Will Power failed to dominate the IZOD IndyCar Series' second round of the 2012 season at Barber Motorsports Park. He failed to take pole. He failed to lead the most laps.
He won anyway.
After a 2011 race at the Birmingham, Alabama circuit where he completed a start-to-finish sweep from pole, only missing the fastest lap, Power needed to parlay a strategic run to advance from his ninth starting position to his first win of the year.
Power started on the primary black sidewall Firestone tires, which allowed him to run on the alternate reds for the remainder of the race. Crucially, his middle stint of the race allowed him to close down the gap to the leaders as he was on reds and the top four in front of him were on blacks.
As Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe pitted on lap 66, each having issues with the right rear tire on the stop, Power was able to pass to take the lead for the first time.
He held off Dixon from a lap 74 restart to the flag to secure the victory.
“That was an awesome race,” Power said. “Tim Cindric (his strategist) kept putting us in such a good position. To get the Verizon 12 car in victory lane with the Chevy engine was awesome.”
Dixon wasn't particularly happy after his third successive Barber runner-up finish, as he seemed primed for the win after vaulting to the lead after the first round of pit stops and leading the middle stint over Hinchcliffe and St. Pete winner Helio Castroneves. As he was jumped on the last sequence, he fell to second – but it still marks his best start to a season since his 2008 title-winning season.
“Team Target did a good job all day, but I'm kind of angry because it was our race to lose and we lost it today,” he said.
Castroneves held on for his second podium in as many races after a late scrap with Graham Rahal, who'd promised he'd jump in the infield lake if he won, and Simon Pagenaud, running among the leaders as in St. Pete. Hinchcliffe was the big loser on the last restart, losing fourth and fifth to Rahal and Pagenaud, and had a race where his result did not match his ultimate pace. Still, as the colorful Canadian related, he felt good to be disappointed with sixth place.
Power's earlier “awesome” description could be the word used to describe a race which was a needed tonic after the St. Petersburg opener last weekend was degraded by subpar TV coverage. The NBC Sports Network presentation provided a marked difference where it seemed incredibly frequent there were not only position battles and passes going on, but they were being picked up by the cameras.
Two drivers in particular – Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti – seemed like they were always on the charge. Bourdais, in the maligned and oft-criticized Dragon Racing Lotus, was always in the mix when it came to passing drivers, with a move on Rubens Barrichello standing out in the early stages. He'd climbed to 11th after the first round of pit stops and hung around the fringes of the top 10 all race.
In the final laps, Bourdais willed himself past Andretti for ninth place and Dragon's first top 10 finish as a team since Raphael Matos was seventh at Mid-Ohio in 2010. More importantly, it was the first top 10 for the Lotus engine.
Andretti, who fell to 11th at the flag behind Dario Franchitti, made several moves in the final turns 14/15 right/left downhill corner complex throughout the race. Unfortunately for him, it marked his first Barber race where he didn't end in the top five.
Bourdais and Franchitti (from 18th on the grid) rounded out the top 10 behind the aforementioned Hinchcliffe in sixth, Mike Conway for A.J. Foyt in seventh, and Barrichello in eighth for his first IndyCar top 10. Oriol Servia also had a great run, the Lotus DRR driver cutting his starting position in half as he came from 26th to 13th at the flag.
For a second race running, Takuma Sato's pace ended in mechanical woes for Honda, with two Honda cars failing to finish while Alex Tagliani's Team Barracuda-BHA entry was the only Lotus which failed to see the flag. His race ended on the first lap.
Results - 90 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Gap
1. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevrolet
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda + 3.3709s
3. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevrolet + 19.1150s
4. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda + 19.3395s
5. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton DW12-Honda + 20.1050s
6. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 23.3093s
7. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda + 24.5552s
8. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevrolet + 25.4023s
9. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus + 27.1815s
10. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda + 32.7377s
11. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 33.5038s
12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 35.8730s
13. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold DW12-Lotus + 37.8944s
14. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevrolet + 41.6742s
15. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevrolet + 44.5059s
16. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda + 54.5343s
17. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda + 1m00.6182s
18. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevrolet + 1 lap
19. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda + 1 lap
20. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus + 1 lap
21. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevrolet + 1 lap
22. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevrolet + 2 laps
23. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus + 5 laps
Did not finish:
Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 52 laps
Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 45 laps
Alex Tagliani BHA DW12-Lotus 0 laps