Rear View Mirror: Championship race feeling the Power

Updated: 

Will Power couldn't have asked for a better restart to the second half of the Verizon IndyCar Series 2016 season.

Not only did he dominate the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, but he also finished 12 spots ahead of Team Penske teammate and points leader Simon Pagenaud. The second consecutive win for Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, shrunk his points gap to Pagenaud from 117 to a more manageable 81 with still seven race results remaining.

“I badly wanted to win another race, I needed that one,” said Power, who drives the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I was talking championship even before this race — there are seven races to go and we’re still in it.”

Going into the Road America, Power hoped to continue riding high after taking his first win in more than a year in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans on June 5. With completion of the June 12 Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway suspended to Aug. 27 after rain ruined the fun at the 1.455-mile oval, Sunday's KOHLER Grand Prix became the de facto start of the second half and gave Power a chance to get going with a bang on the fast Road America circuit.

With consecutive wins in his pocket, things seem to be falling into place for Power, who will carry considerable momentum as the Verizon IndyCar Series arrives at several tracks where he's excelled in the past. While he's struggled previously at Iowa Speedway coming up on July 9-10, the one street circuit in Toronto (July 15-17) and three road courses (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 29-31, Watkins Glen International on Sept. 2-4 and Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 16-18) in the next six stops after the Iowa Corn 300 have Power confident his climb up the points table will continue.

Power has three wins in the past six Verizon IndyCar Series races at Sonoma, and the GoPro Grand Prix offers double points again this year. All Power need do between now and then is make sure he's within striking distance when the season-ending event rolls around in mid-September.

“Things can turn around so quickly in INDYCAR,” said Power, who missed the 2016 opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, due to an inner-ear infection.

“There's nothing worse than going into the last race and not have a shot at it. We just have to keep moving forward and be there at the end.”

Daly challenges before equipment failure ends his day

While the result didn't reflect his performance, No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda driver Conor Daly continues to show strong pace and excellent race craft in his rookie season.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver crashed out of the KOHLER Grand Prix while running eighth with 11 laps to go after his car's left rear suspension broke as he braked for Turn 1. It ruined a solid performance and resulted in Daly being classified in 21st.

"It was nice to be consistently running up front and trying to chase down the Penske cars,” he said. “I guess these things happen, we just have to move on.”

A successful return to Road America

Road America and Verizon IndyCar Series officials didn't wait long to decide on a date for next year's appearance at the track, announcing minutes after the checkered flag flew that the next race will take place June 25, 2017.

Track president George Bruggenthies believes the KOHLER Grand Prix drew the largest attendance in track history, a major feat considering the facility's long history. The crowds and the exciting racing were easily two reasons why Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said the series couldn't be happier with the weekend.

“We're certainly looking forward to the Verizon IndyCar Series returning next year on June 25,” Frye said. “We can't wait to come back next year and do it again.”

From the fans