POWER COMPLETES WEEKEND SWEEP AT BARBER, WINS FIRST RACE OF 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- After sweeping to the PEAK Performance Pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy, Will Power was emphatic that this was a race he wanted to win ... badly.
Power, who also started on the pole in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park course, finished fourth last April. It cost him points in the championship race over the course of the 17-event season, and he believed he let it slip away.
So the Aussie put an exclamation point on the picture-perfect spring weekend with a wire-to-wire victory. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon was runner-up for the second year in a row and reigning series champion Dario Franchitti was third.
Marco Andretti, who wound up upside down on the first lap of the season opener two weeks earlier, finished fourth for Andretti Autosport and Oriol Servia continued to impress with a fifth place for Newman/Haas Racing.
I have got so much energy! That is one of the easiest races I have done physically.
Tony Kanaan advanced 18 positions to finish sixth and Helio Castroneves, the 2010 race winner, was seventh. Simon Pagenaud, who was filling in for the injured Ana Beatriz (broken wrist) came in eighth after starting 23rd. Simona de Silvestro earned her second consecutive top 10, while rookie Charlie Kimball recorded his first top-10 finish.
Also on April 10, Pole sitter Victor Garcia led all 40 laps to win the Firestone Indy Lights race at Barber Motorsports Park.
Driving the No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car, he led Andretti Autosport driver Stefan Wilson across the finish line by 0.3125 of a second. Peter Dempsey finished third and Jorge Goncalvez, who started 14th, was fourth.
DAY 3 NOTEBOOK:
GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA (Firestone Indy Lights) RACE NOTES:
It was an awesome day.
. This is Victor Garcia's first win in Firestone Indy Lights. Garcia's first win came in his second start.
. Team Moore Racing won its fifth race in Firestone Indy Lights. It has previously won with James Hinchcliffe (three times) and Pablo Donoso (once).
. Stefan Wilson finished second, his career-best finish in Firestone Indy Lights. His previous best finish was third at St. Petersburg in 2010.
. Peter Dempsey finished third, his second consecutive podium finish. Dempsey is the only driver who has finished on the podium in each race in 2011.
. Jorge Goncalvez finished fourth and Mikael Grenier finished fifth. Both are career bests in Firestone Indy Lights.
. Firestone awarded its Firestone Image Awards to #77 Conor Daly ($4000), #12 Juan Pablo Garcia ($2000) and #5 Stefan Wilson ($1000) for best representing the Firestone brand during today's race.
GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA (Firestone Indy Lights) POST-RACE QUOTES:
I am very happy and this was a great day for the #5 Andretti Autosport car.
VICTOR GARCIA (No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, race winner): "It was an awesome day. I kept seeing Stefan behind me and I knew we were going to have a debate. I knew if I didn't make a mistake, that I could win. This track is very difficult to pass on and I saw that Stefan was trying to overtake. I kept pushing, pushing and pushing and I am very happy that I didn't make a mistake at the end. Thanks to my crew, Firestone and my family. This is a great win for Team Moore after the season-opener in St. Petersburg. It is an interesting week because in St. Pete I crashed with Stefan and today we finished first and second. I am looking forward to taking this momentum to Long Beach."
STEFAN WILSON (No. 5 Andretti Autosport, finished second): "I am very happy and this was a great day for the #5 Andretti Autosport car. We qualified third and it was only three-hundredths of a second from catching Victor Garcia for the pole. Since qualifying was so close, I knew it was going to be a tough race. I tried all day and pushed 100 percent the whole way. They kept with me and pushed as hard as I did, we just came up a little bit short today. Next time, I am going to focus on qualifying and start up higher in the grid and set my pace in the race. Congratulations to Victor Garcia on the win today. I want to thank my team and all of my family."
PETER DEMPSEY (No. 36 Pulse/O2 Racing Technology): "This was a great finish after being so sick all week prior to today. I knew it was going to be a difficult race for me, but I had to keep my nose clean and bring the car home without getting into trouble. You never know where you can end up but it feels great to be on the podium. I want to thank the 02 Racing for all of their hard work and my sponsor Pulse."
