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WILL POWER MAKING LATE SEASON RUN AT VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES TITLE
Will Power is once again making a late season charge for the Verizon IndyCar Series title.
In the last race in Toronto, Power hadn't been a factor all day, running third for most of the race behind Scott Dixon and series leader Simon Pagenaud. But because the two leaders hadn't stopped when the crucial caution for a Josef Newgarden crash flew, they were put at a disadvantage that led to a victory by Power.
With five races remaining in the IndyCar championship (including the resumption of the rain-delayed race at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27), Dixon lies fourth in the standings, 83 points behind Pagenaud. The new threat to the Frenchman is from his Penske teammate Power, who has closed to within 47 points despite missing the first race of the season with concussion-like symptoms that were later diagnosed as a severe sinus infection.
Power has won three of the last four IndyCar races run to completion and he is suddenly the closest pursuer in Pagenaud's mirror. Making things even more interesting from an intra-team standpoint, Penske drivers Pagenaud, Power (-47) and Helio Castroneves (second place in Toronto, 72 points behind Power) are currently 1-2-3 in the standings. Dixon is 83 points back, with Newgarden now 88 behind.
Power wasn't under any illusions that he was going to win the race in Toronto unless something crazy happened. And it did for the Australian who has lost more than one race in Toronto in the past when he has been leading and someone else brought out an untimely yellow.
"I'm the one that's been pushing in the series to leave the pits open so people who have done a good job, like Dixon was doing, don't literally get a drive-through [penalty]," Power said. "But today that worked out for us in the last stop. The team called me in just at the last minute. Perfect timing. I can't tell you how many times it has gone the opposite way for me at this place, and many other places.
"I was so stoked to see yellow lights as I was going into pit lane,” he added. “It's not often you catch a yellow like that."
Dixon's pain at Toronto was intensified because of the championship implications of what happened. But races that run clean and green from start to finish are such a rarity; the IndyCar Series has earned its "anything can happen" reputation.
"It's tough, for sure," said James Hinchcliffe, who parlayed the Newgarden yellow into a fuel-saving strategy that netted him a career-best third place in his home race. "But it's the nature of IndyCar racing. It's what kind of throws us these off results every once in a while.
"Will has been on the losing side of that one a bunch of times and he caught it today."
Championship leader Pagenaud had as much right as Dixon to be aggravated. He was shadowing the race leader's strategy and cut Dixon's lead from nearly eight seconds to less than two, with both set to pit the lap that Newgarden crashed.
Pagenaud ended up finishing right behind Dixon in ninth place, losing only a couple points to the four-time series champion.
"Great car, great weekend, great everything, but unfortunately, that yellow caught us out," Pagenaud said. "We were going to pit that lap and it ruined our day, basically. Just fate. That's IndyCar. The last stint with Dixon and I would have been a good show, for sure.
"We haven't had much luck lately, so it will probably turn my way in the near future," he said.
Dixon can never be counted out, but a more interesting battle now shapes up between Penske teammates Pagenaud and Power. The Australian has been getting the results of late, but the Frenchman hasn't lost any of the speed he's shown all year long despite seeing his points advantage slashed.
If the Penske men running 1-2 focus too much on each other (while not forgetting teammate Castroneves), Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing could still steal another title.
"It's good to get this momentum for the team going forward for the rest of the championship," Power said. "Five to go, all good tracks for me."If we can close that gap going into Sonoma, we can do this. We can win this championship. Absolutely."