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Power leads IndyCar race wire-to-wire at Alabama

Will Power was feeling good, strong and relaxed — physically.

Mentally, Scott Dixon made sure the Australian never got too cozy at the front of Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama — even though that's where Power stayed from start to finish.

Power managed to hold off Dixon and lead Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from wire to wire, capturing a race that escaped him last year and doing so without a misstep.

He called it "one of the most relaxing races I've ever had."

"I would not say it was relaxing there at the end with Dixon all over me, but I mean physically," Power said. "In St. Pete, I suffered for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe I was dehydrated.

"Here, physically, I felt great in the car. I wasn't puffing or anything. I was just relaxed and able to get the absolute most out of the car mistake free."

Power extended his lead enough for some comfort in the final laps and finished 3.38 seconds ahead of Dixon, while Dario Franchitti was third on the 2.38-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power became the first IndyCar driver to stay up front for the distance since Franchitti did it at Sonoma in 2009.

Power dominated in practice and qualifying rounds the past two years at Barber, and stressed how badly he wanted to win after a pit strategy backfired and cost him the lead in 2010 — and perhaps the IndyCar points championship.

"I was very determined to get it this weekend," he said.

IndyCar's second race since moving to the double-file restart helped produce plenty of thrills — along with six full-course cautions. Six drivers were knocked out of the race by contact, including Ryan Briscoe, who started in second place.

But all the trouble remained safely behind his teammate Power, and so did the other drivers.

It was Dixon's second straight runner-up finish at Barber. Power never gave him an opening on the narrow track.

"I think our car was a little better (than Power's) for the first 15 laps," Dixon said. "But it's a track where if you're racing a car that's within a few tenths of the speed you can run, it's almost impossible to pass unless the guy makes a mistake."

Dixon was also frustrated with Power's positioning on the restarts, saying he squeezed him by crossing the center line. Staying in your lane was emphasized in the pre-race driver's meeting.

"If you look at the restarts, I'm pretty much on the grass on most of them," Dixon said. "Especially the first two were really bad. So he's even over the center line, on the right side of the center line. It was a disaster waiting to happen."

Power said Dixon showed his displeasure by taking "a big weave at me." Power returned the favor, but didn't concede that he did anything wrong.

"The rule is you can be anywhere on the track after the start/finish line," Power said. "Simple as that. That's what they told us."

Power turned to his former strategist John Erickson after Clive Howell had to leave Alabama for a family emergency.

Power's Penske teammate, Briscoe, ran into trouble for the second straight race. Ryan Hunter-Reay bounced off a curb trying to pass underneath and sent Briscoe spinning into the gravel on lap 57.

Hunter-Reay was penalized for avoidable contact, dropping from fifth to 18th, but Briscoe wasn't sympathetic.

"He's sticking his nose into where it doesn't belong," Briscoe said. "It's not a passing zone."

But he wasn't complaining about the restarts.

"The double-file restarts at this track are awesome," Briscoe said. "That was some really good racing."

Danica Patrick made a four-spot move after that caution, up to third, after opting not to take tires on a yellow-flag pit stop on lap 57 and getting out ahead of Franchitti. It was a short-lived advantage and she finished 17th.

Marco Andretti finished fourth for his second straight top-5 at Barber, while Oriol Servia was fifth. Defending champion Helio Castroneves finished seventh, behind Tony Kanaan.

Kanaan made the biggest move after starting 24th in his second race with KV Racing.

Franchitti started in seventh and managed to move up, but couldn't catch Dixon and Power.

"These guys were driving off in the distance and there was nothing I could do," he said. "I just had to hang on to try not to make any mistakes. But, ultimately, third is pretty good."