Will Power wins IndyCar race at Pocono; closes points gap


By John Kekis

AP Sports Writer

LONG POND, Pa. — Will Power can’t seem to do any wrong, which means IndyCar has another serious points race looming.

Power continued his late-season surge on Monday, holding pole-sitter Mikhail Aleshin at bay after a final restart, and won the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

It was the fourth win in the past six races for Power, 29th of his career, and cut the lead of Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud to 20 points in the standings with three races remaining in the season.

After crashing late, Pagenaud finished 18th in the 500-mile race, which was postponed a day by rain.

Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third, Josef Newgarden was fourth, and Sebastien Bourdais fifth thanks to late-race tire strategy. Scott Dixon, Carlos Munoz, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top 10.

A year ago, Hunter-Reay won a crash-filled race at Pocono that took the life of Englishman Justin Wilson. He suffered a severe head injury when struck in the helmet by debris from a late-race crash and died the day after the race.

Pocono Raceway painted JW on the track at the finish line and Union Jacks flew at half-staff in honor of the Englishman. Both Wilson and open-wheel driver Bryan Clauson, who was killed two weeks ago in a crash in Kansas, were remembered in the pre-race prayer and with a moment of silence.

Hunter-Reay and Aleshin took turns in the lead for the first two-thirds of the race, with Hunter-Reay content to ride second as both drivers methodically had a flawless race on the track and in the pits.

Hunter-Reay passed Aleshin for the lead on lap 134, and the 29-year-old Russian began dropping back. He was fourth on lap 142 after Power surged past.

The complexion of the race and the points race changed after Pagenaud crashed while running 12th to bring out a caution.

Hunter-Reay took the lead on the restart and after zooming through the first turn began to slow with electrical problems. He coasted through the pits trying to restart it, got it going again, but fell a lap down.

Power then took the lead, and after a debris caution on lap 176, Power exited the pits in first place as Hunter-Reay got back on the lead lap with once last chance. He ran out of laps after weaving his way back to third.

Aleshin tried to challenge one final time, but Power pulled away over the final 20 laps.

Other things to know about the IndyCar race at Pocono on Monday.

ALESHIN SHINES: The 29-year-old Russian was fastest in first practice on Saturday, fastest with the pole on the line, and very fast on Monday. Just not quite fast enough. Still, that his career-best IndyCar finish came on an oval served notice his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“It could be greater if I could be standing on the top of the podium,” said Aleshin, who led a race-high 87 laps and has led 130 circuits the last two races. “I just wanted this win so bad.”

HUNTER-REAY’S BAD LUCK: Hunter-Reay, who started last because of a crash in practice that prevented him from qualifying, was poised to win at Pocono for the second straight year and get the chance to celebrate that he didn’t last year after the late crash that fatally injured Wilson.

Leading on a late restart, his engine stalled going into the first turn and before he could refire it fell a lap down. A debris caution allowed him to regain the lost lap and he surged to a podium finish.

“I had the car under me to do it,” Hunter-Reay said. “Leading the race and the engine shuts off. What more could happen? Just have to smile and keep pushing. It’s been that way. This one’s going to be a hard one to put behind me.”

PAGENAUD PLUMMETS: Pagenaud hit the wall on lap 158 after his No. 22 Chevy bottomed out. He lost the steering, hit the wall hard, and was still puzzled after exiting the care center.

“The car bottomed and went straight into the wall. There was no steering,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a weird one for me.”

ROSSI RUINED: Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi was in the top five early in the race, but the rookie’s promising day was spoiled by a scary crash on pit road nearly a third of the way through the race. He exited his pit and was clipped by Charlie Kimball, which sent the Indianapolis 500 winner’s No. 98 Honda over the top of the No. 3 Penske Chevrolet driven by Helio Castroneves. The crash relegated Castroneves to a 19th-place finish and dropped him from third to fifth in points, 113 behind Pagenaud.

By John Kekis

AP Sports Writer

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