Power charged from 16th to victory on Sunday to cap off the Belle Isle era with a Team Penske win that moved the Australian back to the IndyCar points lead.
Power passed teammate and pole sitter Josef Newgarden on lap 14 and never looked back, leading 55 of 70 laps as he found himself in “the zone”.
“It’s hard to get to this place. I used to go there often when I was younger,” says the 41-year-old. “It’s just one of those areas where everything clicks so well, you’re 100% in the middle, it’s that flow state. Hard to explain. But I was in that state a lot for qualifying, I was doing pretty ridiculous laps. That was the race for me. In a really good place.
Power held off Alexander Rossi in the closing rounds – extending Rossi’s losing streak to almost three years – for his first win of the season. The three Team Penske drivers have won seven IndyCar races this season.
Power controlled the first race of the Belle Isle double a year ago until a late warning brought out the red and then his car couldn’t start for the finish. He went from a potential win to a 20th place finish and hasn’t let go since then.
This year’s Belle Isle finale was just an IndyCar race. The event will return to its original downtown street course layout in 2023.
Power’s victory was a celebration for Chevrolet, the race sponsor, and its headquarters stands on the Belle Isle course. It gave Chevrolet its 100th win since returning to IndyCar competition in 2012, and Power said he has 26 of those wins, including an Indianapolis 500 win and an IndyCar championship.
And it was, of course, a celebration for team owner Roger Penske, a longtime Detroit resident and race promoter. Team Penske picked up a second victory less than 90 minutes later when Joey Logano won the inaugural NASCAR Cup race in St. Louis.
For Power, the 41st victory of his career moved him closer to Michael Andretti for fourth place.
Rossi, who confirmed this week that he will move to Arrow McLaren SP next season, used a three-stop strategy to rally from his starting 11th place and race through the field to battle for victory. But Power, who started 16th, had already taken control of the race and Rossi could only try to close the gap.
Although Rossi closed in as the two riders faced traffic, Power beat him to the finish by 1.0027 seconds. Power won for the third time in Detroit.
“I think one more lap would have been really interesting,” Rossi said. “We are ultimately just performing to our potential.”
Scott Dixon finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing and followed by poleman Josef Newgarden of Penske.
McLaren’s Pato O’Ward was fifth, defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou of Ganassi was sixth and followed by teammate Marcus Ericsson, winner of the Indianapolis 500 last week.
Kyle Kirkwood was looking for a huge double-serve weekend in Detroit and was on pace to achieve it – he was fastest in the first IndyCar practice – until he injured his right hand in a crash on Saturday morning.
Despite the injury, Kirkwood was part of the winning IMSA GTD sports car for Vasser Sullivan Racing in Saturday afternoon’s race. But there is no power steering in IndyCar and AJ Foyt Racing had to make several changes to get the rookie to handle the car.
Kirkwood was managing it on Sunday until he lost control of his car on cold tires to end his weekend.
“It’s super disappointing,” Kirkwood said. “It’s all up to me, just a big mistake on cold tyres.”
Kirkwood this week was announced as Rossi’s replacement next season at Andretti Autosport.
A lackluster start to the season was made worse for Graham Rahal when driver error knocked him out in Detroit just two laps from the race. Rahal finished last in the 26-driver field and is coming off 14th at the Indianapolis 500 last week.
He said he bottomed out at turn two in what Rahal considered “an unusual mistake”.
“I had a great moment and brushed against the wall,” Rahal said. “It’s an all-time low for us as a team and for me to make mistakes like that doesn’t help. Need to hit the reset button.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver earned a 14th from rookie Christian Lundgaard and a 15th from Jack Harvey.
IndyCar races Sunday at Road America in Wisconsin. Palou won the race a year ago, and Road America was the site of Rossi’s last win of 2019.
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