FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Juan Pablo Montoya brought up the idea of how cool he thought green-white-checkered finishes could be for IndyCar only moments after his third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.
“No way,” Will Power quickly responded. “Not in IndyCar.”
Except that is exactly what had just happened Saturday night after a late caution led to a restart with two laps left at the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track.
Ed Carpenter hung on for another oval victory over the hard-charging Power, who after a costly penalty earlier was on fresh tires and very likely could have won with one more lap.
“So if you have a red flag and wait, then that’s OK,” Montoya then asked during an entertaining and friendly 3 1/2-minute debate between the Team Penske drivers about late flags and restarts.
“No, I don’t like that either,” said Power, still the season points leader over Helio Castroneves, another Penske driver.
Texas came two weeks after the rare red flag in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500 that set up the second-closest finish ever at the Brickyard.
The final caution at Texas with seven laps left came after the engine in Takuma Sato’s car blew, and he was able to quickly come to a stop on the apron. Townsend Bell’s crash with 10 laps remaining at Indianapolis left debris scattered on the track.
“I think they’ll only do the red flag thing at Indy,” Power said. “To throw a red flag every time there’s a yellow during a race is going to be kind of … .”
Power wasn’t able to finish his thought before Montoya mentioned green-white-checkered finishes, something he got used to in NASCAR before returning full-time to the open-wheel racing this season.
Then Montoya brought up the final restart, when he was running second and felt Carpenter got an early jump.
“I figured he’d be miffed,” Carpenter said later. “I was kind of sick of him. He was lagging back, trying to lay back, so yeah, I was slowing down because he was lagging back. I didn’t want him to get a jump on me. … He ended up finishing third anyway, right? So it doesn’t matter.”
As Montoya made his case, Power joked, “I think they should take the win off Ed and award it to the next car, yeah?”
Carpenter led by about 17-18 seconds over Montoya before Sato’s engine fire. Carpenter got way ahead after Power was penalized for speeding on pit road when the top two then made their final green-flag stop with 35 laps left.
Power, who led 145 of the 248 laps, was sixth when the final caution flag came out, and got fresh tires while the top four stayed on the track. In the final two-lap shootout, he raced past three other cars and finished only a half-second behind Carpenter, who led four times for 90 laps.
All three of Carpenter’s career victories have come on ovals, the last two since starting his own team in 2012. He was also the Indy 500 polesitter last year and this, and now races only ovals while Mike Conway handles road and street courses. Conway won at Long Beach in his second race with the team.
“On one hand I was nervous, just because I wasn’t sure what the right decision was for us to make,” Carpenter said of not stopping during the last Texas caution. “It was a handful the last couple of laps, but you get in that position, I’ve got to make sure I bring it home.”
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