Will Power held off Scott Dixon on a restart with 16 laps left to win the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for the second year in a row.
Dixon, who was 3.3709 seconds behind in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, has the distinction of being the race runner-up all three years (twice to Power and in the inaugural race to Helio Castroneves). He broke a tie with teammate Dario Franchitti with 27 second-place finishes on the all-time list and is one behind Castroneves.
Castroneves, the pole sitter, finished third to maintain the points lead in the young season and continue his resurgence after a disappointing 2011 season. He held off Graham Rahal in the No. 38 Service Chip Ganassi Racing car by 0.2245 of a second.
Simon Pagenaud finished fifth and James Hinchcliffe was sixth after starting on the front row for the first time in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. Mike Conway, who provided A.J. Foyt Racing its best non-oval starting position (fourth) since 2007, finished seventh.
Also on April 1, Sebastian Saavedra outpaced the 15-car field in efficient manner in the 40-lap Grand Prix of Alabama. It was the fourth victory in the series for Saavedra, driving the No. 27 Team AFS car, and first this season.
Tristan Vautier, driving the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car and the race winner at St. Pete, retained the series championship points lead by finishing second. Saavedra is eight points behind heading to the street course race at Long Beach on April 15.
Esteban Guerrieri, who started fourth in the No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, advanced to claim a podium finish.
DAY 3 NOTEBOOK
Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr was the grand marshal of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and waved the green flag to start the race.
"It was quite a thrill to be in that flagstand," the Alabama native said. "It was unique."
Before the pre-race festivities, Starr met with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and IZOD IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt. Starr won the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 1967 and Foyt won the Indy 500 three months later.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato is conducting a "With you Japan" Charity Design Contest.
The winner's design will be featured on his Indianapolis 500 helmet. The winner will be chosen April 6. For more information, head to http://www.withyoujapan.org/en/activity/
Team co-owner Bryan Herta said Round 1 of qualifications was an opportunity for another 15-minute practice session for the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA car driven by Alex Tagliani.
The team was assessed a 10 grid spot penalty because of an unapproved change of the Lotus engine following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25.
"We knew we had a 10 grid-place penalty, so we just concentrated on continuing to do some race work with the car," Herta said. "We feel like we made some improvements."
Tagliani, who qualified 23rd, joined Oriol Servia on the back row. The Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team also was assessed a 10-spot penalty for an unapproved engine change following practice March 30. It was moot as Servia qualified 26th. Tagliani pulled off course in Turn 4 of Lap 1 of the race. "The engine just died," he said.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE NOTES:
· Will Power won the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for the second straight season after starting ninth.
· It is Power's 16th career Indy car victory and his first victory of 2012. Power has never finished outside of the top-four in three starts at the track.
· Team Penske remains the only team to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park. It has won the last two years with Will Power and in 2010 with Helio Castroneves.
· Scott Dixon finished second for the second consecutive week. It is Dixon's third consecutive runner-up finish at Barber
· Dixon clinched the two bonus points for the most laps led for the second week in a row.
· Helio Castroneves finished third, his third top-10 finish at Barber in three starts.
· Graham Rahal finished fourth, his first top-five finish of the season.
· Simon Pagenaud finished fifth, his best finish in an Indy car since he finished fourth at Edmonton in 2007.