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner): "I have got so much energy! That is one of the easiest races I have done physically. I have been training really hard for the season and Scott Dixon was pushing me to the limit at the end. It was a lot of fun and I am really happy for the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. Leading the race from flag to flag just came down to getting the jump start and staying consistent the whole time with where I started. It came down to holding Scott Dixon off until the end."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished second): "It was a tough day for us. We cruised around and saved a bit of fuel and I gave it all I could with Will Power. I was trying to give as much pressure as I could on the restart with twenty laps to go and he just didn't give any. It was an overall good day for Target and we earned ourselves some points and this is where our season is started. I felt that during the restart, Will Power was in my line because there was rubber on the left. But he picked to be on the left at the restart and I feel that he can't have the best of both worlds. He said during the race that he didn't know it was going on, but I feel that Will should have been corrected for taking my line during the restarts."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Clorox, finished third): "I was making good use of the side-by-side restarts. We had some good racing on the restart. That's what we got to play with now and we've got to find ways to make positions, or not lose positions on those side-by-side restarts. We did a good job today making positions and making things happen. I'd gone a bit longer on a tank of fuel than the guys we were racing against, and still keeping the same pace. From seventh to third, not a bad day for the Target team and we'll take it."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom, finished fourth): "It is easy to manage a race pace wise at a place like this and protect yourself from getting passed, but we hung on and tried to get positions when we could on the restarts. The name of the game is to stay safe and avoid being taken out. It was kind of a crap shoot, but we tried to take advantage of it today. We will see what the rest of the season has in store for us."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing, finished fifth): "It was an exciting race. It's great to finish fifth for the Telemundo team. We had a top-10 finish last week and top-five this week. It's only the second race but we are making big improvements every weekend. It shows what a tremendous job Newman/Haas Racing does and how hard they work. We were consistently strong in each session we got to run and were up to third in the race at one point. You gain in some restarts and you lose in some. It was especially difficult when you were on black Firestone tires and others were on 'reds' and were passing you but I think that makes the race more exciting for us and the fans. It's a bit of a chess game. There were many starts and restarts that it's almost impossible to recall what happened in all of them. It was fun to race with TK (Tony Kanaan); we've been racing together for many years. He is a tough competitor but he is clean. I knew I had to do my job well because he was going to take any opportunity I would give him to pass me. I just had to focus on not making any mistakes. I am happy for Newman/Haas Racing. This result shows that all of the work the team did over the winter paid off. And a top-five finish is good for our new program with Telemundo. They already sent us a text about our finish so it's good to make them happy."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 24 Blazemaster/Ipiranga/DRR, finished eighth): "It was good fun and good racing. I want to thank everyone in the IZOD IndyCar Series for welcoming me so well and keeping life easy for me this weekend. I'm really happy to come away with eighth position. Fighting with Helio at the end of the race was something I really enjoyed. But more importantly, the Dreyer & Reinbold team did a fantastic job and gave me a great opportunity to showcase what I can do. I wish Bia (Ana Beatriz to recover quickly and be back in her car very soon."
DANICA PATRICK: (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com): "This is a frustrating way to finish what had been a decent race for us. We had a good car to start the race and our strategy helped put us in a good position for the finish, and then we decided to gamble on our last stop (by not taking tires). Sometimes those things pay off, and sometimes they don't, and today was one of those days."
MIKE CONWAY: (No. 27 Window World Cares): "I was just coming over the top of the hill at Turn 4 and lost the front end. The car got really light from the cars ahead, it just went straight and I spun myself out. I think it was Danica next to me and I cut across her path, so hopefully I didn't damage her race too much."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We had a good car. We made up a lot of spots on the restarts. We had the right strategy, and then we got one of the first penalties of the year from IndyCar. I was so much faster than everybody when I was on (Firestone) 'reds.' I just took my time getting through them. Then, with (Ryan) Briscoe, his team was telling him to let me go. I was right up his gear box and then I popped out on him. When he lifted, I thought he was giving me the corner and then he shut the door, so I had to get on the brakes. By the time we made contact, it looked bad because I was back already from being on the binders, but I thought he gave me the point."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "We had our share of issues during the race, but I feel really sorry about the spin. I don't know what happened. I just lost the back end going into turn 16. I was doing the same as usual and the back end just snapped out on me and I couldn't recover it. It was unfortunate, but we were really struggling on the reds, to keep the life in the reds. When we put on the blacks, the car was still a bit loose, so we put the reds on again and again went through the life of the reds and destroyed the front. I don't know where we could have finished, but I feel bad, I feel sorry, but we have to turn the page and do it again in Long Beach. We had some of that happening in Sonoma last year where we were destroying tires quite heavily and maybe this is going to make us work on trying to save the tires a bit more and be better on the reds. It's going to be important during the season that our car is going to survive on the reds. At least we made some positions at the start. I was able to keep Helio behind me, which was a handful because I was so slow in the slow corners, where I couldn't rotate the car. The car was better on the blacks and we realized it would have been a better call to go with the blacks, but it was too late. Next week, I want to make sure we get that pole or get a good result at Long Beach. The next two races are really good races for us and, hopefully, we can do a good job."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Penske Truck Rental): "It was just a very frustrating finish to what could have been a great day. The Penske Truck Rental car was fast all weekend and we were looking forward to battling for the lead at the end of the race. (Ryan) Hunter-Reay was definitely going quick as he was on red tires and we were on blacks. I kept trying to give him room. It wasn't a passing zone where we were and he was just over aggressive and drove into us. It's really disappointing, but we will be back strong next week at Long Beach."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing): "Every restart was an incident and on most of them we took advantage of it because we were well positioned and the car was good too so we could take advantage of it. Unfortunately, there are still people out there, including Castroneves, that I don't think are getting the concept of double-file restarts, and he's acting like it's a single-file restart and having the entire track for himself. That hurt us badly on the last restart because he pushed me off the track into the grass and we lost six positions. But what I take out of here is that the ABC Supply car improved huge over last year and that was our primary goal. The final result is always the result of your work and I feel comfortable leaving here this year, much more so than I did last year."
