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Will Power wins in INDYCAR’s successful return to Road America

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2016

ELKHART LAKE, Wis.  – Verizon IndyCar Series fans clamored for a return to Road America. Their wish was granted in spades today, with Will Power winning an intense and exciting KOHLER Grand Prix on the iconic permanent road course.

Will Power celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Will Power celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Power led 46 of the 50 laps around the 4.014-mile circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, but was hounded late by a charging Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Power held off Kanaan at the finish by 0.7429 of a second following a Lap 44 restart to win his second straight race in the 2016 season and the 27th of his 11-year Indy car career, tying the Australian with Johnny Rutherford for 13th place on the career victories list.

“You always dread that late restart, but I thought, ‘I’m going to make the absolute most of it and do the best I can and try to get a jump.'” Power said. “I knew I had push-to-pass in hand, which I thought before the race is going to be the key here, to keep that for the end, and that’s what I did.

“Very satisfying race. Very satisfying because I felt like I’m back where I was, and that’s a good feeling for me.”

CLICK HERE: KOHLER Grand Prix box score

Today’s race was the 26th at Road America but the first since 2007 on the track steeped in Indy car history with past winners bearing names the likes of Andretti, Fittipaldi, Sullivan, Franchitti and Zanardi. The Verizon IndyCar Series was welcomed back by what Road America president and general manager George Bruggenthies called a record crowd for any event in the venue’s history.

By finishing second, Kanaan notched his best result in six Road America races and best finish of 2016. He battled Graham Rahal much of the day before pulling away from Rahal’s No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda at the end.

“Will (Power) did a really good job of saving his push-to-passes until the last lap,” said Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and 15-time race winner. “We had the red (alternate) tires (in the closing laps), which was a little quicker and we were just chasing Will down. Towards the end, we had one push-to-pass which gave us extra power, but he had three so he had an advantage on us. But what a great race.”

Rahal earned his second third-place finish in as many races at Road America. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver led two laps during an early pit stop sequence, but suffered the consequences of a different tire strategy by not saving his one new set of Firestone alternates until the end of the race.

“It’s great to get a good result,” Rahal said. “I’m pleased with what we did today and accomplished for the Gehl team. We just made the wrong tire call and it definitely hurt. It is what it is and we still came out of here third.”

Championship leader Simon Pagenaud also led two laps in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet and was in second place with five laps to go until an engine issue dropped him to a 13th-place finish. Pagenaud’s lead after nine completed races is 74 points over teammate Helio Castroneves. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon dropped from second to fourth in the championship after a mechanical issue ended the No. 9 Clorox Chevrolet driver’s day in 22nd place.

“We had a really good race going in this wonderful setting at Road America,” Pagenaud said. “The atmosphere was perfect, the race strategy was perfect. It’s tough when you have an opportunity and you can’t maximize it in the championship. It’s a tough day today, but we’ll bounce back.”

Power, who sat out the season opener at St. Petersburg with an inner-ear infection, jumped four spots in the standings to third, 81 points behind Pagenaud. With seven races remaining, Power still has his sights on a second Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

“I was talking championship even before this race,” he said. “There are seven races to go and we’re still in it. There could be a 100-point swing in the last race. We have to go for it.”

Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot had impressive performances to finish eighth and ninth, respectively. Newgarden, driving with a fractured right clavicle and fracture in his right hand sustained June 12 in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway, improved more positions than any driver from start to finish (12).

“We got good points, we gained points on the guys we needed to in the championship,” Newgarden said. “I’ll try and heal up a little better for Iowa since that will be harder than this one.”

Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series race, posted his best career finish and first top 10. He was the highest finisher among the four rookies in the race.

The next event on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 9-10. Race coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET July 10 on NBCSN.

Road America, INDYCAR laud successful return to track

Road America and INDYCAR officials were ecstatic about the fan turnout and excitement shown throughout the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend. George Bruggenthies, the track president and general manager, didn’t have final attendance figures but was certain the race drew the largest attendance in track history.

“The crowds really came out,” Bruggenthies said. “I have to congratulate the Road America staff and the whole team that does all the operations here. They worked very hard preparing. I think we delivered. The crowd came out and they had a great time. Beautiful race, I think they’ll be back.”

