Power claims first IndyCar title, Kanaan wins at Fontana
Fontana, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Will Power clinched his first IndyCar Series championship with a ninth-place finish, while Tony Kanaan won Saturday night's season-finale, the MAVTV 500, at Auto Club Speedway.
Prior to this season, Power had finished second in the IndyCar championship standings three times (2010-12). He started 21st in the 22-car field for this race after struggling in Friday's qualifying at this two-mile oval. He won last year's season-ending event here in Southern California.
Power concluded the 18-race season with a 62-point margin over second-place and Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who finished one lap behind in 14th after receiving a drive-through penalty for a pit-entry violation late in the event.
This 500-mile race was the third and final leg in IndyCar's "Triple Crown" this season, and it awarded double points.
"That was one of the hardest races I've ever had," Power said. "Oh my God. I was crying as I crossed the [finish] line. The race just went on and on. I slowly made up positions, and the car wasn't great. It's just surreal. I can't believe I'm the champion."
Power, who started the race with a 50-point lead over Castroneves, patiently made his way through the field and grabbed the lead for the first time on lap 189, following a restart.
There was only one caution in this race. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion, lost control coming out of turn 4 and spun around on the infield grass along the frontstretch.
Power led for eight laps before Kanaan passed him and took command from there. Power and Castroneves had been battling each other for position before Castroneves had to serve his penalty. The violation occurred during the final round of pit stops under green.
"When I took the lead, I thought, 'This is good. I think we have a pretty good shot here'," Power said. "And when they said that [Castroneves] got that penalty, then I thought, 'Okay, this is it, man. We can do this. We can win it'."
Castroneves started on the pole and led a total of 41 laps. It's the fourth time in his IndyCar career that he has finished second in points. He was the runner-up to champion Scott Dixon last year.
"It's another second [in points], but well done to Will," Castroneves said. "It stings a little bit, but it motivates me to come back stronger next year and win a championship."
Power, a 33-year-old Australian, gave Team Penske its 13th IndyCar championship but its first since 2006 with American driver Sam Hornish Jr.
"This means a lot," team owner Roger Penske said. "I'll take the wins and the poles, but the championships are special."
Kanaan, who is driving the No. 10 car for Chip Ganassi Racing this year, scored his 17th career IndyCar win but his first since the 2013 Indianapolis 500 when he drove for KV Racing Technology. Kanaan became the 11th different race winner this year, which tied a series single-season record set in 2000 and matched in 2001.
His teammate, Dixon, crossed the finish line 3.6750 seconds behind to give Ganassi a 1-2 finish.
"It's been a long time coming," said Kanaan, who ended a 31-race winless streak. "We had a team meeting this afternoon, and [team owner] Chip Ganassi said if you win then you can brag about it for seven months [during the offseason]."
Ed Carpenter placed third, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, who is Power and Castroneves' teammate, and James Hinchcliffe.
Montoya led the most laps with 85, while Kanaan held the top spot for a total of 64 laps.
Takuma Sato, Ryan Briscoe and rookie Carlos Munoz finished sixth through eighth, respectively. Josef Newgarden completed the top-10.
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin did not start after he was involved in a serious multi- car accident during Friday's final practice session. Aleshin suffered a concussion, fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle and chest injuries. He remains hospitalized and is currently in stable condition following a procedure for his chest injury.
Dixon ended the season third in points (-67), followed by Montoya (-85), Simon Pagenaud (-106), Hunter-Reay (-108) and Kanaan (-127).
Pagenaud was third in points and had remained mathematically eligible for the title entering this race. Pagenaud finished seven laps down in 20th, as he dealt with an ill-handling car throughout the event.
Hunter-Reay, who won this year's Indy 500, was two laps off the pace following his incident. He finished 16th.
08/31 03:29:17 ET