7 drivers entered, 5 remain in the hunt for next weekend’s NTT INDYCAR Series season finale. However, Will Power put some distance between himself and his counterparts by finishing 2nd in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland. His advantage over Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon grew to 20 points ahead of each with 1 race remaining in Power’s pursuit of his 2nd career Astor Cup championship trophy.
“20 points, I would have taken it. Can’t complain,” said Power after scoring his 25th career NTT INDYCAR Series runner-up.
While Scott McLaughlin kept his dreams alive by making up 13 points on Power in the weekend that saw him not only win the pole, but to lead 104 of the 110 laps as well, he’s still a long shot in 5th by being 41 points back.
Some thought McLaughlin would allow Power by on the only restart of the race with 22 to go. I mean there was speculation in the last race that he allowed Josef Newgarden by for the lead to win at the World Wide Technology Raceway.
“I don’t think he gave it up,” Power said. “He didn’t make it easy, and he didn’t make it up with — that his best buddy, so he is probably going to do that. I think Scott just got a good run on him. I mean, Joe has got a good run on him there. Obviously, 10 points, 11 points would make a big difference. You wouldn’t be having to finish third. You would have been having to finish eighth or something.”
With Power lined up behind McLaughlin and more to gain than McLaughlin, was there ever a thought of this being the time to let Power by?
That wasn’t a good time however. Turn 1 was dangerous and with a hard charging Pato O’Ward with nothing to lose and everything to gain behind, if they did a swap then it could have in turn allowed O’Ward by as well.
“I get it from the standpoint that Scott is in,” said Power of the situation . “I’ve been there, and you don’t want to give up a win.”
What about in the final laps? A Power win would have gained him 10 more points and almost out of reach in Laguna Seca. That would have put him 31 points up instead of 20. Instead, they remained status quo. McLaughlin crossing the finish line in 1st, Power in 2nd.
“Absolutely. I was on the radio asking for it,” Power noted. Even Scott Dixon expected it to happen.
“I think I called it with ten laps to go, I was surprised they haven’t swapped yet,” he said.
“I don’t know. Yeah, 10, 11 points would be great, Power chimed it. “I think we go in there pretty confident that we could get it done. 20, it’s still a big fight, yeah.”
McLaughlin said it was all circumstantial.
“No, they said that they would — at the end of the day it was completely circumstantial,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious what position you’re in if you do need to give up. I told Will before the race that I would fight him cleanly, and I think that’s all he expected.
“I didn’t know he was asking for team orders, a switch or whatever, but I can’t control that. I just drove my race, and I’m a team player. I’ll do whatever I need to do, but for me I think the best thing we could do was win the race, either car. I think that’s exactly what happened.”
Still, Power can make things difficult next weekend in a sense that he now has 5 top 6’s, including 4 on the podium in the last 6 starts. That’s why this was a championship type of day for him.
“It was a great day, obviously. Good finish,” Power said. “Could have been much worse, I think if Lundgaard didn’t get us at the beginning there on the east tire. So spent the day kind of closing that gap to Scott that we got when we were stuck behind cars.
“Solid day. Still a very tough fight. We’ve got to come up to Laguna seriously ready. Yeah, as you know, in this series it switches incredibly quickly. Got to be smart.”