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Will Power holds on to win Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Will Power holds off hard-charging Simon Pagenaud for his second Long Beach victory.

April 15, 2012|By Jim Peltz
  • Driver Will Power takes his No. 12 Verizon car through a series of sharp turns on the street course Sunday during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Driver Will Power takes his No. 12 Verizon car through a series of sharp turns… (Richard Vogel / Associated…)

This year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach perhaps was best summed up by James Hinchcliffe, who finished third, when the driver was asked to describe the IndyCar race:

"I don't know where to start," he said.

Indeed, in a race that at times bordered on chaotic because various pit-stop strategies, penalties and accidents kept shuffling the leaderboard, Australian Will Power emerged with his second Long Beach victory.

Power, who won the race on the city's ocean-side streets in 2008, was running low on fuel and had to slow slightly in the closing laps Sunday but held off a charging Simon Pagenaud.

Then, after taking the checkered flag, Power had to walk to Victory Lane after his cool-down lap because several cars behind him crashed in the final turn of the 1.97-mile, 11-turn course, blocking the track.

And Hinchcliffe finished third only because his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who actually crossed the finish line in third, was penalized for colliding with Takuma Sato on the final lap, ruining Sato's bid for a top-three finish.

It was that kind of day. But Power, who drives for Team Penske, wasn't complaining.

"This was a very sweet victory," Power said, noting that he had started on the Long Beach pole in 2009, '10 and '11 but failed to win each of those years. "It frustrated me," he said.

Tony Kanaan finished fourth, J.R. Hildebrand was fifth and Hunter-Reay — who won the Long Beach race in 2010 — finished sixth after incurring his penalty. Sato was eighth.

It was Power's second consecutive win — he won two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. — and Penske has swept the first three races of the year. Power teammate Helio Castroneves won the season opener atSt. Petersburg, Fla.

Pagenaud (pronounced Paj-eh-node) was about five seconds behind Power with five laps left in the 85-lap race. As Power eased up on the throttle to conserve fuel, Pagenaud slashed Power's lead to less than one second but ran out of time.

"I just needed one more lap," Pagenaud said. "I didn't have the opportunity [to catch him]. At the end of the day, I'm really happy with second."

Power, 31, said, "We saved enough fuel to push [it] the last two laps. I was running as hard as I possibly could."

Power also overcame a major penalty. He was one of 11 drivers using Chevrolet engines who were docked 10 starting spots because Chevrolet, which is new to IndyCar this year, made an unapproved engine change in their cars.

So Power started the race 12th despite qualifying with the second-fastest speed in the 26-car field. Dario Franchitti and rookie Josef Newgarden, using Honda engines, started first and second.

Newgarden tried to pass Franchitti, the reigning Izod IndyCar Series champion, on the outside in the first turn of the first lap. But Newgarden went too wide, hit a tire barrier and then the wall, ending his day. Franchitti finished 15th.

"Maybe it wasn't the right move," Newgarden said. "I thought I had a good run on him."

A more frightening accident occurred on Lap 22 when Marco Andretti slammed into the back of Graham Rahal's car, sending Andretti briefly into the air and then into a tire barrier. Rahal finished 24th and Andretti 25th.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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