FONTANA, Calif. – 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. I can’t believe I’m the champion.”
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, won the 250-lap race slowed by a single caution on the 2-mile oval by 3.6750 seconds over Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and 2013 champion Scott Dixon.
Kanaan was the 11th different winner, 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, in his first year driving for Team Penske, finished fourth.
"It's been a long time coming," said Kanaan, who claimed his first victory since the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and announced that his wife, Lauren, was expecting their first child in January. "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.”
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 Roger Penske, who has won the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race 15 times as a team owner.
Power, who won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., was either first or second in the standings all season. He took the lead for good at Mid-Ohio earlier this month. Montoya, who won at Pocono Raceway in July, finished fourth in the standings and Simon Pagenaud dropped from third to fifth as he finished 20th in the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car.
Top finishers in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings
1. Will Power ... 671 ($1 million bonus)
2. Helio Castroneves ... 609 ($250,000 bonus)
3. Scott Dixon ... 604 ($90,000 bonus)
4. Juan Pablo Montoya ... 586 ($75,000 bonus)
5. Simon Pagenaud ... 565 ($60,000 bonus)
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay ... 563 ($50,000 bonus)
7. Tony Kanaan ... 544 ($40,000 bonus)
8. Carlos Munoz ... 483 ($35,000 bonus)
9. Marco Andretti ... 463 ($25,000 bonus)
10. Sebastien Bourdais ... 461 ($15,000 bonus)