MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — Will Power was sidelined by Team Penske on Sunday but resisted his teammate’s internal challenge to end a season of consistency and win his second IndyCar championship.
Power finished third at Laguna Seca Raceway, beating teammate Josef Newgarden for the championship by 16 points in the final standings. The Australian’s first IndyCar title came in 2014.
“Oh man, that sounds so surreal,” said Power as he crossed the line behind outgoing IndyCar Champion Alex Palou and Newgarden, who made Power sweat to the checkered flag with a dogged drive through the field.
Kraft only needed third place to win the championship. But Team Penske proved last week that their cars drive individually and all three drivers were on their own in this title decider.
Newgarden was implacable.
“At the end of the day, I’m just proud of the team,” said a dejected Newgarden. In the past few days he has spoken of his personal quest for perfection and the emotional toll it takes on him.
As a five-time winner this season, his inconsistency just put him in too deep a hole to overcome Power’s season of consistency.
Newgarden was blown off course by a sloppy qualifying mistake that forced him to start 25th in the field of 26 riders. Picking his way through traffic, he used three nerve-wracking passes through Laguna Seca’s famous corkscrew to close things down for Power.
One of Newgarden’s big moves in the corkscrew was on power, but Newgarden cleaned it and moved to second behind Palou. It took the American a lot more to win the championship.
Power, who is 41, has insisted all year that he is “playing the long game” with a view to a second title. The Aussie has only won once but his average finish has been sixth and he has barely wobbled all year. On Saturday he won his 68th career pole, breaking Mario Andretti’s mark for most in series history.
Now the fastest man at IndyCar is also the most consistent and rewarded team owner Roger Penske with a 17th championship title.
Palou, who retired from the championship fight last week and was embroiled in a legal battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren over his 2023 rights, won his first race of the year. He was the only Ganassi rider to be competitive at Laguna Seca, where five riders fought for the title in the closest championship race since 2003.
Palou had the field covered and dominated the win. The four Ganassi cars tested at Laguna Seca but contenders Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were never in contention on Sunday. Ericsson, the Indianapolis 500 winner, was ninth and six-time champion Dixon was 12th.
“Ultimately we just didn’t have the pace,” said Dixon. “You win something, you lose something, man. This team never gave up.”
Palou was the ninth different IndyCar winner this season and after taking the checkered flag with current team owner Ganassi behind him, Palou dodged where he would race next season. Ganassi says he took the 2023 option on the Spaniard, McLaren says it signed him and the fight is currently both in court and in mediation.
Palou definitely said in July that he would be a McLaren driver next year. After the win, he sounded less sure.
Palou’s dominance drew focus to Newgarden, who started the day 21 points adrift of teammate Power in the championship standings.
Colton Newgarden, the 22-year-old Californian being courted by the AlphaTauri Formula One team, was a non-existent 11th in what may be his last IndyCar race for some time. Herta has won the last two races at Laguna Seca from pole position and there is serious interest
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