Will Power Finally Gets His IndyCar Championship

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 31 2014

Team Penske's Will Power became the 2014 IndyCar Series champion on Saturday night. (Photos courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Team Penske’s Will Power capped an often-frustrating 15-year trek that transported him from Toowoomba, Australia, to Southern California Saturday night with a “mega” ninth-place finish in the MAVTV 500 that secured his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Power, who entered the season’s 18th race at the 2-mile/D-shaped Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., with a 50-point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves, effectively wiped away the disappointment of finishing as championship runnerup in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“It’s 15 years of hard work. I was crying as I crossed the (finish) line,” said Power, who wound up 62 points ahead of Castroneves. “It just went on-and-on. It’s surreal, man. I can’t believe it. It’s just a fantastic way to finish the season.”

Power began his tenure with Team Penske via a six-race stint in 2009 after spending the 2008 season with KV Racing Technology.

“I’m so mentally exhausted now. I’m just so exhausted,” Power said after exiting his car. “My hands are like numb from holding onto the wheel so tight. Man, I want to be a lot more excited but I’m just so drained. That was just mega. I can’t believe I won it.”

Power, 33, began the night needing a finish of sixth or better to claim his first championship over Castroneves, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion.

“The last 14 days have been the worst in my life, just mentally, just emotionally _ just so bad,” said Power, who began his domestic open-wheel career in 2005 with two races in the Champ Car World Series for Team Australia. “Not sleeping and stressing. I feel bad for my wife (Elizabeth). Keeping her up at night, just bad. You never think it can happen until it happens. I can’t believe I’m champion. I can’t believe it. Just knowing how things have gone in the past.”

Power, who started last in the 21-car field, took the lead on Lap 189 with a bold, diving pass under eventual race-winner Tony Kanaan and held the point for eight laps following the night’s lone caution flag. Kanaan re-took the lead on Lap 197 and held it en route to his first win in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car vacated by four-

Tony Kanaan is congratulated by team owner Chip Ganassi after winning the season-ending race at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday.

time series champion Dario Franchitti at the end of the 2013 season.

“When I took the lead, I thought, ‘This is good! I believe we’ve got a pretty good shot here,’ ” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Power ended the season with three wins to raise his career total to 24, four podium finishes and four poles/36 career.

Power provided team-owner Roger Penske with his record 13th Indy car championship and first since 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr. “Tonight showed everyone the strength of our team,” said Penske, who has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 15 times.

Also celebrating was Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, who won the 250-lapper by 3.6750-seconds over Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and three-time/2013 champion Scott Dixon. Kanaan, driver of the No. 10 TCGR Dallara/Chevrolet, became the 11th different winner of the season, tying the Indy car single-season record set in 2000 and matched in 2001.

Owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who won at Auto Club Speedway in 2012 and was runnerup in 2013, placed third in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Dallara/Chevrolet. Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet while James Hinchcliffe was fifth in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Dallara/Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Kanaan, the native Brazilian who claimed his first victory since the 2013 Indianapolis 500. “We had a team meeting this afternoon and (team-owner) Chip Ganassi said if you win the last race of the season you can brag about it for seven months.” The victory was the 17th of Kanaan’s stellar IndyCar career on a night when he led twice for 64 laps.

Castroneves, who started from the pole and led 41 laps, was assessed a drive-through penalty for a pit lane entry violation on Lap 218 that put him a lap down and ended his title chances. He finished 14th in the race and second in the championship for the fourth time in his career, including 2002, 2008 and 2013.

“It’s another second, but well-done to Will. You are the champ, man. Good job,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 AAA Southern California Dallara/Chevrolet. “So, I hope the rate in his house (in Charlotte, N.C.) doesn’t increase now, because every time I go and sleep in his house he charges me. But in the end of the day, great season for Team Penske. It stings a little bit but it motivates me to come back stronger next year and win a championship.”

Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport finished eighth in the race and in the final driver standings to clinch the Rookie of the Year crown.

“As a rookie this year, I think it was the strongest rookie field IndyCar ever had,” said Munoz, a native of Colombia and driver of the No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Dallara/Honda. “In general, we had the podiums and everything and that was great, and that’s why I feel really nice to be Rookie of the Year. As I said before, the competition this year was really tough. I’m just really happy; this is just the beginning, hopefully, of my career in IndyCar for many years. It’s always nice to have this honor in your resume.”

Chevrolet, meanwhile, celebrated its third consecutive Manufacturer’s Championship by taking the top four finishing spots. Power’s win was the 12th in 18 races for cars powered by Chevy’s 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged direct injected V6 engine.

FONTANA, Calif. – Results Saturday of the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

2. (5) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

3. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

5. (11) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

6. (4) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

7. (12) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

8. (19) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

9. (21) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

10. (3) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

11. (18) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

12. (6) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running

13. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

14. (1) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running

15. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

16. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running

17. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

18. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 245, Running

19. (10) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running

20. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 243, Running

21. (22) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 21, Driver Illness

22. (8) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 0, Did Not Start

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 196.111

Time of Race: 02:32:58.4659

Margin of victory: 3.6750

Cautions: 1 for 12 laps

Lead changes: 17 among 9 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Montoya 1

Castroneves 2-5

Montoya 6- 33

Dixon 34-35

Castroneves 36-37

Andretti 38

Montoya 39-56

Hinchcliffe 57-73

Montoya 74-99

Carpenter 100-102

Hunter-Reay 103-107

Montoya 108-119

Hunter-Reay 120-140

Dixon 141-143

Castroneves 144-178

Kanaan 179-188

Power 189-196

Kanaan 197-250

Point Standings: Power 671, Castroneves 609, Dixon 604, Montoya 586, Pagenaud 565, Hunter-Reay 563, Kanaan 544, Munoz 483, Andretti 463, Bourdais 461

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 31 2014
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