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Power wins title, Palou dominates in IndyCar finale

By IndyCar Media
Posted 8:38PM on Sunday 11th September 2022 ( 2 months ago )

MONTEREY, Calif. - It wasn’t easy for differing reasons, but Will Power and Alex Palou both ended up winners Sunday after the season-ending NTT IndyCar Series race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Power survived varying tire strategies and challenges from rivals to finish third in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet and clinch his second series championship, adding to his 2014 title. The championship came just one day after Power set the series career record with his 68th pole, breaking a tie with fellow legend Mario Andretti.

“Man, I had to drive the thing today,” Power said. “It was on the edge, very loose. Man, what a relief. What a relief to get that done.”

Power, 41, from Australia, won just one race this season, but this was his series-leading 12th top-five finish in 17 races – three more than any other driver. Power and Scott Dixon also were the only drivers to finish every lap this season.

That consistency was part of a mental shift this season by Power to take what the car offered each race and not overdrive into mistakes. The newfound, Zen-like focus proved pivotal.

“From the beginning (of the season), it was just playing the long game, not necessarily going for the big wins and all that,” Power said.

This was the 17th series championship by a Team Penske driver, extending the team’s record. Power beat teammate Josef Newgarden to the crown by just 16 points.

Palou ended his reign as series champion with his first victory of the season in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, dominating the race and beating Newgarden to the checkered flag by 30.3812 seconds, the largest margin of victory this season by more than 24 seconds.

Palou delivered a victory after a fraught summer marked by a still-unresolved contractual dispute for his driving services next season between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren Racing.

The win came despite a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after qualifying Saturday, dropping Palou from fifth to 11th on the starting grid.

“We struggled a bit (at) some races, especially the last couple of races,” Palou said. “But today was awesome. Strategy was on point. It’s good to finish a season with a win. We had some power there and good fuel mileage.”

Palou first took the lead on lap 16 and proved to be the dominant driver almost immediately. He led 67 of the 95 laps in a race slowed by just three caution periods.

Palou’s gap over second-place Power was 8.6287 seconds on lap 50, but Palou rocketed away during the second half of the race as rivals managed varying tire and pit strategies. Palou used the Firestone alternate tires only from laps 20 to 38 and then blitzed the field for the rest of the way on Firestone primary tires on the slick, highly abrasive surface of the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit.

By lap 62, Palou’s gap over Power was 20 seconds. It was checkout time.

“We struggled a bit during the whole weekend, and I don’t know what happened today,” said Palou, who won three races last year en route to the title. “But everything clicked. Super happy to win a race this year.”

Newgarden started the day second in the standings, 21 points behind Power, who earned a bonus point for the pole award on Saturday. He faced long odds for capturing his third championship due to starting 25th in the 26-car field after spinning off track during the first round of qualifying.

But Newgarden never relented in his tenacious long shot bid to overhaul teammate Power. He started the race on Firestone primary tires – the opposite approach of title rivals Power, Dixon and Marcus Ericsson – and also made one more pit stop than Power in an attempt to use fresher tires and a full-bore fuel mixture to gain track position.

The gambit nearly worked. Newgarden exited the pits on lap 36 on new Firestone primary tires and started inhaling rivals, especially with frightening closing speed entering the daunting “Corkscrew” turn complex.

Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward for fourth on lap 43 in the Corkscrew and then repeated that move one lap later for third place, passing of Felix Rosenqvist.

Power was next on the hit list. Newgarden sailed past his teammate on lap 46 at the top of the Corkscrew for second place. But Power didn’t panic, again focusing on the long view while doing title arithmetic in his brain at 175 mph.

“I just knew I had to absolutely get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions,” Power said.

Newgarden had no chance to catch Palou, who already was in a different stratosphere, up by seven seconds just four laps after a lap 41 restart. The top three cars held station for the rest of the race, sealing the title for Power.

“Even yesterday, with the heartache there, we came back, we fought, and we nearly got there,” Newgarden said. “I’m proud of the effort. We’re going to come back stronger next year.

“But I’m proud of this team. Huge congrats to Will and the entire team.”

Dixon placed third in the standings, 39 points behind Power, after his 12th-place finish. Scott McLaughlin ended up fourth in points in just his second season of open-wheel racing after his sixth-place finish.

Ericsson finished his best series fifth in points after placing ninth.

Christian Lundgaard earned series Rookie of the Year honors with his fifth-place finish. Lundgaard ended with an 18-point gap over David Malukas, who finished on Sunday.

NTT IndyCar Series
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Monterey, CA
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey – September 11, 2022

1. (11) Alex Palou, Honda, 95, Running
2. (25) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 95, Running
3. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 95, Running
4. (8) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 95, Running
5. (16) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 95, Running
6. (7) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 95, Running
7. (4) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 95, Running
8. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 95, Running
9. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 95, Running
10. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 95, Running
11. (18) Colton Herta, Honda, 95, Running
12. (13) Scott Dixon, Honda, 95, Running
13. (6) David Malukas, Honda, 94, Running
14. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 94, Running
15. (20) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 94, Running
16. (23) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 94, Running
17. (10) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 94, Running
18. (19) Graham Rahal, Honda, 94, Running
19. (12) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 94, Running
20. (21) Jack Harvey, Honda, 94, Running
21. (17) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 94, Running
22. (26) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, 94, Running
23. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 94, Running
24. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 93, Running
25. (24) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 93, Running
26. (2) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 37, Mechanical

Winner’s Average Speed: 103.277 mph Time of Race: 2:03:31.0628

Margin of Victory: 30.3812 seconds

Cautions: 1 for 3 laps

Lead Changes: 7 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders: Power, Will 1-14; Ilott, Callum 15; Palou, Alex 16-18; Rosenqvist, Felix 19-23; Power, Will 24-26; Palou, Alex 27-67; Newgarden, Josef 68-72; Palou, Alex 73-95

Point Standings: Power 560, Newgarden 544, Dixon 521, McLaughlin 510, Palou 510, Ericsson 506, O’Ward 480, Rosenqvist 393, Rossi 381, Herta 381, Rahal 345, VeeKay 331, Grosjean 328, Lundgaard 323, Pagenaud 314, Malukas 305, Daly 267, Castroneves 263, Sato 258, Ilott 219, Johnson 214, Harvey 209, DeFrancesco 206, Kirkwood 183, Kellett 133, Tony Kanaan 78, Ed Carpenter 75, Santino Ferrucci 71, Tatiana Calderon 58, JR Hildebrand 53, Juan Pablo Montoya 44, De Silvestro 34, Marco Andretti 17, Sage Karam 14, Stefan Wilson 10

Alex Palou celebrates in victory lane after winning Sunday's NTT IndyCar Series 2022 championship in Sunday's season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo: Penske Entertainment: James Black
Alex Palou drives during Sunday's NTT IndyCar Series 2022 championship in Sunday's season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo: Penske Entertainment: James Black
Will Power celebrates after winning the NTT IndyCar Series 2022 championship in Sunday's season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo: Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

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