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Author: Mark W. Theisen
Photo by Brady Whitesel. Copyright 2015 Bronco's Pitstop
Photo by Brady Whitesel. Copyright 2015 Bronco's Pitstop
May 9th 2015 -      INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA MAY 9, 2015:    Defending Verizon series champion Will Power led 65 of the 82 laps that made up the second running of the Angie’s List of Grand Prix to complete the second of a four part goal that he set for himself at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year by holding off a determined and surprisingly strong run, for the second straight IndyCar race by Graham Rahal by 1.5023 seconds.
     Capturing the pole position for the Angie’s List Grand Prix yesterday on the 2.429 mile road course that encompasses the infield and the front straightway of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was goal one for Power, the second he accomplished today by winning the race and now he sets his sights on winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 next weekend and finally with the race that he really wants to win the Indianapolis 500 on May24th. 
     This win was Power’s first of 2015 and first at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and gave his team owner, Roger Penske his 16th win at the Speedway, but first  on the road course after winning an incredible 15 Indianapolis 500’s since the team’s inception in 1968.
     The second running of the Angie’s List Grand Prix got off to a rocky start when outside front row starter Scott Dixon was hit from behind by Helio Castroneves sending the car spinning towards the infield grass.  Jack Hawksworth, Josef Newgarden, Justin Wilson and James Hinchcliffe also were involved in the accident that brought out a full course yellow on the opening lap.
     Dixon’s car suffered the most damage as his crew replaced both the front and rear wings on the car and when finished he was just able to join the restart of the race nearly a lap down.  Wilson also replaced a front wing while Newgarden had a rear wing replaced.  All the cars involved returned to the race.
     When the green flag came back out on Lap 4 it was Power, leading one of his four Penske teammates and defending Angie’s List winner Simon Pagenaud followed by Sebastien Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal.
     As has been the case of each of the previous four races on the Verizon IndyCar series it was the Chevrolet powered cars that had the speed but it was the Honda driven cars that had better fuel mileage and that proved out as the rest of the race today was run without another caution.
     Power, in his Chevrolet, was never really seriously challenged all race long as the only times he was out of the lead was when he made one of his three pit stops.
      In each of those stops he lost the lead to Rahal, who has become the standard-bearer of the Honda powered cars on the heels of his second place finish in the last series race in Alabama.
     Power made his first pit stop on lap 22 of the race turning the lead over to Rahal, who would later say why his team elected not to stay out longer because of their Honda’s exceptional fuel mileage.  He led laps 22 & 23 before giving way to James Jakes and James Hinchcliffe, also Honda’s as their team engineers were employing a different strategy.
   When the cycle was over Power was in front of Rahal by 3.8347 seconds with Pagenaud, Bourdais and Montoya.
     In order to get back into contention in the race Dixon and Montoya employed radical pit strategies’ as they moved up on the grid during the midpoint of the race.  Newgarden and Wilson were never a factor again in the race with Newgarden, the winner of the last IndyCar race finishing 21st and Wilson retiring from the race after completing 68 laps.
     The second and third round of pit stops followed the same set of situations occurring in the first two. The Chevrolets would pit first followed by the few contending Honda’s.
     When the final round of stops concluded on lap 63 it was Power in front of Rahal by 3.6410 who had a two lap advantage on the final load of fuel but Power and is Penske chief engineer, Tim Cindric, were able to manage the fuel the final 19 laps, conserving fuel when they had to, with the knowledge that Rahal was closing the gap to just under a second but when Power was assured he had enough fuel to make it to the end he increased his margin to the 1.5023 seconds in a race that averaged 116.842 miles-per-hour over the 14 turn road course.
     Montoya battled with Bourdais the final laps of the race to take third and the final podium position.  Charlie Kimball finished 5th with Castroneves 6th followed by Tony Kanaan, Stefano Coletti, Takumo Sato and Dixon.  3 of the four Penske Chevrolets finished in the top six with Pagenaud being put out of the race on lap 57 with mechanical woes to end his quest to win back to back Angie’s List Grand Prix.
