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Not as easy as it looked, says Power

25 July 2011

Will Power might have looked like he was hanging back, biding his time waiting for a risk-free moment to overtake polesitter Takuma Sato, and then controlling the race from there on - but he insisted that it wasn't nearly so calm and easy from the vantage point of the cockpit of the #12 Verizon car.

"It was so bloody hard there at the end with Helio and Dario pushing me along," he said after the race. "I just couldn't gap them ... When I came out I had on reds [soft tyres], I thought I have to look after them so I will really be gentle. Then Helio was right there and I'm like, 'Man, I've got to go.' I had to ask Tim [Cindric, his pit crew chief] if that was for the lead. He said, 'Yeah, go!' I just held on there at the end."

Winning was definitely crucial to Power in terms of regaining his momentum after a frustrating month and two consecutive DNFs. "There's no better way than to come back with a win like this," he said.

Behind him was his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves, but if there was any idea that Helio might hold back and dutifully act as the protective wingman holding off Dario Franchitti in third place, no one had told the Brazilian.

"I wanted to win so bad but at the end of the day, after the season we've been having this is like a victory," he enthused after the race. "Once we were up there, it was just like good old times. I was really catching Will. I don't know what happened. He had a pretty good lead. As soon as we put the reds [soft option tyres] on, I was just going for it, going for it. Suddenly he just started locking the wheels and stuff like that.

"I had one or two chances, but it's one of those things. I wanted to pass, but the way my season was going, it was hard," he continued. "He was just smart enough to be in the right place, use the 'push to pass' to not give me a slight chance. With that, he was able to win a very good race."

The secret to Helio's success here at Edmonton - which last year saw his apparent race victory taken from him by a highly controversial penalty for blocking in the final laps - was a peerless performance by his pit crew during the tyre and fuel stops.

"We had awesome pit stops and everything went smoothly," he said. "Once we had good balance in the car, then I knew what I needed to do. I was able to avoid a lot of accidents."

Dario Franchitti had to settle for third place at the chequered flag, and all things considered it was probably as good as he could have hoped for. "It could have been better but Will and Helio drove clean races. I think the Target car was quicker but they had the track position and they didn't screw up," he said. "I was going as quick as I could behind Helio but he was very strong on the brakes right behind Will.

"The EJ incident could have really screwed the whole thing up, so I am pleased with my finish," he admitted. He had a ringside seat for EJ Viso's lunge into the turn 5 hairpin that ended up wrecking Scott Dixon's car: "I thought he was way too far behind the guy in front of him to make a move, and sure enough he speared into him [Dixon]. I was very lucky there because I clutched it and I waited for somebody to ram me. I got very lucky at that point in the race!"

Dixon, who ended up with a badly damaged radiator that took five laps in the pits to repair, was understandably not happy with Viso.

"I'm not sure what Viso was doing but he took us out and almost took Dario out as well," said the Kiwi. "It was one of those deals where I could see it happening in my mirror but couldn't get out of his way. We just can't buy a break I guess."

"This for sure was not the result we could have achieved," said Viso in turn. "On one of the restarts I made contact with Dixon, which I feel bad about as he finished the race some laps behind. It was a pretty messy corner and I got too close and braked on the inside and we hit. I then lost a lap waiting to be restarted and from then on there was not much else we could do."

Oriol Servia was another driver left ruing what-might-have-beens, after being punted into the tyre wall by Mike Conway on lap 25. "It was probably the worst race I can remember in a long time," he said. "It seems like drivers are losing judgement lately and finally I see some penalties so that's a good start," commenting on the drive-thru penalty given to Conway for causing the accident.

"Conway came and apologized," Servia added. "He tried to find a hole; I left him space but we had cold tyres and I think he just carried too much speed and just hit me. It's unfortunate and it cost us a position in the point standings."

Tagliani was another driver penalised, for his role in the first lap accident in turn 5 that gave Graham Rahal a puncture that led him to go off the track and end up collecting Paul Tracy in a heavy crash.

"I thought we'd have a good run," rued Rahal. "I knew [our] car was fast and I was playing it safe on the first lap of the race. I was just inside of James Hinchcliffe, trying to protect the inside and Alex Tagliani was in too deep and just went straight through me."

"It was just congestion in Turn 5," the Canadian driver countered. "I was on the inside and trying to give as much room to the guys in front, but everyone was turning and I was trying not to touch anyone on the outside. I was looking on the inside when my wing touched Rahal's inside rear and cut his tyre, I guess."

