IndyCar » 08 April 2013
Hunter-Reay overpowers Penske to win in Alabama
"It was a tough start for us, we couldn't get in the right slot," Power explained, describing how his loss of positions at the start of the race had forced Penske to try some out-of-the-box thinking for both its drivers from that point forward. While Penske had switched Power to a two-stop approach "to hopefully get the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the podium," the team had gone to the other extreme for Helio Castroneves with a very early first-of-three stops on lap 17.
That meant that while Hunter-Reay resumed in second behind Power, Castroneves was now running up in third spot. Kimball and Dixon were next, after taking advantage of a small off-track excursion by Vautier following the pit stops. Once Power made his target distance and pitted the #12 fell back to fifth place and left Hunter-Reay back in the lead with his gap over Castroneves now a whopping eight seconds.
Having made his way up to seventh place after his disappointing qualifying performance, Dario Franchitti's race ended frustratingly on lap 43 when he cruised onto pit road with a terminal technical problem, ending his race early for the second event in succession - a dreadful start to the 2013 season for the Scot.
"We had a header problem on the [#10] and that led to some electrical issues that took out the clutch," he explained. "The guys worked real hard to get the car back together. Tough day for us."
Franchitti retired just as the next round of pit stops was under way, during which Takuma Sato hit problems when the #14 AJ Foyt car was a victim of electrical issues and struggled to get back underway again after taking on fuel, dropping him well down the running order.
"It was disappointing for the result but it was a good tough race that we fought really hard to the end," said Sato. "We had an issue on a pitstop where we lost many positions but after that we recovered and the final stop was great, so the boys did a great job."
Hunter-Reay was in surprisingly early this time in an attempt to cover off Power's two-stop approach with a super-quick second stop of his own, and the two were running dangerously close on track when Hunter-Reay came back out on track just behind the #12. But it was soon clear that the real Penske threat to Hunter-Reay's race was not Power but Castroneves, who had the measure of them both and passed the two cars ahead of him in quick succession despite sustaining contact with Hunter-Reay in the process.
"I had a little contact there with Helio," Hunter-Reay confirmed later, the donut from the sidewall of Castroneves' tyre clearly imprinted on the sidepod of the #1 Andretti Autosports car parked in victory lane. "I feel bad about it. Good thing nobody was affected by it."
After Kimball pitted from the lead it was a Castroneves/Power Penske 1-2 at the top ahead of Hunter-Reay, Kimball rejoining in fourth ahead of Scott Dixon who was followed in turn by Schmidt duo Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier. Power came in for his second stop on lap 60, in the meantime having successfully helped Castroneves build up a nine second lead at the front by backing up Hunter-Reay and the rest of the field. Power rejoined down in ninth place, but with no need to stop again before the end providing he could make his red-wall soft option tyres last the distance.
The others did have to stop again, and they started streaming in six laps later; and there was disappointment for the third Penske driver AJ Allmendinger, who accidentally killed his engine and dropped to 21st because of the time lost. t was his only significant misstep in what proved to be a highly creditable maiden outing in the IndyCar Series for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver.
Tagged as: Penske , Helio Castroneves , James Hinchcliffe , Ganassi , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Dario Franchitti , Michael Andretti , A.J. Allmendinger , Scott Dixon , Charlie Kimball , Takuma Sato , Barber , Andretti Autosport , Alabama , Tristan Vautier
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