Bruggenthies announced that the 2017 race will be run on June 25 in the second of a three-year contract with INDYCAR. Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said the sanctioning body was pleased with the entire weekend.

“We had a tremendous event weekend here at Road America and we’re certainly looking forward to the Verizon IndyCar Series returning next year on June 25,” Frye said. “The fan support and hospitality since we arrived has been phenomenal and we can’t thank George Bruggenthies and his entire staff at Road America enough for making this such a special event for INDYCAR. We can’t wait to come back next year and do it again.”

Urrutia wins Indy Lights race in changing conditions

Santiago Urrutia led a 1-2 finish for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian in the second race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend doubleheader at Road America. The race started on a wet track from morning rain but dried throughout the 20-lap event. Andre Negrao, Urrutia’s teammate, finished second.

Championship leader Ed Jones (Carlin) finished 13th after being involved in contact early in the race, seeing his points lead drop to 19 over Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport), who finished ninth.

What they’re saying after the KOHLER Grand Prix

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s hard when you qualify that far back. We had really good pace in the DeVilbiss Chevrolet, but there’s nothing you can do to advance that many positions. We executed well. We did make a couple small mistakes in the first run, but we kind of got with the program and got better and better. We had a fun day. It was so exciting to come back to Road America. This place is incredible. It’s just amazing. If anyone complains about the racing today, then they should go watch horse racing or something.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a great day for the Hitachi Chevrolet. We got a solid result and gained some ground in the standings. There may have been a few times where if we had done something else, we could have come out a little better, but who knows. I’m proud of my guys and can’t thank them enough for their hard work. The event here this weekend was spectacular. The fans were just great. I hope we can keep coming back here.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was kind of a bittersweet day in the Arrow Electronics car. We had a really quick car on the reds and went off sequence a little bit there to try to get some clean track. We pumped out a lot of quick laps – I think we had the third-quickest race lap – and made progress on some guys. I had a spin early in the race, which really killed us not having a yellow to catch that back up. We weren’t quite as strong on the blacks as we were on the reds. On the last stint, if it had stayed green, I think we’d have been OK. We had just put sticker blacks on but then on the restart we kind of got swallowed up by the guys on reds. It was just bad timing on the yellow there and we just weren’t able to make quite as much progress as we were hoping today.

