BALTIMORE (AP) — With a dominant performance in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, Will Power shaved Dario Franchitti’s lead in the IndyCar points race to five with three races to go.
At this point, it’s anyone’s title.
“I think with my experience with championships, I don’t think you’re ever safe,” Power said. “It’s possible to be caught; it only takes Dario to have a bad day and me to have a good day and I’m right there. Not that he’s had bad days — he’s finished the last two, I think, in fourth, and we have had very good days.”
Heck, Power didn’t just have a very good day Sunday. He had a fantastic weekend on a very difficult street course.
The Australian had the fastest time in practice then captured the pole before cruising to victory Sunday for his second straight win and career-high sixth of the season. He led 70 of 75 laps and topped second-place finisher Oriol Servia by 10.2096 seconds.
Tony Kanaan of Brazil was third. Kanaan lost his brakes during a practice run Sunday morning, soared over Helio Castroneves’ car and had to drive a backup.
Franchitti was fourth, Scott Dixon was fifth and Danica Patrick sixth. Patrick has three races left before dedicating her entire efforts toward stock car racing.
The first street race in Baltimore featured several tight turns, uneven terrain, bothersome chicane and narrow pit lanes situated in front of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The word most often used to describe the 2.04-mile course was “challenging,” and it was certainly that.
But hey, it was Baltimore’s first year at it, and the hope is that next year there will be improvements that will allow the drivers to better display their talent.
“If you ask race car drivers, we want longer flats and faster corners. That’s just our nature,” Servia said. “And honestly, if you ask what is a good track and what makes a good event, it’s a good, fast race track, because the fans come to see us do things that normal cars cannot do.”
During practice sessions and qualifying, the drivers expressed concern about the perilous turns that left little margin for error.
There were no crashes, but the race was not without incident.
The biggest mishap of the afternoon came on Turn 3 at the midpoint of the race. Seeking to turn on the inside, Ryan Briscoe clipped Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose car spun out upon contact. That created a logjam of 11 cars that forced rookie James Jakes out of the race.
“It was just a big mess,” Jakes said. “There’s nothing you really could do.”
Briscoe was penalized for avoidable contact and sent to the back of the pack for the restart.
Servia and Kanaan each made their final pit stop during the lengthy yellow-flag period that followed. That enabled them to stay within shouting distance of Power, but they didn’t have enough fuel to finish the job.
“I was hoping for another yellow at the end to maybe get him. If not, I knew it was his race,” Silva said.
Power wasn’t going to be caught. Not on this day.
“I was confident in the car,” he said. “I can’t say I even touched a wall. Nothing.”
And in the end, Power was the most masterful driver of all on an unfamiliar, demanding course.
“When I think back to all the new tracks that the series has gone to, I generally win, so it was a good thing for me,” he said. “First time I went to Vegas, I won. First time I went to Brazil, I won. First time here, I won. So it’s usually good for me to learn a track because we get on top of it quicker than most.”
Perhaps it won’t be as easy next year as defending champion — but don’t bet against him.
“He’s an amazing, talented driver,” Kanaan said of Power, who has 15 career wins and 27 top-three finishes in 85 starts.
Six of the 28 starters failed to make it to the finish. The first casualty of the day occurred when Sebastian Bourdais lost his gear box and had to withdraw.
Later, Marco Andretti withdrew because of mechanical breakdown.
“Frustrating day,” Andretti said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)