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Will Power notches third IndyCar victory, eyes overall championship

Winning driver Will Power, left, stands on the podium with third place winner James Hinchcliffe during the trophy presentation ceremony after the IndyCar auto race in Toronto on Sunday, July 17, 2016. (Associated Press)
Winning driver Will Power, left, stands on the podium with third place winner James Hinchcliffe during the trophy presentation ceremony after the IndyCar auto race in Toronto on Sunday, July 17, 2016. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

TORONTO – Will Power used pit strategy to grab his third victory of the season and close in on Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud in the race for the IndyCar championship.

Power’s victory on Sunday on the temporary road course at Exhibition Place was his third in four races, and he was second last week at Iowa. He has closed the gap on Pagenaud to 47 points in the standings, and the two are tied for the most wins in IndyCar this season.

“We’re definitely closing the gap and we’ve got to keep pushing, man,” the Australian said. “If we can close that gap going into (the season finale) Sonoma, we can do this. We can win this championship, absolutely.”

He noted that Scott Dixon snatched the IndyCar title away from teammate Juan Pablo Montoya last year with a strong late surge all the way through Sonoma.

“As long as it’s mathematically possible, you should never give up,” Power said. “Dixon has been the example of that year after year. He said to me the other day, with six to go, he was 90 back. Just shows you how quickly that can change.”

Power pitted on Lap 57 of 85 for his final stop of the race and moments later, defending race winner Josef Newgarden crashed when he ran over the curb in Turn 5. It brought out a caution and ruined the race for pole-sitter Scott Dixon, who had dominated up to that point.

Because Dixon – along with Pagenaud and five others – had yet to pit, they were behind Power and stuck in traffic when they did make their stop.

“It was a late call,” Power said. “I couldn’t believe I came down pit lane and saw the yellow lights come on. I was so stoked to see yellow lights. It’s not often you catch a yellow like that.

“We ran the top three all day. Had a fast car. It’s very difficult to pass, so it was going to be a pit stop sequence if you’re going to get by anyone, or a restart.”

Dixon led 56 laps but couldn’t recover from having to pit under yellow and finished eighth. His plight earned sympathy from runner-up Helio Castroneves.

“Sometimes not the fastest car wins the race,” said the Brazilian. “It makes the level of everyone better. One day it’s going to play on your side, another day it’s not going to be on your side.”

A caution with four laps remaining – first Jack Hawksworth hit a tire barrier, and in an unrelated incident, Juan Pablo Montoya hit the same barrier – to set up one final restart with one lap remaining. Power got a great start to pull away from teammate Castroneves to give Penske a 1-2 sweep.

Castroneves rallied from an early flat tire to finish second.

“We are never giving up, especially now,” he said. “We are not giving up.”

Toronto native James Hinchcliffe finished third for his first career podium at his home race.

“As we were coming to the last restart, I saw everyone come to their feet and hoped I didn’t screw it up,” Hinchcliffe said of the home crowd support.

Newgarden crashed to set up the race-deciding pit sequence and finished last in the 22-car field. The American was coming off a dominating victory last week on the oval at Iowa despite a broken right wrist suffered in a crash at Texas in June, and he appeared to aggravate his injury on the contact with the wall on Sunday.

The Iowa victory had pushed Newgarden to second in the standings behind Pagenaud, but his frustrating weekend dropped him to fifth in the standings leaving Toronto.

Pagenaud finished ninth – his eighth finish of ninth or better through 11 races this season.

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