LOS ANGELES – Congratulatory messages poured in from around the globe overnight, overwhelming newly-crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power.
“It’s still difficult to comprehend, winning the championship,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. “I have so many people to thank, and especially the people back in my home in Australia for their support through the years.”
Power’s title is the first major international motorsport championship by an Australian on four wheels since Alan Jones’ Formula One world title in 1980. In a couple of weeks, he’ll head back to Toowoomba (population 150,000; about two hours inland from Brisbane) a national hero -- and participate in the public opening of Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport.
“That's something different; should be fun,” he offered.
First, though, Power joined other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, teams, manufacturers and commercial sponsors who were recognized Aug. 31 during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration at Club Nokia at the LA LIVE entertainment complex.
The awards show was streamed live on IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR 14 app. It also will be telecast at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern) Sept. 2 -- immediately following the re-air of the MAVTV 500 -- on NBCSN.
The 18-race season featured 11 different winners, which tied the Indy car record set in 2000 and matched in 2001, and 10 different Verizon P1 Award winners. Power’s teammate, Helio Castroneves, finished second in the championship for the fourth time, while 2013 series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing placed third in the hotly contested season on the most diverse schedule in motorsports.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR, presented Power and team owner Roger Penske a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of the Astor Challenge Cup, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship trophy.
“It’s something you want so badly for so long it’s just a relief to final get it,” said Power, who secured his first series title in the season finale Aug. 30 at Auto Club Speedway. “It’s been 15 years of hard work to get to this point.
“The two weeks leading up to the final race were so stressful for me. It definitely was internal pressure because of the fact that I had been second three times and that it could happen again quite easily. It’s also a situation where you have a magnifying glass on you and it adds a bit of pressure.”
Power withstood the pressures on the racetrack, though, earning three victories and four other podium finishes. He led a field-high 11 races. Power, who has 36 career pole starts and 24 career wins, was either first or second in the standings throughout and took over for good at Mid-Ohio in early August.
“You can work through anything. It shouldn’t come easy because there’s something wrong if it does,” added Power, who was informed by Penske Motorsports president and his race strategist, Tim Cindic, that the plan is for Power to drive the No. 1 car in 2015 (Juan Pablo Montoya drives No. 2 and Castroneves drives No. 3). “It’s all about hard work, and that’s what we did this year.”
In addition to the championship bonus, Power accepted the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000. He also won the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award and its $75,000 prize for winning three races and the Verizon P1 Award for scoring the most points among pole winners.
Matt Jonnson, chief mechanic for Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, accepted the Verizon IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award and Jon Bouslog of Team Penske was presented the Team Manager of the Year Award.
Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport - HVM accepted the $50,000 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, while fellow rookie Jack Hawksworth won the Tony Renna Rising Star Award. Charlie Kimball claimed the $25,000 TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award for advancing the most cumulative positions during the season. Juan Pablo Montoya was voted favorite driver by Verizon IndyCar Series fans.
Verizon IndyCar Series award winners
Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Will Power
Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Will Power
Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Verizon Team Penske
Championship team manager: Jon Bouslog
Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Matt Jonnson
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award ($75,000): Will Power for three race victories
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): Carlos Munoz
TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award ($25,000): Charlie Kimball
Tony Renna Rising Star Award: Jack Hawksworth
Verizon P1 Award: Will Power for field-high four earned poles
Dan and Susie Wheldon “Make a Difference” Award ($1,000 charitable donation): Susie Wheldon