Driving the new Panoz DB01 chassis in the Champ Car World Series Powered by Cosworth, Will Power won from the pole to claim top honors in the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix on the downtown streets.
Power mastered the 12-turn 2.44-mile street circuit, winning by more than sixteen seconds. Frenchman Robert Doornbos came home second in his first Champ Car event, followed by veteran Paul Tracy who claimed the 73 podium of his career.
"We had a good car and it handled well all race." Power said. "The only issue I had was a really long brake peddle at the end of the race, but we had a nineteen second lead. We gave (team owner) Derek Walker his second win since 1999 I think, and it's his birthday so a pole and a win; I think that's a pretty good present for him."
The accomplishment for Doornbos, finishing on the podium in his first ever Champ Car race, was the first time since 1993 that a rookie had a podium finish in his maiden race.
"It's a relief you know to be straight away competitive." Doornbos said. "It's a good start and it gives us confidence especially because we have three weekends in a row now. Its great fun, I can't wait to go to Long Beach."
The opening lap of 2007 was waved off when only the first few rows had lined up properly. The race clock started at that point; Champ Car is using a new "timed race" format this season instead of a pre-determined amount of laps.
Graham Rahal, son of three-time champ Bobby, made wall just after the green flew while jousting for position with rookie Matt Halliday.
Several cars were three-wide coming into the kink and Rahal was forced outside with no grip. His car slid wide right and clipped a cement barrier at over 150 mph.
The contact was enough for the 18-year old rookie to shut it down with right side wheel and suspension damage.
"The start was bad; we weren't packed up." Said the young rookie. "Dan (Clarke) came smoking by me and had to be in sixth gear, flat out already. He got in so hot. I dodged him but when you're out that far there's nothing you can do. We have to put this behind us and move on to Long Beach.
The incident brought out the first caution of the afternoon, but Tracy made it around Power just before the yellow flags to take over the lead. As the cars lined up for the re-start, Alex Figge bumped into teammate Ryan Dalziel, spinning his car into a stall just at the re-start.
Immediately Champ Car officials called for another full-course yellow.
This caution was very fortuitous for Sebastien Bourdais, as he made it into the pits with a tire going down. Bourdais had crashed in qualifying, starting from the 13th spot on the grid. Several cars did pit at that time however the lead group remained on course.
Bruno Junqueira, now driving for Dale Coyne Racing, worked up from his sixth place starting position into third.
A great battled ensued between Power and Tracy coming down the main straight on Lap 10. Tracy did everything he could to hold off the young challenger, blocking him several times, but eventually gave up the spot going through the kink.
"I made a good start, was able to get by Will at the start." Tracy said. "We spent a lot of the first part of the race under yellow. Then once we got going I made a small mistake and hit the curb in the chicane and bounced up real high off the ground and Will capitalized on that and drafted up on me. I got a slow entry onto the straight away and couldn't really put up much of a fight."
With just 15 laps run, the third full course yellow flew, this time for Dan Clarke. Clarke slid into the barriers on the Turn 3 exit, collecting a stack of tires in the process.
Junqueira put pressure on Tracy when the green was displayed, and it appeared that Tracy had made a poor restart as Power pulled away on the straight. Junqueira backed off a bit in Turn 1 and settled into a rhythm for the next few circuits.
Justin Wilson, who had started from eighth, lost his transmission on Lap 20 becoming the races' fourth victim. Fourteen drivers remained in competition at this point, and Bourdais was flying through the filed, now up to an impressive fifth place.
Just at that moment Bourdais had another flat tire, this time the front right. It appeared from gray dust on the outside of the tire that he may have brushed the right-side wall down the straightaway. Bourdais, troubles would continue later.
Third place started Robert Doornbos surpassed Junqueira to regain the spot. The top four cars of Power, Tracy, Doornbos and Junqueira were the only remain drivers without a pit stop. Tracy stayed close to Power, just six tenths of a second behind.
Power's teammate at Team Australia, Canadian Alex Tagliani, filtered into the vacated fourth position when Junqueira elected to pit on lap 25.
With nearly half the event in the books, Power led from Tracy, Doornbos and Katherine Legge and Alex Tagliani.
The pair finally took to the pits on Lap 28, and Tracy's stop seemed to take forever as the crew needed extra time to vent off the fuel tank during the fill. Legge assumed the lead, out of sequence with the lead cars on her own pit strategy. Rookies Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Gommendy slotted into second and third.
Even with the long fuel fill from Tracy's Forsythe team, the Canadian would need to pit again to top it off. He rejoined in ninth behind rookies Doornbos and Neel Jani.
The front running teams started on the "red", softer compound Bridgestone tires, taking on harder "black" tires for the middle stint.
Legge fell back into fourth and Tagliani passed all three, taking over the lead on Lap 33.
Five laps later Bourdais suffered front left wheel and suspension damage after wall contact in turn.
The top three cars led by Tagliani came in for their final stop with thirty minutes left on the clock. Power filtered back to the top followed by Doornbos (-5.47 sec.), Jani (-11.79 sec.), Junqueira (-32.65 sec.).
Pagenaud developed severe engine problems running in fifth, and made it safely into the pits without further incident. The team pulled off the cowling on pit lane, trying to salvage valuable championship points.
Doornbos pitted for his final stop, moving from second to fourth, but Power, Jani and Junqueira would still need to come in for a splash off fuel to make it to the end.
Power pulled out a 23-second lead as he worked his way onto pit lane. The stop was without incident but just as with Tracy, the fuel fill seemed to go on and on. Now Tracy was on the move, passing Tagliani, and then assumed second when Junqueira made his stop.
When Junqueira did come in, a fuel valve froze thus no dispensing. The team decided to let him back on track but would re-call their driver for the required sip. The error left Dale Coyne Racing off the podium down in eighth place.
Tracy hit the pits with 15 minutes left, handing the lead back over to Power, and shuffled down to fifth before making his charge back to a podium finish. With ten minutes left in the race, Power led Doornbos (-15.70 sec.), Tracy (-32.376 sec.), Tagliani (-50.81 sec.) and Gommendy (-64.12 sec.) and Legge (-76.15 sec.).
The cars finished in that order, just six of them on the lead lap. Junqueira made home in seventh with Figge, Dominguez and Jani rounding out the top-ten finishers. Legge did a fantastic job with her sixth place finish, tying her best ever result in Champ Car after starting from the seventh row.
It was a terrible race for Bourdais; failing to finish for the first time since last August in Denver when he was involved in a last lap incident with Tracy.
"We've had the worst weekend I can even remember." The three-time defending champ said. "The first day we had a mechanical problem, the second day I messed up. I don't know why I hit (the wall) because I didn't think I was that close. I guess I just drifted a little to the right and just clipped it. I made a mistake."
For Power the victory was more than just a self-satisfying first win. Now is his second full season, he's captured the first ever victory for an Australian in Champ Car.
"It was a pretty cruzzy race." Power said. "I easily saved enough fuel. I had plenty more to push hard if anyone wanted to attack. It was just one of those days when you have a good car."
Power now leads the championship with 33 points over Doornbos (27) and Tracy (26). He earned extra points for the pole and most laps led during the race. Figge picked up an extra point for the improving the most positions, starting from dead last to finish eighth.
The field of drivers this season has eight rookies and nine veterans. Notable is the fact that Doornbos and Gommendy both finished in the top five, an accomplishment for drivers in their first race that has not been seen since 1984 when Jim Crawford and Emerson Fittapaldi finished fourth and fifth respectively.
The series moves down the freeway to Long Beach next weekend and then Houston before heading out to China for that country's first ever Champ Car event.