· Sebastien Bourdais finished ninth, Lotus' first top-10 finish as an IZOD IndyCar Series manufacturer.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, winner Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama): "Yeah that was an awesome race. Tim Cindric kept putting me in such a good position so we could use our speed. That last restart was kind of hairy. I knew Scott (Dixon) was going to be really quick and hounded me for a couple laps there. It's good to get the Verizon 12 car in victory lane with a Chevy engine. It was awesome. (About pit stops): "(My crew was) on the money today. Without these guys, there's no way we could have won today."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, finished second): "I think today we did a good job. We got caught up there in some traffic in the pit, the pit sequence kind of got us there. All in all, Team Target did a fantastic job with Honda, I think we're starting to get on something with this car, so hopefully in the next few races we might be looking at the top spot on the podium. It was a tough race, and huge congratulations to Team Penske and obviously Will (Power), coming from so deep in the field to come back and get on top, it shows they have a strong team."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet, finished third): "First I want to thank AAA, Shell/Pennzoil, Verizon, SKF—those guys give us great support. To be honest it was very difficult. Those are my tires from qualifying. Unfortunately, I locked a little bit too much, I used them a little bit too much. I mean it paid off starting from the pole position, but certainly hurt me a little bit, actually a lot, in the race. That's why (Scott Dixon) was able to go off of Turn 2, good run but I was just staying in the middle and not do too much. But in the end, I thought it was a great battle, I think that's what [racing's about], and I want to apologize as well to (James) Hinchcliffe. My car was already bad with those reds and as soon as we restarted the race it pushed so bad that we kind of squeezed him and I felt terrible. We were having a great race, hopefully we'll have a better one next time"
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda, finished fourth): "The Service Central Chip Ganassi Team did a fantastic job. We made no mistakes and that's what it's all about and at the end of the day we had a really solid finish. We move on from here on to Long Beach with a lot of confidence. We know we can run with these guys and we're going to try to do it again."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports, finished fifth): "P5 today is a really good result. We got caught up in qualifying, so we didn't get a good lap in. But I tell you today this car was probably the fastest one out there today. It's good to see that we can produce such a great job with a one-car team and to fight with the Penske and Ganassi teams. I'm very proud to be a part of this team. I have to thank the crew for doing great pit stops. They say you can't pass around here, but I have a few tricks I'm not going to tell anyone. It was a fun, physical race. I got held up by Ed Carpenter badly, that I know eventually cost me positions at the end. But that's racing. At the end of the day, I'm really happy with the result. With a sixth and fifth in two starts, I feel really confident going into Long Beach."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "The Go Daddy Chevy had a good pace, but I don't think we had the pace to run with Scott (Dixon) or Helio (Castroneves). We were running alright - pretty much on course for a third-place (finish). If we would have beat Helio out of the pits on that final stop then I just would have had to keep him behind me, which on this track isn't impossible. But that yellow came out and because of the way the time line works coming out of the pits they gave him the spot and again I got stuck on the outside for the restart. Graham (Rahal) got around me and that gave (Simon) Pagenaud the run and we lost two spots that we shouldn't have. It's pretty disappointing given where we started. I was hoping for a better result for the Go Daddy car but we brought home some points, we'll chalk it up to experience and move on to Long Beach."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, finished seventh): "Happy we finished in top 10 which is what we needed. Still struggling with certain level of grip out there. We're getting there in qualifying but we just need to work on long tire runs. Never easy on race weekends but we'll just keep clipping away at it. (About the start): "I was on outside of Scott (Dixon) and he clipped (Graham) Rahal and went wide. I was on outside and had to drift out on grass. As I pulled back in I got so much stuff on my tires, I couldn't get through Turn 2. So much understeer, would've run into people. I lost a bunch of positions but got a couple back. We just had to hang in there all day. Tough day."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/ Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished eighth): "I first need to say thank you to the crew and thank you for my first top-10 finish. It's hard to be happy with a top-10, but starting so far back and at some points in the race even further back, I think it was a positive that I was able to work my way back through the field. By the end of the race, I had one of the fastest running cars, so I think it was enjoyable to watch and for me to race. People race hard over here, but they were fair. I had many knocks and bumps, but the cars are so robust in this series that we can luckily get away with it. I enjoyed my day and thank my sponsors, BMC and Embrase and my team once again."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus, finished ninth): "It was a really good race. I honestly didn't believe we were going to hold off Justin (Wilson), (James) Jakes and (Dario) Franchitti and all these guys and race them this close because we know we're at a big power disadvantage. Every time we get in traffic, we get swallowed up like we don't exist, so I was a little down before the race. Expectations were not super high and it turned out extremely different. I was very happy with my car. Initially, the track was green enough that I could make moves on them, but when the other cars lost their tires, it really helped me put the moves of them. Our car held its tires very well and that put us in that position. We passed a lot of people and it was a pretty exciting day."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Clorox Honda, finished 10th): "It was a busy day and I passed a lot of cars. We lost some spaces on the first start and the last restart we pushed on the grass. No one was doing it intentionally. It's just people are trying to get out of each other's way and make some moves. We passed a lot of cars. That last yellow we didn't need. I think that is the best my car has felt through all of the practices and races and qualifying that we have had this year. So I will take that as a positive and that will give us some kind of direction going into Long Beach. I have never been so happy for a 10th place finish. There was some good racing though. We have some guys on new reds and some on used, and it made a big difference. Some comers some goers. There were some really good races out there today. If we could just figure out how to get race control to do something with the restarts. Hopefully it was a good day for the fans. There was a massive crowd and a lot of enthusiasm so it's cool."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Team Barracuda/BHA Lotus): "We took the green flag, went into Turn 1 and the engine just died. It seems to be a pretty heavy mechanical failure from what I understand. It's very disappointing for the Barracuda Networks and Bowers & Wilkins crew. What's sad is that we didn't get to use our red tires this weekend - we saved them all for the race and we didn't even have the chance to try one set of them this weekend. We made some pretty big improvements to the car and the reds are worth so much. Our whole strategy was to run reds all race and go as fast as we could. I think our car was decent but we're having a lot of problems right now with the engine."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "I'm pretty happy we finished the race. I think it's good for the team. We had a pretty solid car actually. Tire run was really good; tires didn't fall off too much. The good thing is that we finished and we can go to Long Beach with what we learned from this. We had a couple of boo-boos in the pits which didn't help us, but I think we had a solid car and drove pretty well. We really just have to take the positive out of this weekend and go even better next race."
