Five drivers entered Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca with a chance to win the NTT IndyCar Series championship. Only Will Power left with the trophy.
Despite winning just once (Detroit in June), Power’s consistency throughout the season with nine podiums meant he only needed to finish in the top three to secure the title. As Álex Palou took the win, Power placed third to clinch his first crown since 2014. At the age of forty-one, he became the oldest IndyCar champion since Al Unser won in 1985 at forty-six. He is the sixth driver to win multiple IndyCar championships for Team Penske after Unser, Gil de Ferran, Rick Mears, Tom Sneva, and current team-mate Josef Newgarden; when expanded to include titles in other disciplines, the company also includes Power’s colleague Scott McLaughlin‘s three Supercars championships and Brad Keselowski‘s two in NASCAR.
Power qualified on the pole for a record sixty-eighth time in his career, breaking the tie for the most in IndyCar history with Mario Andretti. He led the opening lap to earn a bonus point and thus better his chances at the title, but pit strategy eventually resulted in Palou—who was mathematically out of the championship picture—taking the lead on lap 16 and holding it for much of the race. Running what will likely be his final race for Chip Ganassi Racing depending on how the situation with McLaren plays out, Palou kept his distance from the field, led sixty-seven of ninety-five laps, and easily won over Newgarden and Power by a margin of over thirty seconds.
Newgarden placed second in the standings for the third straight year as he was sixteen points back of Power with 544 to 560. The other drivers still in contention finished seventh (McLaughlin), ninth (Marcus Ericsson), and twelfth (Scott Dixon). Palou’s win promoted him past Ericsson for fifth in the final standings while McLaughlin was up to fourth, fifty points behind Power. Dixon finished third at 521.
“From the beginning, it was just playing the long game, not necessarily going for the big wins and all that,” said Power.