FORT WORTH, Texas – A race that many drivers expected to be relatively mundane turned into a high-speed thrill ride at the recently-reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway, with Will Power surviving the Saturday night chaos for his second Verizon IndyCar Series win of the year.
Power dominated the 1.5-mile quad-oval, leading 180 of 248 laps in the RainGuard Water Sealers 600, but it was an eight-car accident – in combination with a spate of tire blistering issues – that set up the night’s thrilling run to the finish.
On lap 152, Mikhail Aleshin took James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan three-wide down the backstretch, where Kanaan came up on Hinchcliffe and made contact with the Canadian’s sidepod.
The bump sent Hinchcliffe into Aleshin and eventually up towards the wall entering Turn 3, clogging the track as Tristan Vautier, Ed Jones, Ryan Hunter-Reay and others piled in with nowhere to go.
Following a red flag for cleanup, racing resumed with 89 laps left and saw a series of short sprints break out, after INDYCAR officials called for a series of competition cautions in the closing stages that included mandatory four-tire pit stops.
With a maximum of 30 laps allowed on the drivers’ Firestone tires, yellows and restarts meant that drivers could go all-out over the course of a run in order to gain track position and fight at the front.
A clean 30-lap run led to the first of two set cautions, with Power holding the lead cleanly over Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud through the course of the sprint.
Scott Dixon leapfrogged both Penske drivers during pit stops, going from third to first on the board, but could not hold the spot when the green flag returned with 51 to go. Power reassumed the lead, but three laps later Josef Newgarden got into the outside wall in Turn 4 after a three-wide move gone wrong, drawing the yellow again.
Racing resumed with 39 laps left, and this time it was Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato that was the man making moves. He steadily rose into contention over the 14 laps before the final competition caution, taking third from Pagenaud with 34 to go and seizing second from Dixon eight laps later.
Following the final round of stops, a 19-lap dash to the checkered flag was on tap, with Power out front over Dixon when the green flag waved. It took less than a lap for Dixon to challenge on the outside, and two more before he edged in front to lead the field for the first time under full racing conditions.
That set off a string of six lead changes in the next 10 laps, with Dixon and Power running virtually side-by-side around the entire 1.5-mile distance of the Texas Motor Speedway as the field packed up in formation behind them.
Sato was the man stuck in third for much of that closing stint, and he finally decided with five laps left that he had to make a move. Taking a look to Dixon’s inside coming through the quad-oval, Sato clipped the infield grass and got loose, shooting up into Dixon and sending both Hondas spinning to a halt as the field stormed towards Turn 1.
That drew the ninth and final caution flag of the night, forcing the race to end under caution and allowing Power to cross the line first, making a page of IndyCar history in the process.
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