Will Power wins IndyCar race at Pocono; closes points gap
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) Will Power chalked up his latest milestone to experience. There's nothing like it with a championship on the line.
Power continued his stirring late-season run on Monday, holding pole-sitter Mikhail Aleshin at bay after a final restart, and won the rain-delayed IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.
It was the fourth win in six races for Power, the 29th of his career, and cut 38 points off the lead in the standings held by Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud finished 18th after a late crash and Power trails by 20 with three races remaining in the season.
''It feels normal. It's not like I'm doing anything special. That's the funny thing,'' said Power, who missed the first race of the season with concussion symptoms and watched Pagenaud mount a commanding lead in the points with a similar early season surge. ''I'm very seasoned on how races play out, when to take risks and when not to. That's how I've been doing it. Now, I'm feeling good.''
Power's surge has moved him into a tie in all-time wins with Rick Mears and Scott Dixon, and also includes second-place finishes at Iowa and Mid-Ohio.
On this day, unlike his early years, the 35-year-old Australian was methodical, slowly working his way forward as the crew made change after change in the pits. He led 55 of 200 laps.
''It's another example of just hanging out all day, adjusting on the car and getting the car right, and then booming at the end,'' said Power, who started eighth. ''The older you get, the more you let the race happen.''
Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third, Josef Newgarden was fourth and Sebastien Bourdais fifth thanks to late-race pit strategy.
A year ago, Hunter-Reay won a crash-filled race at Pocono that took the life of 37-year-old Englishman Justin Wilson. Pocono Raceway painted ''JW'' on the track at the finish line and Union Jacks flew at half-staff in his honor. Both Wilson and open-wheel driver Bryan Clauson, who was killed two weeks ago in a crash in Kansas, were remembered in the pre-race prayer and with a moment of silence.
Hunter-Reay and Aleshin took turns in the lead for the first two-thirds of the race. The complexion of the race and the points race changed after Pagenaud crashed to bring out a caution.
Hunter-Reay took the lead on the restart, and after zooming through the first turn began to slow with electrical problems and fell a lap down.
Power then regained the lead, and after a debris caution on lap 176, he exited the pits in first place as Hunter-Reay got back on the lead lap with one last chance. He ran out of laps after weaving his way back to third.
Aleshin tried to challenge one final time, but Power pulled away over the final 20 laps.
Other things to know about the IndyCar race at Pocono on Monday:
ALESHIN SHINES: Aleshin was fastest in first practice on Saturday, fastest with the pole on the line and very fast on Monday. Just not quite fast enough.
Still, that his career-best IndyCar finish came on an oval served notice that his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
''It could be greater if I could be standing on the top of the podium,'' said Aleshin, who led a race-high 87 laps and has led 130 circuits the last two races. ''I just wanted this win so bad.''
HUNTER-REAY'S BAD LUCK: Hunter-Reay, who started last because of a crash in practice that prevented him from qualifying, was poised to win at Pocono for the second straight year and get the chance to celebrate that he didn't last year because of the crash that killed Wilson.
Leading on a late restart, his engine stalled going into the first turn with an electrical problem, and before he could refire, the engine fell a lap down. A debris caution allowed him to regain the lost lap and he surged to a podium finish.
''I had the car under me to do it,'' Hunter-Reay said. ''Leading the race and the engine shuts off. What more could happen? Just have to smile and keep pushing. It's been that way. This one's going to be a hard one to put behind me.''
PAGENAUD PLUMMETS: Pagenaud hit the wall on lap 158 after his No. 22 Chevy bottomed out. He lost the steering, hit the wall hard and was still puzzled after exiting the care center.
ROSSI RUINED: Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi was in the top five early in the race, but the rookie's promising day was spoiled by a scary crash on pit road nearly a third of the way through the race. He exited his pit and was clipped by Charlie Kimball, which sent Rossi's No. 98 Honda over the top of the No. 3 Penske Chevrolet driven by Helio Castroneves.
The crash relegated Castroneves to a 19th-place finish and dropped him from third to fifth in points, 113 behind Pagenaud.
AP Auto Racing Website: www.racing.ap.org