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Power surge claims Edmonton

27 July 2009


Will Power justified Roger Penske's decision, not only to sign him as stand-in for Helio Castroneves at the start of the year, but also to increase his schedule in the #12 by claiming a maiden IndyCar Series win on the runways of Edmonton airport.

On the pace from the start of the weekend, the Australian made the most of pole position, fending off team-mate and countryman Ryan Briscoe into the first corner and then hardly looking back as he dominated from the front. The victory was Power's first in the IndyCar Series, topping his previous best of second from Long Beach earlier in the 2009 season, and adds to the three wins he took in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series.

Justifying Roger Penske's decision, first to hire the out-of-work Australian as stand-in for Castroneves at the start of the year, and then to give him a five-race deal for the second half of the campaign, Power has finished sixth or better in every race he has contested this season.

"I'm very happy," he admitted, "The Penske Racing crew did an incredible job, and I'm really enjoying being a part of Penske Racing. I'm not stressed, I'm just taking it one race at a time and doing my best. I've got to thank Roger for the opportunity, but today was a great day."

Castroneves also got the better of Penske team-mate Briscoe, but had to deal with Ganassi's Scott Dixon, who appeared on course for runners-up honours before the Brazilian pulled off a classic scissors move as the pair lapped the errant Ed Carpenter. Although Power was in control throughout, leading 90 of the 95 laps, Castroneves shrunk a 6.79secs disadvantage to 4.58secs between passing Dixon on lap 85 and the race's only caution coming out on lap 93, preventing any potential shoot-out between the Penske duo as the contest finished under yellow.

"It's a shame that a 1-2-3 team finish slipped away, but our goal was to stop the Ganassi guys, and we were able to do that with Will's win," Castroneves claimed, "When Will came on board, we never had a doubt that he would be a top race contender, and it's great that his win keeps championship points from our opponents. It was a well-deserved win. Penske Racing did an incredible job."

Dixon, meanwhile, admitted that he had found the race to be 'one of the toughest we've ever run'.

"It's definitely a tough circuit, and it gets a lot tougher when you don't have the best car," he acknowledged, "We were definitely hanging on. We seemed to be pretty good for about half a stint on the tyres, but we just abused them too much. After that, it was just so slippery - I just had to hang on. But we gained some valuable points, and I think we've switched with Dario [for the championship lead]."

Briscoe, despite his final set of tyres coming on strong at the end, could not follow Castroneves past Dixon, particularly when the full course caution appeared with two laps to run following Tomas Scheckter's spin. Not only did the yellow frustrate Briscoe, but it also ensured that Power's Penske Truck Rental entry was greeted with the chequers while behind the pace car.

Briscoe thus took fourth, with Ganassi's Dario Franchitti an anonymous fifth as IndyCar's powerhouses returned to the front en masse. The Scot, however, wasn't too enamoured by the antics of Marco Andretti, who he felt had hindered his chances of making up ground on those ahead of him.

"It was a pretty average day for the Vaseline car, but I didn't get much help from Marco when I was coming up to lap him," he fumed, "I helped him when I was a lap down at Watkins Glen, and he totally screwed me for ten laps. I'll remember that one."

Paul Tracy took 'best of the rest' honours in sixth place, with Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson, Robert Doornbos and Marco Andretti rounding out the top ten. Doornbos' ninth place matched his season-best performance with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and enabled him to take the lead in the rookie of the year standings by three points over Raphael Matos, who finished ten laps down in 18th place.

Tony Kanaan, meanwhile, was lucky to escape with only second degree burns to his hands and face after the refuelling hose refused to shut off and sprayed methanol into the cockpit of his Andretti Green machine.

The fuel ignited, with Kanaan scrambling to extricate himself from the car as Team Penske and Panther Racing crew members doused the car with water in an attempt to stem the flames. The Brazilian, who left the circuit with both thumbs heavily bandaged, will be re-evaluated by Indy Racing League medical personnel this week before being given clearance to race at Kentucky next Saturday night.

"In the next couple of days, we will know the extent of the burns I have on my hands and face - I could be uglier than I am now!" he joked, "I am glad we are okay, as it was a scary moment. I have to thank all the other teams - Penske, the Panther boys and everybody who came to rescue me. It's pretty remarkable and its shows the strength of the IndyCar family. We are competitors over the weekend but, when somebody needed help, I got it. I am glad I am okay, but it seems like nothing can go right this year."


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