Will Power sat down at the podium, smiled and said, "Good day."
The Australian meant it as a greeting, but he most definitely had a good day.
Power started up front and never relinquished his spot to win the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham on Sunday, capturing a race that escaped him last year and doing so without a misstep.
“I can’t think of a race where I’ve been so cool, so physically fine and where I had everything go so right,” Power said, adding that maybe last year at Sonoma was comparable.
Power extended his wire-to-wire lead enough for some comfort in the final laps and finished 3.38 seconds ahead of Scott Dixon, while Dario Franchitti was third on the 2.38-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park.
Power became the first IndyCar driver to stay up front for the distance since Franchitti did it at Sonoma in 2009.
Power dominated in practice and qualifying rounds the past two years at Barber, and stressed how badly he wanted to win after a pit strategy backfired and cost him the lead in 2010 — and perhaps the IndyCar points title.
“It’s just satisfying not only to get a win here, because I felt we should have won last year,” he said. “We had such a good car, and we didn’t get it. I was very determined to get it this weekend.”
IndyCar’s second race since moving to the double-file restart helped produce plenty of thrills — along with six full-course cautions. Six drivers were knocked out of the race by contact, including Ryan Briscoe, who started in second place.
But all the trouble remained safely behind his teammate Power, and so did the other drivers.
“It was one of the most relaxing races I’ve ever had,” Power said. “I was just really cruising.”
It was Dixon’s second straight runner-up finish at Barber. Power never gave him an opening on the narrow track.
“I think our car was a little better (than Power’s) for the first 15 laps,” Dixon said. “But it’s a track where if you’re racing a car that’s within a few 10ths of the speed you can run, it’s almost impossible to pass unless the guy makes a mistake. You try and crowd them as much as possible, and that’s what we did for the first 20 laps, it just wasn’t enough. It’s frustrating.”
Dixon also wasn’t happy about Power’s positioning on the restarts, saying he squeezed him by crossing the center line. Staying in your lane was emphasized in the pre-race driver’s meeting.
“If you look at the restarts, I’m pretty much on the grass on most of them,” Dixon said. “Especially the first two were really bad. So he’s even over the center line, on the right side of the center line. It was a disaster waiting to happen.”
Power said Dixon showed his displeasure by taking “a big weave at me.” Power returned the favor, but didn’t concede he did anything wrong.
VETTEL WINS F1
Sebastian Vettel extended his perfect start to the Formula One season by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, earning his second straight victory to begin the defense of his world title.
The Red Bull driver started from the pole and led throughout to beat McLaren’s Jenson Button by 3.2 seconds, with Renault’s Nick Heidfeld hanging on for third.