<
>

Power wins, draws closer to title

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- If any questions still existed about Will Power's oval racing prowess, the Australian answered them Sunday with a dominant victory at the Milwaukee Mile.

Power led 228 of 250 laps from pole position and fought off challenges from Tony Kanaan and Juan Pablo Montoya to claim the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 for his first short-track race win.

"I love winning on ovals!" Power exclaimed into his in-car radio upon earning perhaps the most important victory of his career.

His win coming at what is regarded as the toughest "driver's track" in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Power had reason to be pleased. Coupled with his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves' 11th-place finish at Milwaukee, Power carries a 39-point lead into the final two races of the season, at Sonoma Raceway and Auto Club Speedway -- tracks where he is the defending race winner.

"Just a great way to start the final three races," Power said. "The team is doing a really good job, and we have two other tracks that I'm very strong on and enjoy. We're a well-oiled machine right now with all three cars.

"Definitely the last two stints we were saving fuel, but we had to go when somebody got close," he added. "It was a juggling act, but the guys got it perfect with the strategy and it's just awesome to be in Victory Lane. I'm just going to keep moving forward, man."

Power's victory was keyed by a long stint just past halfway when he was able to hold off Kanaan despite the Brazilian's Target/Ganassi Chevrolet running on 12-lap fresher tires.

He made the fuel-saving strategy work to cross the line with a 2.795-second advantage over Montoya.

"Obviously, Tony [Kanaan] gave us a good run, but Will was able to hold him off and save the fuel to the end," said Team Penske president (and Power race strategist) Tim Cindric.

"We asked him to drive today on an oval like he'd drive on a road course, saving fuel and all that. I just didn't want to get into a big mess on pit lane with all those guys. I knew he could make the fuel, so hats off to him today. If you give him the information, he usually knows what to do with it."

Montoya was able to cut the gap to about half a second in the closing laps when Power encountered traffic, but he was never able to get close enough to threaten for the victory.

"I'm actually really disappointed to finish second today, but he deserves it," Montoya said. "You really didn't want to race him, because he had such a good car today. Will is doing what it takes right now to win the championship."

Kanaan, whose late-season resurgence continued with another podium finish, said he gave it all he had "and then some."

"I can't be frustrated because I don't think we had a car to win today," Kanaan added. "This is really going to help Will in the championship, because I don't think Helio had a very good day."

Indeed, Castroneves classified his race as "one of those days when you're like, 'Man, let's go home.' It was a shame."

Behind Castroneves, third-ranked Simon Pagenaud is now 92 points behind Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay dropped 108 points back after a DNF at Milwaukee, while Montoya (-114) and Scott Dixon (-130) are the only other drivers who are still mathematically eligible for the championship.

Dixon admitted that he is all but out of it. "I think today nearly put the nail in the coffin," Dixon said with a laugh. "We might need a few meteors coming out of space to land on the 12 car."

Power, meanwhile, steadfastly refuses to think about the championship. Of course, he has famously come close before, finishing second in the 2010, '11 and '12 IndyCar Series title sweepstakes.

"Full credit to the team for giving me such a great car," he said. "If we have a couple more days like this, it's going to be a great finish.

"But my head is down, don't think of points, and just execute and get the most out of every situation."