FONTANA, Calif. — official release — Chris Jones photo — Will Power earned his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship with a ninth-place finish in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Power, who entered the 18th race of the season with a 51-point lead over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, had been the championship runner-up in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It was the ninth consecutive year that the series champion was determined in the season finale.
“It’s 15 years of hard work. I was crying as I crossed the (finish) line,” said Power, who finished 62 points ahead of Castroneves. “It’s surreal. It’s just a fantastic way to finish the season.”
Power provided Team Penske its 13th Indy car championship and the first since 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.
“Tonight showed everyone the strength of our team,” said team owner Roger Penske, who has won the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race 15 times.
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, won the 250-lap event by 3.6750 seconds over Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and 2013 champion Scott Dixon.
Kanaan was the 11th different winner of the season, which tied the Indy car single-season record set in 2000 and matched in 2001. Ed Carpenter, who won at Auto Club Speedway in 2012 and was runner-up in 2013, placed third and Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Kanaan, 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 you can brag about it for seven months.”
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. He finished 14th in the race and second in the championship for the fourth time in his career.
“It’s another second, but well done to Will,” said Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “It stings a little bit, but it motivates me to come back stronger next year and win a championship.”