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Will Power captures IndyCar Grand Prix from pole at IMS

Will Power (courtesy IndyCar)

Power’s 30th career victory

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Saturday, May 13, 2017) – Will Power used the backdrop of iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway to move past a pair of Team Penske greats in the Indy car record book.

Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power dominated today’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course to collect win No. 30 in his 13-year Indy car career. The milestone victory pushed the 36-year-old Power ahead of current teammate Helio Castroneves and retired Team Penske legend Rick Mears for sole possession of 11th place on the all-time list.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX: Box score

Power, making his 175th career start, led 61 of the 85 laps in the caution-free race and cruised across the finish line 5.283 seconds ahead of Scott Dixon in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Power has now won at least one race in 11 straight seasons and becomes the fifth different driver to win in as many Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.

“It feels really good to finally have a good day,” Power said. “Everyone on this team has been working really hard. We should have had a couple of wins by now.

“I think that is (win) No. 30; that is a good number. I want to make it 31 by the end of this month.”

Power owned the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend. He was fastest in every practice session, earned the pole position Friday with a track-record lap in Verizon P1 Award qualifying and set a race record speed average of 120.813 mph. Amassing the maximum possible points, Power advanced two positions into fifth in the standings in his quest for a second series championship.

“After (morning) warmup, I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve actually been quickest in every session. Yeah, it would be amazing to win the race.’

“It’s funny, momentum, once your whole team and crew believes that you have a shot at winning races – which we have had all year – but when you execute it, it definitely gives them confidence. It’s just good (to) get a win and very, very good for everyone.”

Dixon made his 275th career start and extended his consecutive starts streak to 212 races, breaking a tie for the second-longest all-time run with Jimmy Vasser. Only Dixon’s current teammate Tony Kanaan – who started his 270th straight race today – has run more Indy car races consecutively.

“I think today we got the most out of it,” said Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “The car was pretty strong, we had good pace, but we just couldn’t hold on to the rears. I think the Honda was just too much for the (Firestone alternate) red tires for the most part.

“Good points for everybody on the NTT Data car, great day for Honda. Obviously not a win, but very close.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay moved from eighth on the starting grid to finish a season-best third in the No. 28 DHL Honda. It marked the 100th top-10 finish of the Andretti Autosport driver’s career and gave the 36-year-old American a feeling of momentum heading into Indianapolis 500 competition that starts with practice on Monday.

“It’s certainly a nice feeling,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series and 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion. “This group isn’t happy if we’re not on the top step (of the podium), but we’ve had a lot of bad luck this year, a lot of misfortune. It’s been a frustrating start to the year, but we kept our heads down and today we came home with a solid result.

“This is nice to roll into the next two weeks, preparing for the biggest race in the world.”

Power became the third straight pole sitter to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix. He did so in 2015 and Simon Pagenaud followed suit last year.

Pagenaud, the reigning series champion, finished fourth in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet to retain the points lead after five of 17 races. Pagenaud now has 191 points to Dixon’s 181. Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden (152), Castroneves (149) and Power (145) hold the third through fifth spots, respectively.

Next up on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Practice for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” begins Monday. Two days of qualifying are set for May 20-21, with the 200-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval scheduled for May 28 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

Schmidt doesn’t beat Andretti but wins with opportunity to race again

Sam Schmidt didn’t win his race today against Mario Andretti, but he accomplished something else: he felt normal again.

Paralyzed from the neck down in a crash during an Indy car test session in 2000, Schmidt dueled with Andretti in specially modified Chevrolet Corvettes around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The result? Schmidt felt like a racer again. He felt like himself.

“It feels normal,” Schmidt said. “The first time in 17 years I’ve felt normal. There are so many things I haven’t been able to teach my kids to do – to throw a football, to drive a stick shift. To be able to come back and do this kind of stuff makes up for it a little bit.”

Schmidt, the co-owner of Verizon IndyCar Series team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has been instrumental in the development and advancement of semi-autonomous motorcar (SAM) technology. Along with Arrow Electronics, the team’s primary sponsor for James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Honda that competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series, he’s tested various forms of the cars, which use head movements and inhalation and exhalation to steer, propel and brake.

Schmidt uses a breathing tube to accelerate and brake, and a special camera mounted to his helmet to steer. He’s previously tested it on the IMS oval, the Long Beach street course, the Sonoma road course and the course used for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb. But this was the first time he’d raced the car against someone in like equipment.

“It was great,” Schmidt said. “It was weird. (After) 17 years, driving down the straightaway 130 miles an hour side-by-side was fantastic, and doing it with Mario Andretti was great.”

Andretti, whose 52 Indy wins rank second all time, agreed.

“Now I can sleep tonight,” Andretti said. “I tell you, this one really had me going. I had to shut off all my natural senses because, obviously, you just need all the practice you can get. And they gave me every opportunity, but still, I really wasn’t too sure. I didn’t know how much I could trust myself. I’m just thankful the cars are coming in with all the fenders on.”

Schmidt may not have won the race, but he still felt like a winner. He even performed a celebratory tire burnout at the end of the front straight.

‘Wimpy Kid’ star Silverstone feels thrill of INDYCAR first-hand

When “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” star Alicia Silverstone waved the green flag to start the INDYCAR Grand Prix, she already had first-hand knowledge about the skills of the drivers she watched speed by under the Indianapolis Motor Speedway flag stand.

A few hours before, Silverstone, who plays the matriarch of the Heffley family in the most recent installment of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” film series, and co-star Tom Everett Scott took thrill rides on the road course in the INDYCAR Experience custom two-seater. Silverstone rode with racing legend Mario Andretti.

“I’m shaking a bit and I screamed the whole way,” Silverstone said after she got out of the passenger seat.

After the experience, Silverstone asked herself why racers love their jobs so much.

“Why would you want to do that? It’s really intense,” she said. “But what skill. When he stopped – whoa! – you think you’re crashing! I kind of can’t process it. It’s daredevil. It takes massive skill.”

Silverstone, Scott, 11-year-old Jason Drucker, who plays Greg Heffley (the main character in the “Wimpy Kid” series), film director David Bowers and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” author Jeff Kinney were in Indianapolis to promote the May 19 release of the movie. A red-carpet screening was held outdoors Friday night at Pagoda Plaza inside the track.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a natural fit for the screening because, as Scott explained, “In the movie, the destination is Indiana.”

Director Bowers added, “The movie’s called ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.’ So many families make the long haul across country to come to the Indianapolis 500. We thought it would be great to have a family event here where so many families have made road trips themselves.”

Also attending the INDYCAR Grand Prix were: David Letterman, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner and retired late-night talk-show host; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who issued the command for drivers to start their engines; and retired Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, the team’s all-time sack leader who served as the celebrity pace car driver to start the race.

Mazda Road to Indy race recap

Two drivers completed weekend victory sweeps in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder races today.

Oliver Askew of Cape Motorsports won for the second straight day on the IMS road course and for the fifth time in six Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda races this season. Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) captured his second race of the weekend in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. Askew and Franzoni lead their respective championships.

In Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy sanctioned by INDYCAR, Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing drove to victory a day after Nico Jamin of Andretti Autosport won the first race of the weekend. With today’s win, Kaiser took over the championship lead by 13 points over Jamin.

 

RACE RECAP WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF INDYCAR COMMUNICATIONS