After years of hopes and occasional rumors of a return, the Verizon IndyCar Series finally made its way back to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for a feature at Road America.
50 laps later, it was 2014 ICS champion Will Power prevailing to score a dominant win in the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Power paced the field around the 4.014-mile road course for 46 of the race’s 50 laps and held off a furious charge from Tony Kanaan in the closing stages en-route to his second-straight victory.
The win is Power’s 27th, tying the Australian with Johnny Rutherford for 13th on IndyCar’s all-time wins list.
While Power dominated much of the day, it took a brilliant drive of his No. 12 Verizon IndyCar Series to hold off Kanaan on a late restart, beating him to the line by just .7429 seconds.
“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.”
Kanaan’s runner-up result was his best finish out of six Road America starts, as well as his best run of the 2016 season to date.
“Will (Power) did a really good job of saving his push-to-passes until the last lap,” said Kanaan. “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.”
Graham Rahal repeated his debut result from 2007 in Elkhart Lake with a third-place finish in his No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda. Rahal sparred with Kanaan for much of the event, but was forced to settle for the final position on the podium after his team’s tire strategy left him holding on to end 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.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five, with Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot and Carlos Munoz completing the top 10.
Points leader Simon Pagenaud figured to be a contender for much of the day, but was relegated to a 13th-place result after suffering engine woes while running second late in the race.
Pagenaud’s points lead dropped to 74 points over Castroneves, with Power jumping up to third courtesy of the victory. Incredibly, despite running one fewer race on the season due to an inner-ear infection at St. Petersburg, Power sits only 81 points out of the championship lead.
The IndyCar paddock will return on July 9-10, when the field heads to Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300.
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