Aug 31, 2014, 12:54 AM EDT
FONTANA, Calif. – Will Power is, at long last, a Verizon IndyCar Series champion.
Meanwhile Tony Kanaan is, for the first time in 2014, an IndyCar race winner.
Power drove methodically but forcefully from 21st on the grid, which became 20th following the withdrawal of Mikhail Aleshin, up to the top 10 by half distance in the 250-lap MAVTV 500.
[RELATED: Watch the full race replay ]
Where Power made the move was for all the marbles came after the race’s first full course caution, and on the Lap 188 restart.
A launch from fourth through to the lead, past Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, using the low line in a race where the high line was preferred, was ultimately the move that said he wasn’t just here to race for points, but wanted to win the race.
He didn’t win – he ended ninth after the final round of green flag pit stops – but he didn’t need to as Castroneves’ charge ended with a pit lane penalty.
Castroneves was on the apron and crossed back onto race track before pitting, and that earned him a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile Power pitted with most of the rest of the field on Lap 217 and eventually fell outside the top five, to a still manageable ninth.
That netted him his first career championship, after several years of trying and brutal near misses, and Roger Penske’s first since 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr.).
“That was one of the hardest races ever. I was crying over the line. It went on and on. The car wasn’t great. Have to thank Verizon. It’s surreal, man. I can’t believe it,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider in victory lane.
“I want to be more excited but I’m so drained. I can’t believe I won it.
“These have been the worst 14 days of my life. Not sleeping; I’m stressing.
“That’s unbelievable. Been fighting for that. That’s 15 years of hard work. Started taking it seriously in 2000.”
As for the race, the final battle saw something we’ve seen at Auto Club Speedway before: the Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates versus Ed Carpenter.
Kanaan meanwhile stopped a lap later on the final sequence – Lap 218 compared to Lap 217 – and pulled out a bigger margin over teammate Dixon and Carpenter.
Kanaan is the 11th different race winner this season, which ties a North American open-wheel racing record that was set in the 2000 and 2001 CART seasons. It’s his first win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, as well.
Juan Pablo Montoya and James Hinchcliffe completed the top five in the season finale.
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