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Motor sports: Power prevails in crash-filled TMS thriller

FORT WORTH — Three of the fastest drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series engaged in a furious 19-lap battle to the finish Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, and Will Power escaped with the victory in the Rainguard Water Sealers 600K when Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon crashed behind him with five laps remaining. 

Sato, the Indianapolis 500 champion, was looking to the inside of Dixon for second when he stuck the left tires of his No. 26 Honda in the grass and lost control. His crash took out Dixon, Conor Daly and Max Chilton.

The crash-filled race fittingly ended under caution, with Power's No. 12 Chevrolet leading Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Gabby Chaves across the finish line.

The final restart came on Lap 230 after a competition caution on the track that was repaved and reconfigured over the winter.

Power's 31st career victory is his second in Denton County, after the nightcap of a doubleheader in 2011. He led a race-high 180 laps and now is third on the all-time list for laps led at TMS. The Australian said he was glad to win again in the home state of his wife, Liz, who is from Plano.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, top, and Carlos Munoz (14) wreck in Turn 3 as Conor Daly (4) drops down to avoid the accident during an Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 10, 2017, in Fort Worth. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)AP
Ryan Hunter-Reay, top, and Carlos Munoz (14) wreck in Turn 3 as Conor Daly (4) drops down to avoid the accident during an Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 10, 2017, in Fort Worth. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
AP

"I'm so stoked to win in my second home where my wife is from, Texas. All the family is here. It just feels awesome," Power said. "We were just talking about it and her cousin said, 'Man, you haven't won for me here yet.' ... You don't understand how good that feels."

Dixon remained the series leader with 326 points. Pagenaud (313) is second, Sato third, Helio Castroneves fourth and Power fifth (286). 

The final shootout featured constant side-by-side racing as Power and Dixon battled for the lead and Sato looked for a way around them. Pagenaud and Kanaan, who rallied from a late penalty that put him two laps down, raced Sato as the top eight cars ran in tight formation at 220 mph.

Sato made a three-wide pass for third with seven laps to go, then tried to go three-wide on the outside for the lead with six remaining. He had a run to the inside of Dixon with five to go but ran out of asphalt.

"It was very intense," Power said. "I could see Dixon was able to pass me at the start/finish line, so I was starting to think about what I was going to do there at the end."

The first half of the race saw the surprising Tristan Vautier continuously battle Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Power and others for the lead. Vautier would get a run to the outside of the leader entering Turn 1 and run side-by-side for laps at a time.

The first caution came out when 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi found himself three-wide between Kanaan and Dixon entering Turn 3. Rossi bounced off both Chip Ganassi Racing cars and spun into the outside wall on Lap 37 of the 248-lap race on the 1 1/2-mile oval.

On the ensuing pit stop, James Hinchcliffe spun while leaving his stall and collected Castroneves and Sato. Sato (front wing change) and Hinchcliffe (drive-through penalty) each lost one lap. Kimball, who started from the pole for the first time in his career, developed an oil leak and retired from the race.

Castroneves crashed hard into the outside wall exiting Turn 2 on Lap 90. He was running third behind his Team Penske teammates Power and Pagenaud.

The Indy car version of NASCAR's "big one" happened on Lap 152 when Hinchcliffe and Kanaan made contact. Hinchcliffe crashed in Turn 3, and the incident took out Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz, Vautier, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The carnage to that point left 11 of the 22 starters still on the track. Replays appeared to show that Kanaan moved up into Hinchcliffe's car. Dale Coyne, team owner for Vautier and Jones, walked to Kanaan's car during the 31-minute red-flag stoppage and had some words for the Brazilian.

When the race resumed on Lap 160, series officials ordered competition cautions and mandatory four-tire stops after every 30 laps of green-flag racing. Kanaan then was ordered to stop in his pit for a 20-second penalty for contact and blocking. Marco Andretti changed his rear wing and lost a lap.

"Apparently I got blamed for all of [the incidents], got a penalty, paid a penalty and we finished second, so it is what it is -- a pack race," Kanaan said. "Tough night. Very intense from the first lap to the last lap, so I'm glad it's over.

"Intense race. A lot of things happened. Had to avoid a lot of contact as well. Got really frustrated in the middle of the race and toward the end. I guess races like this at one point in the race you're going to get mad at somebody, and eventually the entire field. When you have 19 cars running half a second from each other fighting for the same real estate, that's what happens."

After one competition caution, Newgarden crashed on Lap 201 when he was running in the high third lane and hit some leftover grit from an earlier cleanup.

Briefly ...

Robby Gordon's high-flying Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks ran races before and after the Indy car race. NASCAR and Indy car veteran PJ Jones held off Gordon on a late restart to take the victory in Race 1, followed by Gavin Harlien, Paul Morris and Matthew Brabham. The layout included several jumps, including a 140-foot flight between dirt ramps, part of the legends car oval, most of pit lane and a jump into the infield. Race 2 featured more dirt and was won by Sheldon Creed.

MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.