Will Power has again had to settle for second in the IndyCar Championship Series after mechanical issues robbed him of any chance in the decider at Sonoma Raceway, California, over the weekend.
The last race of the season, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma road course inland from San Francisco, was a battle between Penske teammates, France’s Simon Pagenaud and Australia’s Power.
Remarkably for the 11th season in a row, the final race of the season determined the champion. Power went into the weekend 43 points away from the lead and ceded another point when Pagenaud won the pole on Saturday. Still he was heartened that the finale carried double the usual points.
Pagenaud instead gave Roger Penske another reason to celebrate in the team owner’s 50th anniversary in motor sport.
It was the Frenchman’s first title and he did IndyCar it in crushing style, winning the season’s finale.
Pagenaud has been so dominant this season, with Power on his heels after a slow start. Other than their Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves, no-one else was really in the fight. Once Castroneves began to fade as the season went on, it was then a two-man title scrap.
Pagenaud and Power are both considered road/street course specialists but have also been strong on the ovals.
It's the fourth time Power, who won the championship in 2014, has finished second in the standings. He is nevertheless satisfied with his fightback after he missed the season opener when IndyCar ruled him out with concussion-like symptoms — it was an inner ear infection.
Clawing his way back into title contention was a sign of his grit and competitiveness.
“If I hadn't won a championship, I guess it would be a pretty bad day,” Power said. “But finishing second, considering how I started the year, getting four wins, it's a good year.”
Pagenaud’s target on Sunday was to stay out of trouble and finish fourth or better.
He did way better than that, collecting his fifth win of the year to lead a strong Penske occupation of the final podium of 2016.
Power struggled home in 20th.
The Penske drivers also filled the first three places in the championship. Power finished second in the standings and Castroneves was third.
“My whole career has been about this day, reaching this level,” Pagenaud said. “For an athlete, it's what you work for.”