BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— After qualifying 11th at Barber Motorsports Park, Will Power had a large mountain to climb to secure a good result for his 2023 IndyCar championship hopes.
The two-time IndyCar Series champion did just that by finishing third in Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix.
While Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean fought for the lead, Power was closing in on the pair with his red sidewall alternate compound tires. The softer tires gave Power more grip, but the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet did not have enough grip to pass the primary compound-shod leaders.
“We had a very fast car,” Power said. “Any time we had clear air, we were pumping out some seriously quick times. During that last sequence is where we gained a ton of track position. I was able to do 67s in the last few laps.
“Yeah, using the tires up. As soon as I started getting Romain’s dirty air, he was doing a really good job of sort of saving fuel and also getting big exits, not making mistakes. I did everything I could to get to him and I just couldn’t get there.”
Power was originally on a two-stop strategy but converted to a three-stop strategy early in the 90-lap race. The two-time Barber winner was also a beneficiary of some good fortune as his second pit stop came shortly before IndyCar called a full course yellow for the stalled car of Sting Ray Robb.
After saving some fuel under the full course yellow, Power was able to push his final stop to Lap 66. Running in eighth place before the final pit stop sequence, Power was able to leapfrog Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Christian Lundgaard, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon to exit the pits in third place.
Try as he might, Power could not get around Grosjean after closing the gap from nearly 10 seconds to just over a second. The last stint was a case of controlled aggression. Instead of attempting a risky pass on older tires for second place, Power knew that finishing third would be much better for his championship hopes.
“I mean, I did everything to get to him and try to get him,” Power said. “Yeah, obviously there’s that fine line, right? You can overdo it, which I did have a big moment in turn two where I was opposite like that.
“So, yeah, I mean, just had to weigh that up. I simply couldn’t close that gap. Yeah, [Grosjean] was doing a good job. My tires were sort of used up. Dirty air. Tried with push to pass. Nothing I could do. That’s the most I could get out of the day. Extremely happy with it. Extremely, extremely happy to finish third.”
Last year, Power finished fourth at Barber en route to a championship run. Currently the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner is seventh in points, 26 behind points leader Marcus Ericsson who finished 10th.
“I would say in the start of my season, it’s just been pretty good,” Power said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a bad start of the season at all. I’ve been happy with all the results except for one, which was Texas. You can’t win ’em all. In fact, it’s very difficult to win one or two in a season. You just have to keep racking up good finishes.”