E.J. VISO - No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Coming into the race I believed we would keep up with the pace that we showed in qualifying and in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the general pace of my car today was slower than the rest of the field. We didn't have a balance issue, but a pace issue and that cost us a lot of time. This is also a track that if you overheat the tires, push a little too hard, it will make you pay and that also happened. The crew did a great job in the pits, we just had a pace problem. The team is going to sit down and review the data and I am confident we will get everything resolved for Long Beach.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "We had a reasonable start. It's always exciting going through two or three corners side-by-side. I gained a few positions and the race settled down quickly. After the pit stop, we struggled with the balance of the car on the primary Firestone tires. As soon as I got back on the alternate Firestone's on the next stint, the handling was much better and I was starting to overtake people. We were on the way to recovering positions but then all of a sudden I lost power. It is disappointing to have mechanical failures in two consecutive races but there are some positives from the weekend. I hope in Long Beach we are able to be competitive again and have a strong finish."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog Flex Pen Honda): "That was a little disappointing. We had a decent car there for a while. The tires definitely made a big difference to the lap times and how the car handled. It's kind of a shame. We had a small problem with the car, which put us out of the race. We learned a lot… learned about how to go racing with these cars and engines. We'll be in good shape come Long Beach."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "We had a tough day out there today in the Hitachi car. We were gaining track position over the middle stint of the race but then we had some tire issues and it cost us position. It's great to see two Team Penske drivers on the podium and good job by Will (Power) to get the win. It's not the finish we were hoping for in our first race with Hitachi on board but I'm excited to get to Long Beach and go for the win there."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I don't know what happened today. We tried some things in the warm-up this morning and the car just wasn't happy. So we went back to the setups we used in qualifying. And that was pretty good yesterday, but the car had just a ridiculous amount of understeer today. I couldn't get through any corners. Then we tried to save fuel and turn it into a two (pit) stopper. But that didn't work either. It was just a long race. It wasn't much fun from where I was sitting today. Actually, this was the first day we have run here with so much sunshine and the track surface was very slick. The conditions changed a lot today, but some guys were able to figure it out. This new car seems to have a very small window to make it handle. I hope things go better on Wednesday when we test at Indy and the car will be better on the ovals."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I thought we had a quick car today. Qualifying up front would have made things a lot easier for us. I think we're learning and getting better every time though. Eventually we're going to get it all put together and be right up there. On the last run I lost a ton of grip in the Firestone reds and I couldn't carry any speed into the corners. Our reds were a little older than others and that hurt us."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): "The car was good, and we were really fast through the middle of the race - that was fun - and we were as fast as anyone. But, I got into (EJ) Viso and broke the upper-right segment of the front wing. I was a lot faster than he was and just got into the back of him. My guys did a great job in the pits, but after that, I didn't have the downforce on the front end that I needed. I did what I could on the late restarts, but that's why we dropped back at the finish."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "We were dynamite in that middle segment of the race. That was the only stint where we had a new set of (Firestone) reds, and it was fun being able to pass so many guys. We lost some spots in the pits, and then we just didn't have the rear of the car hooked up as well after the last restart (on Lap 74 of 90 laps). I had to crawl along those last few laps just to keep it on the track and not lose the back end."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "Barber tends to go to understeer so we tried to adjust to avoid that as much as possible, and we thought we'd have a neutral race car. In the end though, the rear tires wouldn't stay underneath me. I tried as hard as I could for as long as I could, but at the end of the stints it was pretty difficult. Particularly at the end of the race, we had a scuffed set of reds that that probably had about five laps too many on them and that ended up catching us out a little bit. But the good news is we made big strides in qualifying in the National Guard Chevy this weekend and we usually have great race cars at Panther. We're going to keep putting all the pieces together and we'll be all right."