Tagliani and Conway were the root causes of the only two full course cautions during the 80 laps, but there were other minor incidents through the afternoon that were handled under local waved yellows, such as Ryan Hunter-Reay punting polesitter Takuma Sato into a spin on lap 39.

"Everything was looking good and I was comfortable with the pace, said Sato. "But unfortunately Hunter-Reay hit me and damaged my car and put me a lap down. It was a long race after that and very difficult to stay motivated. I feel very bad for all the crew."

"It was totally my fault, and I apologized to Sato," confessed Hunter-Reay. "I apologize to the team too; we had a podium car for sure. But that's me going for it. I'd rather go for it in a race than sit in a line."

James Hinchcliffe got caught out by the fun and games of more experienced drivers behind one of the safety cars: "As everyone was lining up to dive into the pits everybody starting jacking around down at the hairpin, trying to brake-check everyone to get a good run into the pits to create a gap," he said. "But all it does is create an accordion effect. Unfortunately I didn't see it soon enough and got into the back of Danica. Because we are only going 10 mph at that point, as soon as I touched her, the car stalled."

Ana Beatriz was another to have a coming-together out on track. "Unfortunately, I got involved in an incident on the second re-start in turn 5 and broke my nose when we made contact with the right rear of Charlie Kimball's car," she said. "We had to stop to replace the nose and it took forever and the race was still green so we lost a lot of time."

Beatriz finished a very respectable 13th place despite the lengthy stop, two places ahead of Hinchcliffe. Between them in 14th was Marco Andretti, who hadn't been having the best of times at Edmonton.

"It just wasn't our day, we had some problems at the beginning," the Iowa winner explained. "We ended up stopped on the track for a bit and had some problems with the engine cutting out on the front straight. After that cleared we just didn't have the speed we needed and our strategy ended up on the wrong side of a couple yellows. Disappointing, but we'll march forward."

But at least a a few drivers were happy with how the day went - chief among them Britain's Justin Wilson, who has found success hard to come by for Dreyer & Reinbold this season but who rose from a disappointing 15th in qualifying to finish in fifth place by the end.

"I think we had a great race," said Wilson. "The Z-Line Design car was pretty quick and we were trying to pick our way through all the incidents out there and stay out of trouble. We had some good racing with Tony."

Tony Kanaan finished just ahead of Wilson, and - in something of a reversal of fortune on Saturday's qualifying session - was celebrating being the best finisher of the KV Racing Technology stable. "It was a good result, it was a good race and it's great for the [KVRT] crew," he said. "I feel bad for my teammates because I know that all the three KV cars were supposed to be on the top five."

He clearly particularly enjoyed being back up among the front runners where he felt he belonged: "If felt good being out there with those guys, you know, all guys that know what they are doing like Justin, Ryan and Dario. We had some great battles and finishing fourth after starting eleventh and on top of that having a bad pit stop is pretty rewarding, especially considering that I got back to fourth spot in the championship."

Kanaan's fourth place finish came at the expense of Ryan Briscoe, who had been running in that position until the penultimate lap when he suddenly had to make a dive for pit lane for a splash-and-dash.

"We didn't get a full fill on the yellow stop so we ran short on fuel and had to pit at the end," he explained. "We really needed a yellow flag to make it and we just didn't get it. It's too bad ... . We had some awesome battles with Helio and Wilson. It's just a little disappointing that we had a top-five car but we finished 10th."

And overall, the new Edmonton circuit layout seemed a hit with the drivers, even if Justin Wilson admitted that "I prefer the old one because it was a driver's race track, a lot more fun to drive."

Franchitti was in some agreement with Wilson. "[The new layout] certainly produces more passing than the old track, but it's maybe taken some of the character out," he said. "There's some really fast ... very aggressive corners. You had to really hang on. This is more of a technical track the whole way. Almost as physical, though, because it's so easy to make a mistake you're on edge the whole time.

"I thought the infrastructure, the grandstands and everything offered great viewing points it looked like for the fans. The promoter did a good job of that. Looked like a good crowd, as usual, enthusiastic.

"I'd like a couple of changes: a slightly longer straight and a fast corner," suggested Franchitti.

"Maybe Turn 13, instead of where it is right now, it could be a little bit further," added Castroneves. "And instead of a first gear, it could be something more with a second or third gear even. So that means you do create opportunities for passing, you know. That would be the only thing, I guess."

"We do tend to moan as drivers!" admitted Franchitti light-heartedly as the post-race press conference wrapped up, and the IndyCar road show headed on to Mid-Ohio for the next road course race in two weeks time.

Full race results and positions available.


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