DETROIT — A risky strategy call paid off in the end for Will Power as he won the Detroit Grand Prix literally by the cords of his tires on Sunday.
Power, who chose to start on primary black tires and finish on the alternate, less durable red tires held off a hard-charging effort from Alexander Rossi down the stretch to take his 41st career IndyCar Series win and his first win of the 2022 season.
“Just drive it as straight as I could, no slip in it, ” Power said. “I knew if we could keep a reasonable gap to the end we’d be fine. It’s redemption from last year! Just hitting my marks and a good performance mentally from me. Left nothing on the table. If you don’t qualify on poles it’s not everything!”
No doubt about that as Power had to overcome an average effort in qualifying having started 16th. He chose to begin the race on the primary black tires, which proved to be far more durable than the alternate red tires in practice.
The caveat was that every driver must use the red tires at some point in the race. Pole sitter Josef Newgarden as well as Rossi opted to start on the red tires to get them out of the way. The strategy appeared to be working in favor of Newgarden, but the degradation of the red tires caught up with him as Power, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, and Kyle Kirkwood eventually tracked him down and to the lead from him.
Newgarden would not lead again as he would finish 5th. He was frustrated that the race was run without a caution until the final lap.
“It’s hard to not get annoyed,” Newgarden said. “When we need a race to go all green, it doesn’t. The other way same thing. We ran a good race, it just wasn’t the race to run today. We chose the strategy we did to avoid yellows. There were no yellows today. That’s IndyCar racing, I guess, you can’t predict it.”
Rossi chose a three-stop strategy, ditching the red tires as soon as the race started. This opened Rossi up to run at a blistering pace but would have to play catch-up for most of the race.
However, with Rossi taking one extra pit stop Power was able to open up a large lead with Dixon and Palou switching to red tires on the second stint. That ended up holding up Rossi a bit.
Power led by as many as 21 seconds but the time the final round of pit stops came around on Lap 47 for Rossi. Power, on the other hand, had to stretch his second stint to the brink due to the fact he still had to run the red tires. The goal was to run as little laps as possible on the reds.
It ended up being 20 laps, a long time to run on tires that have typically gone away after eight to 12 laps.
Power had a 16-second advantage over Rossi after pitting on lap 50. Dixon was in tow in third, no longer a factor in the race for the win.
Power nursed his ever-deteriorating tires for the final 20 laps all while Rossi slowly but surely reeled in Power down to the final lap. He had one-second to spare as he crossed the line ahead of Rossi on the final lap.
“One more lap would have been interesting,” Rossi said of the duel to the end. “Gotta give credit to the 12-guys, doing that was amazing.”
Rossi, though disappointed to not get the win, is uplifted by the progress made by his Andretti Autosport team after a 5th place finish in the Indianapolis 500 a week earlier.
“We’re finally executing our potential. Two weeks in a row the team has executed in big moments. Now we go to Road America, where we’ve had some success. We’re here to win.”
Power’s win is his first win since his win in the July Indianapolis Grand Prix on the IMS road course last season. It also gives him the lead in the championship standings over Marcus Ericsson who finished 7th in the race. Finally, the win is the 100th win in the NTT IndyCar Series for a Chevrolet-Illmor-powered car.
The race itself also marked the last to be run on the Belle Isle street course by IndyCar. The plan is to move the race back to the downtown Detroit street circuit from the CART days of the NTT IndyCar Series.
Looking ahead, IndyCar drivers will turn right around again as they head west to Road America in the hills of Wisconsin next Sunday, Jun. 12.