Power’s win at Pocono adds intrigue to IndyCar title race

Will Power’s summer march toward a second Verizon IndyCar Series championship continued at Pocono Raceway Monday in a race delayed from Sunday because of rain.

Rain showers forced IndyCar to postpone Sunday’s scheduled 500-mile event at Pocono until Monday afternoon, but it was well worth the wait.

Several exceptional driving performances provided plenty of excitement throughout the 200-lap event and Will Power’s victory combined with Simon Pagenaud’s early exit tightened up the championship battle with three events remaining.

Power’s fourth win of the season was a team effort. He struggled in the early going with the handling on his car while stuck in traffic after starting eighth. Not backing down, his team made adjustments during pit stops and improved the performance of his car. Once he was able to get out front he had little trouble holding off the competition until the checkered flag flew.

While Power’s Chevrolet was the winner, it was no surprise to see Honda-powered entries doing well on the high speed track, but it was notable to see the No. 7 of Mikhail Aleshin score the pole position and lead for much of the early going. Aleshin would fade a little in the late going but fought back valiantly to score a runner-up finish.

Aleshin’s teammate, Canadian James Hinchcliffe, also appeared headed for a solid result until some loose bodywork over the engine and a lengthy pit stop to try and correct it dropped him down in the field. Hinchcliffe would finish in 10th position.

The driver with the fastest and best car on the day and who twice charged from the back of the pack to the front of the field was Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Andretti Autosport driver had what can only be called an eventful weekend. It began during practice on Saturday with a hard crash into the wall in turn one that mangled his car beyond repair and caused him physical discomfort for the balance of the weekend.

The team pulled out the back up car, which happened to be the car he won with a year ago and worked tirelessly to prepare for the race during the final practice session. Starting from the back of the field as he did in 2015, Hunter-Reay made bold moves to the outside and gained positions in the early going. There was more drama to overcome late in the race. While leading the race and seemingly in control his car inexplicably shut off due to an electrical malfunction. Hunter-Reay rebooted the electronics and got it running again but not before losing a lap to the rest of the field.

Following a late race caution Hunter-Reay got back on the lead lap and once again headed for the front, making daring passes to the inside and outside of competitors. If the race was a little longer there’s no doubt he’d have repeated as the winner at Pocono. Still, he finished in third after all he and the team endured this weekend in what could be the drive of the year.

The combination of Pagenaud crashing out and finishing 18th along with Power’s win changes the complexion of the championship race considerably. Power is now only 20 points behind his Penske teammate with three races remaining and the final event of the year at Sonoma worth double championship points.

As many of us hoped, it will come right down to the final lap again this year before the title is decided.

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