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “It was a very frustrating race for us in the SMP Racing car. We struggled at the beginning but the car came to us. We had some brake issues at the end but still were in line for a very good finish. Unfortunately, we had a penalty for blocking early on, but we were blocked at the end and there was no penalty given so it’s a little inconsistent and difficult for me to understand. Overall, we made good progress throughout the weekend. The guys worked really hard and I like the Road America track.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a real character building day today for us I guess you would say. It seemed like everyone just went early on the start and I was stuck behind a few cars that didn’t go. From there we just fell back unfortunately. I think we ended up running out of fuel for whatever reason after that and dropped way back. It was a tough day for the Gallagher team but I know all these guys who win races and championships in the Verizon IndyCar Series went through this, and you have to deal with these kind of days and move forward.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Clorox Chevrolet): “I’m not really sure what happened there. We maintained our spot in second and I was happy with the Clorox car at the start. We just started losing power for some reason and had to pull off track. It’s really a shame as we had really good pace in the car and I think would have been in contention for the win. It looked like a great crowd out there today and I was really excited to be back here at Road America, but we didn’t get a chance to finish unfortunately.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): “I really believe that the extra lap of yellow at the end cost me the race. I don’t know all of the details about what happened with the extended yellow, but I’m obviously not in control of that. Will (Power) did a really good job of saving his push to passes until the last lap. We had the red tires (in the last laps) which was a little quicker and we were just chasing Will down. Towards the end we had one push to pass which gave us extra power but he had three so he had an advantage on us, but what a great race. Down the straightaways I was able to look at the fans on the last two laps and people were standing and spinning hats and shirts and that’s what I love to see. I hope (the fans) enjoyed it as much as I did and they come back because we’ll make even better next year.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It’s a shame because the Hydroxycut machine was a good race car. Unfortunately, we got hit on the first lap and went down a lap repairing the damage. It was pretty much game over at that point. We soldiered on and gave it our best, passing when we could, but with only the one late caution there wasn’t much we could do. It’s especially frustrating because, as I have said before, I really like the Road America circuit and the atmosphere this weekend was fantastic. Fortunately, we will be racing here again. At this point, the KVSH Racing Team will just have to move on and see what we can do in Iowa.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “TK (Tony Kanaan) had the reds on and was coming hard. He was quick all race. I had my work cut out and did everything I could to stay ahead. I’m stoked to get the Verizon car to Victory Lane. Thanks to Chevy. It’s a phenomenal car and phenomenal engine. I’m just so stoked. I wasn’t going to let it go on the restart. I was determined to get a great restart and keep the lead. TK was mega quick there at the end.  I just had a few more push to pass left and that helped. The Firestones were great. We had no problems We could do full stints. It was just great, great. I was talking championship even before this race. There are seven races to go and we’re still in it. There could be a 100-point swing in the last race. We have to go for it. It’s just a great place and I’m just so stoked to win that way. I badly wanted to win another race. I needed that one. It is huge! I walked around the camping grounds earlier in the weekend. It just amazed me how many people are here, and how much fun they are having. Just walking in here on Thursday, you could see the place was really popping. I am just so stoked to be back here. We should have been back here a long time ago. All the fans are great.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Great work from the team considering we couldn’t come to the test. We caught up in the practice but then we had a disappointing qualifying run. I was quite happy to show our true performance in the race. In the first half of the race, I was able to overtake several cars and we got up to P-8. Unfortunately, we had an issue with a pit speed limiter and we caught a speed penalty twice and that is why the result is not a true reflection of the performance. The ABC guys had awesome pit stops and brilliant work by the team so we’ll just keep on working.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda): “We’re pleased with what we did here today and accomplished for the Gehl team. We can’t thank Gehl and PennGrade enough for making this happen for us. It was cool to have the yellow car back on track. We ran the new reds first and I think that hurt us a little bit. We learned from it and we’ll move on and do better here next year. It’s great to be back at Road America. This is my second third-place finish here in my Indy car career so it’s cool to be back here and the fans are just amazing. For us, and our year, I think this was pretty big. We’ve been fast everywhere we’ve just had a lot of stuff go against us. To get a podium felt nice today. (Simon) Pagenaud and I, for like 20 some laps, he was right behind me and I was giving it everything I possibly had – there were sections I was better than him and then sections he clearly had me. I think in Canada Corner I was weak all weekend, but again, we battled hard and had a good day. The tire strategy hurt us and that’s how Pagenaud got back around us. We just made the wrong tire call and it definitely hurt. It is what it is and we still came out of here third.”

