Race Weekend Central

Strategy Helps Scott McLaughlin & Will Power to Team Penske 1-2 at Barber

LEEDS, Ala. — Four full-course yellow flags couldn’t derail Scott McLaughlin, as the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet used strategy to his advantage to win Sunday’s (April 28) Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.

McLaughlin led 58 of 90 laps in the third NTT IndyCar Series points race of the year after starting on pole position. He finished just over 1.3 seconds ahead of Penske teammate and fellow front-row starter Will Power. McLaughlin’s and Power’s races were defined by a full-course yellow on lap 44.

Alexander Rossi exited pit road before his left rear tire was secure to the car. The tire came off as the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet negotiated Turn 2, with the car stopping just off track.

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Scott McLaughlin Leads Penske Charge at Barber After Tough Week

Under the ensuing yellow, McLaughlin and Power both pitted, both having stopped shortly before Lap 30. Several other drivers stopped, knowing that they needed only one more pit stop to make it to the finish.

Some other competitors had another idea, however. Sting Ray Robb hit the tire barrier outside of turn 1 on Lap 55. Underneath that yellow, Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Palou and about a dozen other drivers pitted, gambling that they could make it to the end without stopping again.

After the Lap 59 restart, there was a new race brewing. With a pit lane delta time of 29 seconds, McLaughlin and Power had to build up their advantage over Palou to be greater than that margin before their final pit stop on lap 75. Palou couldn’t charge, as he had to conserve fuel.

If the Penske racers couldn’t lengthen their lead to Palou enough, then winning would be much more difficult, owing to the limited passing opportunities around Barber.

McLaughlin circulated around the 17-turn, 2.3-mile circuit with laps mostly in the 68-second range, dipping into the 67-second range in the four laps before his final pit stop. Power was slightly slower than his teammate but remained in sight through that charge.

As for Palou, he remained in the 70-second range throughout that lap window, only dipping into the 69-second range by less than a tenth of a second on two occasions. McLaughlin and Power both pitted on lap 75, and their quick charge worked. As McLaughlin turned on the pit exit road, Palou was just starting to accelerate down the main straight.

Power blended out behind his teammate, and Palou had no answer, eventually finishing fifth.

Between the Rossi and Robb cautions, there was a seven-lap stint where McLaughlin and Power had to run mid-pack. After the Robb caution, McLaughlin was third and Power was fifth.

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Linus Lundqvist Plays Alternate Strategy for 1st IndyCar Podium

Power had to do a careful balancing act in his head to make sure he didn’t do anything incorrect behind the wheel.

“You’re also thinking in your head, like, Scott [McLaughlin] and I kind of racing potentially for the win,” Power said. “But we’re in the pack. The risk versus reward, you’re kind of trying to decide.

“I think I wasn’t aggressive enough. I should have worked harder to keep Scott behind. I didn’t block him. With everything that’s happened this week, I just didn’t want to bloody have two Penske cars off in turn 1.

Power, of course, was referring to the penalties Penske received this week for illegally having Push-to-Pass in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, which brought the team scrutiny throughout the paddock.

“I just kind of let it [racing McLaughlin] go,” Power said. “I was happy for the team to get that though. I was. I’ve been around long enough where you actually are happy for the team. You’re not so selfish.”

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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