     After the rough start for both Dixon and Castroneves they recovered through hard driving and solid pit stops to remain in contention for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar title.  Only Rahal and Sato were in Honda’s among the top ten finishers.
     “What a physical race,” said Power after the win.  “I think that’s the most physical race, I’ve ever been in.  It just never stopped.  The long sweeping turns and arcs just made it demanding all race long and with (Graham) Rahal running so strongly, I had to keep pushing.” 
      “It was just the type of race we had asked for, no yellows, very straightforward, got the pole got the lead and stayed there but it was very exhausting to say the least,” added Power. “I want to win the Indianapolis 500 so bad, have been working towards it for so long and I just hope that this is just the beginning for us the rest of the month.”
     “Lot’s things went right today,” said a jubilant Rahal after his second straight second place finish in an IndyCar race.  “You have to have everything go your way in these races and the past two have been a combination of excellent race strategy, strong pit stops and just plain luck.”
     “I figured I stay to left on the start,” Rahal continued, “as far left as I could in case of an accident entering the first turn and sure enough it happened and I was able to get through picking up several positions before the yellow came out that put us near the front and we just used that start to build on our finish.”
     “My father is an excellent race strategist, he’s done this a long time, and that has helped us tremendously in our battle with Chevrolet,” Rahal continued on.  “We are down on horsepower to them so we have to find others ways to be competitive with them and I think were on the right track, our team is new this year and for a tiny one car effort to take on the big teams and have the results were having is very exciting.” 
     Montoya echoed Power of the fact that the race was grueling.  “It was hard, because I was just hanging in there at the end.  We did not hit our fuel number so I had to be cautious at the end and try and finish on the podium,” said Montoya.  “I thought I was as good as or better than him (Rahal) but I kind of had to let him go and then had to battle to (Sebastian) Bourdais at the end.  At the end of the race we still in the point lead and that is what were after in the long run.”
     Despite not finishing on the podium Bourdais was pleased with his fourth place finish.  “I’m happy that we finally finished in the top five, but for sure I’m disappointed because we got up to third but could not hold on to it.  The race was all about track position and we just could not get where we wanted to be, but our team is moving forward and I like that!”
     Kimball’s fifth place finish was his best in 2015, “Our Chevrolet was just really fast and I was consistent in hitting my fuel number and that gave us our best finish of the year and some momentum moving towards the Indy 500 and that is all good.”
     Montoya still leads the Verizon IndyCar point standings but he now has Power in second place just 5 points behind him with Castroneves dropping to third 10 points behind Montoya as Penske drivers occupy the first three spots in the standings after the first five races of the year.  Dixon and Rahal are tied for 4th 27 points behind the leader.  Kanaan, Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, Bourdais and Pagenaud round of the top ten as the series now heads to an oval race, with a different aero package for both Chevrolet and Honda after being on road and street courses the first five races of the season.
     Five different drivers have been victorious over the first five races with Montoya, Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Newgarden and now Power recording wins.  Only Hinchcliffe, in his Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports Honda has been able to upset the Chevrolet juggernaut but Honda is hoping to turn that around and be competitive on the oval tracks with qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 set for next weekend and the Indy 500 set to go on May 24th.  Actions already begins on Monday when its practice for the teams with their new oval aero kits.
     In other action today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sean Rayhall won the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Mazda GP of Indianapolis by 3.9438 seconds over R.C. Enerson with Max Chilton finishing third.
     The Mazda USF2000 GP of Indianapolis was won by Nico Jamin leading from start to finish to beat his teammate Aaron Telitz by 4.8666.  Anthony Martin finished third some 20 seconds behind the leader in a race that went caution free.
     The final support race was the Pro Mazda Cooper Tires GP of Indianapolis with Santiago Urrutia leading from start to finish to win by 1.0238 seconds over Will Owen with Timothe Buret.
     Crews from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway immediately began the reconfiguration of the 2 and one half mile facility back to that of an oval track after the race to have it ready for 500 practice Monday.
     The crowd for the Angie’s List Grand Prix was about the same as last year despite a weather threatening sky that actually dropped a few rains drops before the start but then stayed away to allow those that braved the elements to see a fast and exciting race.