hunter-Reay 380; 8, Rosenqvist 365; 9, Rahal 353; 10, Ferrucci 339.
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