Tony Kanaan may have led a Target Chip Ganassi Racing one-two at Fontana but it was Will Power that left the California speedway the happiest as he was crowned the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion.
Ninth place was good enough for the Australian as his only two rivals in the championship, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, suffered shockers of a race to make the 51 point lead held by the Penske driver near enough unassailable.
For Power, it seemed as though he would forever be the bridesmaid having been a runner up in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but thankfully the trip to Auto Club Speedway – which was the ninth consecutive final round to decide the championship – saw him overcome his duck.
“It’s 15 years of hard work. I was crying as I crossed the line,” said Power, who finished 62 points ahead of his team mate Castroneves. “It’s surreal. It’s just a fantastic way to finish the season.”
The race itself saw the champion start at the back following a disastrous qualifying session which saw Castroneves put himself on pole position.
However, with 250 laps ahead of him Power could afford to be cool, calm and collected in his passing which saw him up to sixth when the only caution of the race came out on lap 176.
When the caution came back in Power made a few dangerous lunges down low on the banking – something not many had the bravery to do and was leading for a few laps until his car started throwing up handling issues to afflict the Australian.
Thankfully for him another of his rivals was having a nightmare of a time. Castroneves was penalised for crossing the white line that represented the track boundary and was duly given a drive through penalty and ruining his chance of championship glory.
Elsewhere up the track, Kanaan led Scott Dixon over the line and was followed by Ed Carpenter, whose Ed Carpenter Racing team has had a good showing this year with Mike Conway behind the wheel at the road and street courses.
There was one man who didn’t compete in the final race at Fontana and that was rookie Mikhail Aleshin who was injured in a horror crash in Friday practice. Thankfully IndyCar officials have confirmed that he is now in a stable condition after undergoing a procedure for a chest injury.
Now all that remains to tick off the bucket list for Will Power is to come back in 2015 and defend his title, but for now the final word has to go to the worthy runner up Helio Castroneves: “It’s another second, but well done to Will. It stings a little bit, but it motivates me to come back stronger next year and win a championship.”