Heading into Sunday’s (April 30) Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park, Power’s season has been pretty average, with an eighth-place finish at St. Pete, 16th at Texas, and sixth at Long Beach to start the season.
That left him ninth in points after three races, 42 behind leader Marcus Ericsson. While it didn’t mean it was time to panic, especially for one of the winningest drivers in IndyCar history, a good result was necessary in order not to fall much further behind, not to mention with the Month of May in Indianapolis on the horizon.
Power said that he was only disappointed in one of his races this season – that being Texas – and that the “big picture” outlook he had in winning the title last year is still his mindset now.
“If I finished fifth, I would have been happy, or sixth, even eighth honestly,” Power said. “I wouldn’t say it’s been a bad start of the season at all. It’s very difficult to win one or two [races] in a season, you just have to keep racking up good finishes.”
The 90-lap race distance at Barber has always brought pit stop strategies into play. Two stops is preferred, of course, but if there are few yellows, fuel becomes a big concern. Three stops mean extra time in the pits while the others are at speed, but tire wear is better and fuel is not a concern.
With the race only running three laps under yellow, the three-stop strategy became advantageous, and early on into the first stint, Power made the decision to go with three stops.
“[We thought] that the fuel mileage will be harder [with two stops], if there’s not a yellow, the [fuel] number is going to be too big and the lap time deficit is too much,” Power said. “It was perfect timing for our pit stop. It’s also a lot more fun when you get to just go all out, qualifying laps every lap. I really enjoy that sort of racing.”
Power was still in eighth place with 32 laps to go, but his race changed quickly. His lap time of 1:07.8022 on lap 63 was the fastest lap of the race, and when he exited the pits three laps later, he was in third place. As the laps wound down, he began to reel in Grosjean, but getting up to the Frenchman and passing him are two different things, and by then Power’s tires were too cooked to make a move.
Heading into the race, Power thought if things worked out he’d maybe be able to move up to around sixth place, and credits his entire team for getting him the rest of the way.
“I’ve just got a good group around me making the right decisions in the race,” Power said. “It is a real process to put a whole race weekend together without mistakes. That’s what I’ve worked very hard on over the last couple years. We were pretty close to where we needed to be, then executed in the race.
“It’s good for the whole group on the car.”
The podium was the 95th of Power’s IndyCar career, moving him to fifth place on the all-time list, breaking a tie with former Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves. He also moved up three spots on the season points to seventh and cut his deficit to Ericsson to 26 points.
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