This is a frustrating way to finish what had been a decent race for us.
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and Novolog Flex Pen): "It's a great day for NovoNordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. It was the first IZOD IndyCar Series race that I finished and I definitely learned my lesson from St. Pete. The guys did some great strategy on the pit wall. All I had to do was drive by people on the track. I did that and I was able to come home 10th. Points mean prizes at the end of the year and now we can build on this for racing my home race at Long Beach."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE ( No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): "We got off to a rough start. I was hoping to not make too many rookie mistakes and on Lap 1 we went around (spun) and fell to the back but the team got me back on a great strategy; we were down to two stops and I think we were running pretty well. That restart bunched everybody up and we were on red tires and everybody else was on blacks so it was looking pretty good. We were looking at a shot of getting in or around the top-10. On the restart, I think Simona got into E.J. and that wasn't his fault but Day 1 of racing school you learn that when you are spinning you hit the brakes and the clutch and he just hit the gas. I went around the outside of him hoping he would just hit the brakes but he pinned it (hit throttle) and the back end whipped around and took us out. It wasn't his fault (that) he spun; he just put himself in a bad position and ended up taking us out too. It was an unfortunate day for the whole team. Newman/Haas deserved better than that today, Sprott deserved better than that today. Just keep you head up and move on to the next one."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "We got caught up in a couple messes and it was one of those instances where one things leads to another. My front wing got damaged on the first lap getting caught up with Matos; we had contact and then he spun around and I drove into him. So we had to come in and pit to change the wing under green. Then I was on primary tires and Graham Rahal was coming into (turn six) with a head of steam and clipped my right rear tire and spun me around, but luckily I was able to clutch it and keep it running. From that point on it was time to fight through it and we got fortunate with the way the last round of pit stops worked and got our lap back and were on the same sequence as a bunch of cars. Then we were able to fight back in the National Guard car and pick up three or four more spots there towards the end, and I was pretty pleased with that given that this is one of the tougher tracks for passing. We made a lot of improvements over the weekend, and there were some things during that race that could go our way next time."
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, finished sixth): "I want to thank the whole GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus team. What a great job...great pit stops. I also want to thank Takuma. He helped me out a lot with his setup. It is great to have someone who really cares and respects you. Thanks to him and his engineer we were able to turn the situation around and we ended up pretty strong. So, I am very pleased. We are just building it up here, and we are eventually going to get it."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske, finished seventh): "It was a good day and a good start on our first road course race of the season. We had our challenges this weekend in the AAA Insurance car as we were chasing the set-up quite a bit. I am still adjusting to these double-file restarts. I made a mistake on one of them and I had better learn them pretty quickly if I want to get the results that we deserve. My Team Penske crew gave me great work in the pits today and I have to say great job to Will for bringing a victory home for the team."
E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "To be honest it's been a very tough start to the season. It's amazing, the potential we have as a team, but unfortunately our luck has not been the best. Today, the race started well. The car setup was very complete and we were working on a fuel mileage strategy, which we were able to achieve without any issues. I was able to gain some places on the restarts and make a few passes on track. However, in corner five I got hit from behind and spun round. James Hinchcliffe had nowhere to go and caught the rear of my car when I had stopped, which ended my race. I know that good races are coming hopefully starting next weekend at Long Beach.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America): "We had a good race car today. There was a lot of carnage out there today after the restarts. I Iost five positions after one restart, but was able to make it back up. I would have like to catch Charlie Kimball, who finished 10th, but I ran out of laps. I really believe the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car could have finished seventh or eighth today. I thought the Dale Coyne Racing crew did an excellent job on our pit stops."
JAMES JAKES (No. 18 Acorn Stairlifts): "It was a hot day out there," said a smiling Jakes. "I made a little mistake at the beginning of the race and lost a lap. But I was confident that the No. 18 Acorn Stairlifts car could make up that lap. Then after my second pit stop my engine caught on fire. It's a shame because the crew gave me a really good car this weekend."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "It was a frustrating and disappointing race. For sure it was also exciting at one point. I overtook some cars on the track and gained some positions on the restart, so we were looking strong at one stage. Unfortunately, I had a couple of incidents which damaged my car and forced me to come back to the pits, also at the end of the race we had an issue with the refueling on a pit stop and I had to come back to the pits again. In the end everything did not work out as we planned, but there were some positive things today, which hopefully we can carry over to next week.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be televised live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is at the streets of Long Beach on April 17. It will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.