“The only way it feels different is you’re in the lead, you should win it,” Hunter-Reay explained. “You’ve got the pressure. You’re in the lead. Champions do not give up the lead, they win the race. That was the biggest pressure about it. That’s how I felt about the race car, too. When you have a car capable of winning, you don’t give that opportunity up because they don’t come very often.
“Those two together, that’s the pressure. Champions don’t give up the lead when they’re in it. They seize the moment and make the most of it. It’s a good pressure, though. Last year we were under much more pressure than anything I felt today, which helps. Having gone through the stress of fighting a championship helps on days like today.”
Saturday’s contest featured some fierce racing including the start when cars spread out three-wide entering the uphill turn one. Graham Rahal ran into the back of Oriol Servia which pushed his car into Power’s Verizon machine forcing it into the grass. Power went from second to eighth because of the incident so Team Penske attempted to turn it into a two pit-stop race.
That strategy would ultimately put Power back in the lead but for just nine of the 90 laps. He would go on the finish fifth.
“It was a tough start for us, we couldn’t get in the right slot and then committed to a different strategy to hopefully get the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the podium,” Power said. “We thought we had a good plan and just needed a yellow at any point after Lap 31. Unfortunately it didn’t come and we fought for the fifth place finish. It isn’t exactly what we wanted to get out of the weekend but is still a good points day and gets us closer to the top.”
The race was slowed by just one yellow flag from Laps 2-5 for debris that came off James Hinchcliffe’s car. When the safety crew attempted to tow the car back to pit lane the rear wheel came off the car so IndyCar officials decided it was best to leave Hinchcliffe parked in a safe runoff area of the race course.
That is where the driver that opened the season with a victory watched the rest of the rest as a stranded spectator.
“I wish I could have taken a nap, but these race cars are going around making all this noise – it’s really rude of them,” said Hinchcliffe, who actually got out of his car and stretched on Lap 75. “Sitting in that one position. Normally you’re working in the car. We got hit on Lap 1 and when we got the call for one to go (for the green flag) the wheel came off. I was hoping they were going to let us tow back and throw a new one on because nothing else was bent.
“But you dig yourself in a hole; qualify back there and these things happen. It’s a weekend to forget. We just have to come back stronger and get the GoDaddy car back on the podium.”