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda): “It just went so fast, it felt like I got clipped by Ryan (Hunter-Reay) but clearly that wasn’t the case. After looking at the car, we now know that there was a left rear suspension failure. I never had something like that happen before. Other than that, it was nice to be consistently running up front and trying to chase down the Penske cars. It’s a tough race for sure but the team gave me a good car that I could race with so that was nice. I guess these things happen, we just have to move on. Finally, I also want to say how awesome it is to be racing here at Road America, and seeing all that fans that came out. What a great event. I hope we come back next year.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “First of all I want to thank all the fans for coming out. It’s great to see so many people here. It’s one of my favorite tracks and hopefully we get to come back year after year. As for our race, I think I could’ve maybe saved a top 12 finish but unfortunately it looked like we had some sort of electrical issue without pit lane speed limiter and we were just getting pit lane speed violations every time we came in the pits, which is weird because it was fine in practice. I made sure every time we were at the line that we were where we needed to be and we got two in a row, so I guess these things happen. I just had to do it manually at the end. It hurt us though because we lost a lap and half. It puts you in a position where you’re not even racing anymore.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I had a lot of fun out there today – it was a really fun race. For the first half of the race we were kind of by ourselves, but towards the end – after the restart – to be around (Juan) Montoya and Simon (Pagenaud) and guys I’ve been watching for so many years. To be racing against them so close was really cool. I just can’t thank this team enough for having me, Fuzzy’s Vodka and Chevrolet and Rising Star Racing, and we’re looking forward to building on this next time out. I think having raced here in the past definitely helped getting up to speed with the car and the track here throughout the race. Knowing where to pass and if you overshoot a corner where you can kind of get away with it and where it’s going to bite you. At the end there it was pretty wild. You have to fight so hard for every position. A couple of times going into Turn 5, Carlos (Munoz) and I and Simon (Pagenaud) and I braked way too late I thought and somehow came out the other end. It was just cool to be racing against these guys.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Direct Supply/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “The car was so good today. I think if I didn’t mess it up yesterday, we would have had a really good race. We did still have a good race. I just think we had a podium car if I could have qualified the thing properly. We got good points, we gained points on the guys we needed to in the championship. I’ll try and heal up a little better for Iowa since that will be harder than this one. I think we put on a great show for the fans, we had an amazing crowd. We should have been coming here all along! I hope we come back here for many, many years to run. It’s one of the best tracks and has the best racing. That’s one of the reasons I wanted make sure I was able to race here.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We were having a really good day, but unfortunately we had a little issue with the engine. We had the Menards Chevy hunting for the win. We had a really good race going in this wonderful setting at Road America. The atmosphere was perfect. The race strategy was perfect. It’s tough when you have an opportunity and you can’t maximize it in the championship. It’s a tough day today, but we’ll bounce back. This team is incredible. They give me the best cars every weekend, so we’ll just move forward.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It was a hard race. We didn’t have a lot of rhythm, if I am honest. The last few laps I lost some spots. We were a little bit behind this race. We were looking better yesterday. I don’t know what happened today. It was a great turnout for such a great track though. It’s good to have IndyCar back at Road America. I think the first few laps had a good show for the crowd. It was good to see so many people here.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Snapple Honda): “It was just a tough race. I need more out of myself, I feel like I let the guys down all weekend. I made that mistake in qualifying so we started on the back row which made our Sunday way more difficult than it needed to be. Then we tried with strategy but weren’t able to gain as much ground as we needed. We were preparing to pit when that yellow came out, so things could have turned out differently there. Twelfth from 21st is OK, but we wanted better for the UFD / Snapple team.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was good in all considering, we really had to fight for it today. The car was not ideal in the beginning of the race, especially on used reds and blacks. Once we got going, in the end the – I think with the rubber down (on the track), everything started to suit us. The DHL car was good at the end. We had a pretty good fight with a few (other cars). There was some pretty dirty racing though by a couple others, but we’ll talk about all of that stuff here after the weekend. Just really great to see the fan turn out today here at Road America – any time you see a bunch of fans starting right away on Friday, you know it’s going to be a good weekend.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was an interesting race. At the beginning we were one of the fastest cars on the track-the car was absolutely flying and we passed five or six cars and I thought, ‘Oh this is going to be a good day’. Unfortunately, we had an issue on the first stop and we came out behind Pigot which messed us up in that second stint. The used reds went away a lot too. We pitted for blacks and they were not that great. We got the new reds on at the end and the car felt good. The caution came out right after that so I was able to pick up some positions on the restart and finished 11th. It was an up and down race. I also got a drive through which didn’t help because I was point 1 mph over the pit lane speed which was disappointing but it was an up and down race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): “A lot of credit to the Novo Nordisk team today. It’s nice to see Tony Kanaan on the podium and it was too bad for Scott Dixon. We worked a lot on the setup with Max Chilton’s guys and that was really helpful. I had a really good run on Helio (Castroneves) but he blocked me there toward the end. Then he gave a position back to Hunter-Reay and not me so I’m not sure what went down there. A lot of credit to the 83 guys on pit lane today. They kept giving me positions on pit lane. I’m pretty happy with the result and the fans were just incredible this weekend at Road America.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “The race started pretty well. We were fighting for the top 10 on the first stint. After the first pit stop we had a front wing failure, which is two this weekend and difficult to swallow. We had to come in for a front wing change so that was pretty much our race right there. I thought the car was pretty good and thought we could drive to the front. None the less I am very happy INDYCAR is back to Road America. I think the fan reception was fantastic, so I look forward to hopefully coming back here in the future.”

Story, photos and quotes courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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