Advertisement

Will Power gets first win in 2 years, leads Team Penske podium sweep at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – More than two years since his last victory, and in a season where he’d both started and finished in 2nd-place three times in 2024, Will Power finally found the top spot.

With a brilliantly-timed final stop to overcut his pair of Team Penske teammates, Power jumped two spots in the final pit exchange to take the lead for the first time at the start of Lap 45 and then drove away for the win Sunday at Road America. His first win in 34 starts also handed Power the control of the championship at the moment, with a five-point cushion on defending champion Alex Palou headed into an off week with 10 races left in the season.

'I don't understand it.' Colton Herta on Lap 1 incident with Josef Newgarden

The win was also Power’s second in his career at the National Park of Speed, with the other coming in 2016 in the series’ return after eight years away.

Joining him on the podium were teammates Josef Newgarden (second) and Scott McLaughlin (third), making for Team Penske’s first IndyCar podium lockout since the 2017 season-finale at Sonoma (Simon Pagenaud, first; Newgarden, second; Power, third).

Will Power at Road America in June 2024
Will Power at Road America in June 2024

“I knew we had the pace. At Long Beach, we were really quick, but yellows fall at some weird times and we’ve ended up with plenty of second-place finishes,” Power said post-race. “That just shows you were this series is. It’s no joke. It’s incredibly hard to win, and you’ve got to work hard and do a perfect job — otherwise, you’re not going to win.

“I don’t know why, but I just felt good coming into today.”

Here’s how he did it:

Full race results: Will Power wins IndyCar race at Road America, takes series points lead

Strong closing stint, overcut seals win for Will Power

At a track where the pit window is the shortest on the schedule for a traditional three-stop race, the three Penske cars all pitted on separate laps, creating a highly-anticipated blend at the end of the window. With 11 laps to the finish, it was Power, who up until that point in the race hadn’t led a lap, who popped out ahead of his teammates with an initial 2-second gap on Newgarden at the start of Lap 45.

Importantly, too, Power also held a sizable advantage on seconds of push-to-pass left at his disposal for the final stint (53 seconds vs. 39 for Newgarden). Both ate up double-digit chunks of that on Lap 46, leaving Power with 25 seconds and Newgarden 24 with nine laps to go.

Will Power driving at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 8, 2024.
Will Power driving at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 8, 2024.

Newgarden continued to stalk his teammate, roughly 1 second back, but couldn’t manage to inch close enough to consider a pass. By Lap 50, Power’s cushion grew to 1.7 seconds, and Newgarden wouldn't seriously challenge the 43-year-old from there to the end. Power took the checkered flag 3.3-seconds clear of Newgarden, more than 8 seconds clear of McLaughlin and nearly 17 seconds ahead of the closest non-Penske car (Palou, fourth).

Kyle Kirkwood (fifth), Colton Herta (sixth), Romain Grosjean (seventh), Pato O’Ward (eighth), Marcus Ericsson (ninth) and Graham Rahal (10th) rounded out the top-10.

Josef Newgarden frustrated with 2nd-place

Having had quite the up-and-down season thus far, Newgarden stepped out of the car a disgruntled runner-up finisher, unable not to wonder ‘what-if.’ The two-time defending 500 winner had taken over the lead from McLaughlin on Lap 36 and seemed to have the race in his hands with under 20 laps to go.

McLaughlin was the first of the three Penske drivers to pit from second place on Lap 42. Newgarden, who began to be held up by Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Nolan Siegel on that ensuing lap in the lead, pitted the next lap, with Power holding on for one more. The No. 2 Chevy popped out of the pits with a 4-plus second lead on McLaughlin, but Power’s overcut on that final stop with clear track ahead of him for that in-lap ahead of his stop gave him a 2-second cushion ahead of Newgarden after he pulled out of the pits.

“It’s a great team day, but I think we let that one go for sure. That’s what’s hard about it,” Newgarden said post-race, left wishing he’d stayed out an additional lap like Power. “We put together a great day today, but we probably mis-stepped there at the end.

“You just can’t come in early like that. You’re going to get killed on the sequence. The undercut just doesn’t work on a day like today, and that was just a big miss. Scottie drove a great race. Will drove a great race, and I think it could’ve fallen any way. We were in position there in the end and just couldn’t close.”

A day after having sustained 95 Gs in a massive crash during the final round of qualifying, Newgarden was quick, though, to pour on praise across all of Team Penske, with crew members across all three entries pitching in to build him a new car overnight with a new engine to boot.

“That is a really good day. 1-2-3, we can’t be dissatisfied with that,” he said. “Will did a great job. He deserved to win that race. He drove really well today.”

Scott McLaughlin takes initial control of a wild start

The race initially looked to be in the hands of McLaughlin, for whom the seas seemed to part just a single turn into the race. There, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong, entering the race with the best starting position of his career (third) got into the back of CGR teammate and polesitter Linus Lundqvist, spinning and stalling them both. Coming onto the spinning cars from a couple rows back, Newgarden got into the back of Herta and spun the No. 26, too.

By the throw of the caution flag, McLaughlin had jumped from his starting spot in eighth to second, and he managed to pass race-leader Kirkwood for the lead on the start of Lap 4 as the race momentarily came back green. Race control called for a caution later that lap, due to debris on-track but then went back green for the start of Lap 6.

The final caution of the day came at the end of Lap 6, as Christian Rasmussen spun Kyffin Simpson heading toward Turn 14. At the time of the final restart, McLaughlin still held the lead, with his Penske teammates running fourth (Newgarden) and sixth (Power). By Lap 15, McLaughlin held a 3.1-second lead on Kirkwood and built that up past four seconds before his first stop.

Newgarden initially overtook McLaughlin on Lap 18 for the proverbial lead of the race following the latter’s stop on Lap 16 and the former’s one lap later, but the Indy 500 polesitter ran the 500-winner wide in Turn 1 and snagged the lead back. By Lap 20, Team Penske had its three cars running 1-2-3 among those who had pitted and never gave up control of the race from there on.

By the time the full field had pitted on Lap 24, McLaughlin led Newgarden by 3.5 seconds and had 6.9 on Power. He pitted from the lead on Lap 30, and his teammates did so one lap later. Initially, they both popped out ahead of the No. 3 Chevy, but McLaughlin picked them both off – Power in Turn 1 and Newgarden a couple corners later. By the end of the lap, McLaughlin had put more than one second between him and Newgarden, but his red Firestone alternate tires began to give way soon after, allowing Newgarden to reel him in and initially seem to be the odds-on race-winner before Power’s final stop.

“I wish I could’ve run a little longer on those stints today. The overcut was really, really strong, but ultimately, it was a huge day for the team,” McLaughlin said. “In this day and age, this is amazing. A 1-2-3 finish (for the team) and a podium after a race is sick. I’m super stoked.

“We’ll take the points and move forward. That’s a huge rebound for me after Detroit.”

IndyCar title race through 7 races

After Sunday’s race at Road America, here’s where the championship race stands:

  1. Will Power, 236 points

  2. Alex Palou, 231

  3. Scott Dixon, 225

  4. Pato O’Ward, 184

  5. Scott McLaughlin, 179

  6. Kyle Kirkwood, 179

  7. Colton Herta, 176

  8. Josef Newgarden, 169

  9. Alexander Rossi, 162

  10. Felix Rosenqvist, 157

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Will Power paces Team Penske IndyCar podium sweep at Road America