Power finally claims elusive Indy title
DENIED three times, Toowoomba's Will Power has finally been rewarded for 15 years of hard work by becoming the first Australian to win the IndyCar drivers' championship.
Needing only to finish in the first six in the final race of the season at Auto Club Speedway, Power struggled over the line in ninth place, but thankfully his nearest challenger, Penske team mate Helio Castroneves, was in 14th position after incurring a full-lap penalty for a pit lane violation on lap 219 of the 250-lap race.
With his wife Liz and mother Marge trackside to witness history, Power cried tears of joy as he crossed the line, clearly more relieved than excited after finishing runner-up in 2010, '11 and '12.
"It's just surreal man," Power said. "I can't believe it. My hand is numb from grabbing on the wheel so tight. I can't believe I won it. ... You never think it can happen until it does. I can't believe I'm champion. It's 15 years of hard work."
The 33-year-old, who said he was "proud to represent Australia and proud to represent Toowoomba, my home town", had to do it the hard way in the end, forced to start from 20th on the grid with Castroneves on pole.
Like Power, the Brazilian had been runner-up in the championship three times, and while disappointed to extend that to four, was quick to praise his team mate.
"Well done Will. You are the champion man," Castroneves said.
The one-time Formula One hopeful, who originally went to the UK to test drive F1 cars for Minardi, has been one of the dominant drivers in the road racing component of the IndyCar competition. But he consistently struggled with the intricacies and nerve-fraying wheel-to-wheel racing on oval tracks, going eight years without a win until he ended that drought.
Power managed to win on the oval in Milwaukee last month and also won two races on the road, taking the chequered flag in the opening race of the season in St Petersburg in March, and again in Detroit in May.
No doubt haunted by falling agonisingly short three times, Power described the past two weeks as the "worst of my life", saying he had been totally stressed and unable to sleep.
But all's well that ends well, and no doubt he would have slept contentedly last night ... depending on when the celebrations finished.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
- 1st: Will Power 671pts
- 2nd: Helio Castroneves 607pts
- 3rd: Scott Dixon 604pts