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINT STANDINGS
Castroneves 86, Dixon 84, Power 77, Hinchcliffe 60, Pagenaud 58, Hunter-Reay 53, Rahal 50, Briscoe 46, Conway 38, Barrichello 37.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP
SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDINGS
GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA (FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS) POST-RACE NOTES:
· This is Sebastian Saavedra's first win of 2012 and his fourth career win in Firestone Indy Lights. Previous wins came at Iowa (2010), Toronto and Kansas (2009).
· Tristan Vautier finished second, his second straight podium in Firestone Indy Lights. Vautier, who won March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg in his Firestone Indy Lights debut, maintains the series point lead.
· Esteban Guerrieri finished third, his second podium finish of the 2012 season and eighth career Indy Lights podium.
· Gustavo Yacaman finished fourth, his 16th top-five finish in Firestone Indy Lights.
· Victor Carbone finished fifth, after starting the race 15th.
DAY 2 - SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2012
GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA (FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS) POST-RACE QUOTES:
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Team AFS, winner Grand Prix of Alabama): "I think we did an incredible job. The car was great in the beginning, we were able to manage a very good gap on Tristan (Vautier), and at some point we started saving tires. It didn't work very well. I think when I needed the tires to help me out when Tristan was getting close to me, they were not there. Fortunately it was only five laps to go. They threw me a curveball over there with that restart but I think we kept a very cool head, very calm, and we did it perfectly. I'm very happy, unfortunately my teammate is not at this point by my side, we should be 1-2 for Andretti Autosport, but very important points for the championship."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished second): "I'm quite satisfied about the race. Second is very good, of course, you love to win, but the Andretti guys were very strong in the open testing, we knew they were the ones to beat and we got very close at the end of the race. I tried at the start, when I saw Sebastian pulling away, to save my tires and try to do a move at the end and catch him at the end and it almost worked. Then we got the yellow flag, which cost us a few laps and it was quite close between us three on the restart, but then another yellow flag. So it was just you know, I have to thank the Sam Schmidt guys, it was a consistent car today. The traction and the rear grip stayed very good, and they did a really good job improving the car from testing here ten days ago. Very happy to be with Esteban on the podium again, it's tough competition this year, it's good, it's nice battles always, so really looking forward to the next race and working hard to be strong at Long Beach."
ESTEBAN GUERRIERI (No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished third): (About his pass on Carlos Munoz): "The pass was quite good, I managed to get on the inside, my wheel touched his sidepod, much like last year with Josef except this year it worked out. After that I had the pace, I had the pace at the beginning but I started to feel as I did the race distance in the test, I thought that the tires were going to go away very quickly, which they did, so I just tried to be tough at the end, and I knew it was going to be hard to overtake Carlos, that's why I wanted to do it early in the first lap, but I didn't manage to. (About final restart): "After the restart, I was going to try to risk a little bit if I could, but no chance. So in the end, a very nice battle between us three, and the boys did a very good job."
GUSTAVO YACAMAN (No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling, finished fourth): "It was OK. It was a really, really long race. We were concerned about the tire wear, so we raced really hard for the first two laps until everything got settled and then my focus was saving tires. Saving tires and keeping a pace. Mike Colliver, my engineer, did a really good job pacing me. When I was behind Oliver (Webb) and saw he was falling off, he had me push Oliver into making a mistake and letting me go by him. Once we got past Oliver, we got settled into a pace and we were catching the No. 9 car (Alon Day). Then we got a safety car. My tires were still really good, and I was able to get past Alon and then (Carlos) Munoz made his mistake. I was going to get by him anyway. My car was good towards the end and our focus on saving tires was excellent. I just need to thank my team. They did a really good job. It was a tough weekend for us, but with a cool head, we got a pretty good result."
VICTOR CARBONE (No. 3 MAV TV/Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished fifth): "I was able to make up a lot of ground in the first lap, then I was stuck behind Horto, and it took me several laps to get by him. While that was happening, the other guys built a huge gap. I was able to get closer to them on the yellow flag, which helped. I knew that tires were going to be an issue at this track, and I tried to be as smooth as possible to save my tires. The goal today with starting last was to get up in the field for points. I want to say thanks to the team. They did a really good job rebuilding the car after qualifying."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 at the Streets of Long Beach. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. on April 19. NBC Sports Network covereage of the Grand Prix of Alabama will be televised at 5 p.m. on April 5.