By: Spencer Neff
June 17, 2021
This weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to one of the most popular venues on the circuit in Road America, the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
In 1982, IndyCar contested its first event on the circuit and did so every year until 2007 save for a 2005 absence.
Following the reunification of ChampCar and the Indy Racing League, Road America was absent from the schedule between 2008 and 2015.
For 2016, the event would make a long-awaited return to Road America. This week, we’ll look at that race in the latest edition of Rewind.
Power takes dominant win in Road America’s comeback
After an absence of nearly a decade, Road America returned for its first open-wheel race since 2007 as the Kohler Grand Prix was scheduled for June 26.
Following practice finishes of third and second, Will Power earned his second pole of the season with a lap at 141.379 miles per hour (1m42.2105 seconds)
After missing the season opener at St. Petersburg with a concussion, this would be his first official one since the season finale at Sonoma in 2015.
Starting 20th, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden fought through the pain of a broken right clavicle and wrist following his crash at Texas Motor Speedway earlier.
Aside from a half-spin in Turn 5 by Jack Hawksworth as well as slight front and right-rear wheel pod damage to Sebastien Bourdais, the 22-car field got away cleanly during Lap 1 of the 50-lap race.
Power held serve in the lead early on. On Lap 7, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon fell out of the race with a broken engine header, further hampering his championship efforts against points leader Simon Pagenaud. Prior to the race, Dixon trailed Pagenaud by 80 points, nearly two races on full points.
Graham Rahal took the lead on Lap 12 as Power and Tony Kanaan pitted. Two laps later, Power was back up front with Kanaan chasing him down but was unsuccessful through another stint.
On Lap 39, Power took his final stop of the day, allowing teammate Pagenaud to lead two laps and earn an extra bonus point. Prior to his final stop, Pagenaud charged through the field
Two laps later, Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly suffered a left-rear suspension failure and spun, crashing in the Turn 1 tire barriers, bringing out the first and only caution of the afternoon.
Power kept distance between himself and Pagenaud during the Lap 45 restart while several battles ensued behind him.
A lap later, Kanaan use the advantage from his alternate tires and the added “push to pass” horsepower to take second. On the front stretch the following lap, Rahal would do the same.
At the front, Power held on to win by .743 of a second over Kanaan, with Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay completing the Top Four. Power tied Johnny Rutherford with his 27th career win.
Despite a late race penalty while battling with Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball, Helio Castroneves held on to finish fifth and move to second in the points.
Although he fell back to 13th, Pagenaud left Road America with a 74-point advantage over Castroneves. Dixon would fall to fourth in the championship.
Power’s second consecutive win vaulted him from seventh to third in the points standings, giving Team Penske the top three spots nine races into the 16-race seasons.
Pagenaud won from the pole at Sonoma to cap off a dominant season, beating Power by 127 points to win his first career title.
After a fight to finish eighth, Newgarden dominated two weeks later at Iowa, leading 282 of 300 laps. Since the 2016 race, Team Penske has won just once at Road America despite winning three of the next five pole positions.
Heading into this weekend, the four-car Team Penske has just one pole (Newgarden-Belle Isle Race 2) and no victories, despite at least one driver earning a podium finish in six of eight races.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR