A drama-filled race ended in the least dramatic fashion.
Will Power took the checkered flag under caution on Saturday night, winning a wreck-filled Rainguard Water Sealers 600. It marked his second win of the season and second career win at Texas Motor Speedway.
Only eight cars finished the race, including six on the lead lap.
But the end of the race didn’t tell the story. Wrecks ruled the night up until the end.
Power and Scott Dixon were swapping leads in the final laps, and Tony Kanaan was making a remarkable charge to the front.
Then third-place runner Takuma Sato tried to make a move to the front with five laps to go and caught part of the infield grass going into Turn 1. He spun, collecting Dixon in the process.
That brought out a caution for the remaining laps with Power in the top spot followed by Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal.
“I’m so stoked to win,” said Power, who is married to a Plano native. “It just feels awesome. I wanted to win here in Texas and did it.”
Kanaan created the most buzz throughout the race. He had a strong car, but was blamed for causing a nine-car pileup with less than 100 laps to go.
Kanaan received a two-lap penalty from IndyCar for the incident, but eventually worked his way back to the lead lap with 19 to go. He then pushed his way among the leaders and into a second-place run.
“I guess I’m getting blamed about everything,” Kanaan said. “Obviously that’s not the way we drive. We got a penalty and we raced back. It is what it is.”
Kanaan admitted he drifted up and into James Hinchcliffe during the most controversial moment going into Turn 3 on Lap 153, the nine-car pileup that red-flagged the race for more than 30 minutes.
Kanaan’s team owner, Chip Ganassi, defended him and ripped Hinchcliffe for causing it on live TV.
“He’s been trying to get in a crash all night,” Ganassi said, alluding to Hinchcliffe losing control of his car while leaving pit lane earlier in the race and making contact with Helio Castroneves and Sato.
Hinchcliffe replied: “That’s adorable.”
IndyCar officials, of course, sided with Hinchcliffe and handed Kanaan a stop-and-hold penalty for 20 seconds for avoidable contact. That put him two laps down.
“It was an honest mistake,” Kanaan said.
That isn’t any solace to the drivers also collected in the mess. Mikhail Aleshin, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Jones, Carlos Munoz and Tristan Vautier joined Hinchcliffe in the garage.
Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand returned to the race along with Kanaan, but too late and too far behind to threaten for a win.
Before that accident, three favorites had their hopes of winning end before even 100 of the 248 laps were complete.
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner who qualified third, had an early exit after spinning and colliding with the wall coming out of Turn 3 at the end of Lap 37. Rossi got caught between Dixon and Kanaan, and fell victim to a surface that couldn’t handle three-wide at that point.
Another contender had his chances ruined five laps later. Pole sitter Charlie Kimball had an oil leak that forced his car to the garage after 41 laps. He led 26 laps, but that’s all he had to show on his first career pole.
Castroneves, who has won more open-wheel races (4) at Texas than any other driver, had his day end on Lap 91 when he slammed hard into the wall coming out of Turn 2.
Castroneves felt a vibration four laps before his right tire gave out coming out of Turn 1, and took a hard angle into the wall. He walked off under his own power, but would have preferred to snap what has now become a 52-race winless drought.
Castroneves had the car to do it, too. He had the unfortunate incident in the pits when Hinchcliffe lost control, but battled his way back into the top-five before his accident.
“The car was awesome,” Castroneves said.
Plenty of drivers felt they had “awesome” cars before wrecks ruined their days. In the end, only Power could call his car “awesome.”