The Penske driver won his first series title on Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway, edging out his teammate Helio Castroneves. Power started the race with a 50-point lead on Castroneves, and when the 500 miles came to an end, Will finished in 9th while Helio came home 14th. The Brazilian made things interesting all night, in what was a fantastic battle all the way until the end. On entry to pit lane for his final pit stop though, Castroneves crossed the commitment line, and was given a black flag. That essentially ended his chances. Power finished the season 62 points ahead of Castroneves.
As for the race itself, it was Tony Kanaan that went on to take the checkered flag. It was his first victory of the season, his first driving for Chip Ganassi, and his first win since the 2013 Indianapolis 500. With his win tonight, Kanaan finished on the podium in five of the last seven races. Ganassi as a team won three of the last four races this season.
Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon gave the team a 1-2 finish to the season, and Ed Carpenter rebounded from an early pit-road speeding violation to finish on the podium. Juan Montoya finished fourth, and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top five, also recovering nicely from a pit road speeding violation.
Roger Penske added to his already impressive legacy, with his 13th IndyCar championship, and his first since 2006, with Sam Hornish Jr. Everyone is well aware of his 15 Indianapolis 500 wins. He has 174 total wins, with 50 of those coming from Power (21) and Castroneves (29). Those two obviously finished 1-2 in the standings, but his third driver also had a great season. Montoya made quite an impact in his return to open wheel racing this year. He finished fourth in the final standings, nearly giving The Captain the ultimate championship sweep. Montoya’s record in the three 500-mile races this year is staggering. He finished 5th at Indy, 1st at Pocono, and 4th tonight at Fontana.
For each champion that is crowned, there must be a bridesmaid. Unfortunately for Castroneves, it’s a feeling he knows all too well. This is the fourth time in his career that he has finished runner-up in the championship. Even more impressive, he has only finished outside of the top six in the standings once in the last 13 years. This may be the most eye-opening statistic though; In the last 13 years, Helio’s average finishing position in the standings is 4.1, and he has never won the title. If anything, he is incredibly consistent.
The 2014 season has come to a close, and the long off-season has officially begun. There were 11 different winners this season, which ties the record from 2000 and 2001. Power is relieved that it’s over, and he finally finished on top. Other drivers are just happy to put 2014 behind them. Some had worse luck than others, but it was an especially difficult year for Graham Rahal, and the RLL team. How bad was it? Jack Hawksworth and Mikhail Aleshin both missed double-points races this season (Pocono & Fontana) and both of them managed to finish ahead of Rahal in the standings. Others like Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, and Marco Andretti are already looking forward to 2015.
Next up on the docket, is the anticipated release of the 2015 schedule, and of course, silly season. It’s doubtful that we see much movement among the drivers, as most of the big names are already locked in for next season. Aside from Pagenaud possibly moving to a fifth Andretti car, it might be a quiet off-season – and a long one at that.
2014 Verizon IndyCar Championship Standings – Final
- Will Power – 671
- Helio Castroneves – 609
- Scott Dixon – 604
- Juan Pablo Montoya – 586
- Simon Pagenaud – 565
- Ryan Hunter-Reay – 563
- Tony Kanaan – 544
- Carlos Munoz – 483
- Marco Andretti – 463
- Sebastien Bourdais – 461
- Ryan Briscoe – 461