LONG POND, Pennsylvania – The east end of pit road was the place to be at the conclusion of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
That’s where Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden were pitted next to each other. After Power edged Newgarden to the finish line by 0.5268 of a second to win the race, the party began at the front of the pits and made its way west toward victory lane.
Part of the celebration was about the team's 1-2 finish. But part of it was about the excitement of the final laps.
“That’s the kind of race fans want to see,” team owner Roger Penske said in the pits as the celebration subsided. “Every lap there was a race going on. At the end of the day to see them running like that – as fast as we’d run all day, wheel-to-wheel, the top six or seven cars within a second and a half – it was a great race.”
The victory was Power’s third of the season and 32nd of his career, but he had to overcome several obstacles to make it happen. Early in the race, the team replaced the front wing on the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Later in the race, the car’s rear wing was replaced.
At one point, he was a lap down before rallying to get back in front. Once he did, Power secured his second consecutive Pocono win – the first Indy car driver to do so at the track.
“It seriously means a lot,” he said. “I love racing on ovals. Every oval win I get, I really, really enjoy because we don't have many of them. To come back and win it again in a very different way this year, it was a crazy race, exciting to me. Feels fantastic to go back-to-back.”
Not only did Power’s crew have to change both wing assemblies during the race, they did it after toiling the previous day to replace the car’s engine.
“It was really a remarkable weekend,” said David Faustino, Power’s race engineer. “We had to change an engine yesterday, then the guys had to change both the front and rear wings during the race.
“It just goes to show that these 500-milers give some allowances. There’s time to come back from something. In a lot of races, having to change a wing is the end. It’s a testament to Will and to the team. Everyone stayed with it until the very end.”
As Power’s crew cheered the end of the race, Newgarden’s crew, led by strategist Tim Cindric and engineer Brian Campe, celebrated a runner-up finish that kept their driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead with three races remaining in the 2017 season.
“I don’t think I had enough for Will, to be honest with you,” Newgarden said. “I did everything I could to try to get by him. I felt like he was just a touch quicker than us, and that was difficult for us to overcome.”
In the end, this race was about a group of engineers, mechanics and strategists who fixed problems throughout the 500 miles and eventually persevered – by one-half second – over a group of co-workers.
During the final laps, the two teammates played hide-and-seek, with Power diving low out of Turn 2 to prevent Newgarden from attempting an inside pass.
“If I left that open, he would pass me and he would win,” Power said. “And he goes through any little gap, so I wasn't leaving any chance of him going all the way to the inside. I was very aggressive like that, and it paid off.”
The finish started a party at one end of the pits. As he watched his employees go from celebration to clean-up, team owner Penske had praise for Power’s strategist, Jon Bouslog, who improvised from the moment Power’s front wing failed, got Power on track alone and pushed him to a four-second lead at one point – all after falling a lap behind.
“I think that was their strategy, just keep filling it up,” Penske said. “They had to change the rear wing pod that got damaged. Then, when he was by himself out there, he was running 216s (mph) while the other guys were running 212s and got those four seconds, which was all he needed to make it happen.”
Power, Newgarden and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers take to another oval – Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis – for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline on Aug. 26. NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network have live coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
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