Will Power claims elusive win in 102nd Indianapolis 500
The single milestone missing in Will Power's storied career is missing no longer. The 37-year old Australian claimed the elusive victory in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, had come as close as second in the 2015 race. Despite a series title and countless wins with Team Penske, driving for Roger Penske comes with the expectation of drinking the milk in Indianapolis. In his 11th attempt at the storied event, Power acknowledges the expectation surrounding the race, and the doubt he has felt in the past.
"I was wondering if I would ever win it," Power admitted in the post-race broadcast interview with ESPN. "I've had so many wins, so many poles, but everybody talks about the Indy 500. I've won it."
"I just can't believe it. I can't describe it. I feel like collapsing. I want to cry."
Power had improved to P3 - his starting position - after a late race restart, with only Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey ahead of him after staying out on a previous caution. While it appeared that Wilson would be able to hold off the field, both he and Harvey pulled into pit road late, unable to run it to the finish line.
"I have to get these guys," Power recalls thinking. "I don't know how much fuel they've got, but this is the restart of my life."
Pole-sitter Ed Carpenter was the runner up, his highest finish in the Indianapolis 500. Leading much of the race and challenging late, Carpenter decided to play pit strategy, and outrun the field on fuel conservation to claim his own elusive Indianapolis victory. However, as the race wound down to cautions and important restarts, it became apparent that the race had gone out of his hands due to this strategy.
A key factor late in the race was bold challenges by 2016 race champion Alexander Rossi. Coming back from a P32 start to finish P4, a win would have seen the driver claim the historic honour of claiming the victory from the lowest start. Pushing hard late and making several daredevil passes to the outside of corners, Rossi would eventually be outdone by the space generated between cars by pit strategy and restarts.
Many of the race's key storylines unraveled throughout the race. Danica Patrick, running the last race of her career, would lose control and retire in the first half of the event. Helio Castroneves would suffer a very similar spin in his return to IndyCar, as would Sebastien Bourdais in his first Indy 500 since suffering major injuries in the weeks leading up to last year's event.
The victory marks the second consecutive for Power, having won the previous IndyCar Grand Prix. This completes a May-long sweep of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Will Power and the #12 Verizon Chevrolet for Team Penske.
Indianapolis 500 Top 5 Finishers
1. Will Power
2. Ed Carpenter
3. Scott Dixon
4. Alexander Rossi
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay