INDIANAPOLIS -- Will Power won a steamy, slick Indianapolis 500 that had engineers and race strategists working every bit as hard as the drivers behind the wheel.
After seemingly falling behind during a furious restart with eight laps to go, the 37-year-old Australian took the lead with four laps remaining, when youngster Stefan Wilson, trying to stretch his fuel, was forced to pit and surrender the lead. Wilson finished 15th.
It was Power's 34th career IndyCar victory but his first in the sport's biggest race, coming in his 11th try. The 500 is an event in which he has been considered the favorite multiple times but had never been able to fulfill that promise, including a heartbreaking late loss to Penske Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015.
"I honestly was beginning to believe I was never going to win this race," he admitted amid the victory lane celebration.
Power celebrated the checkered flag by screaming into his radio: "Show me respect, m-----f-----!'' When he got to the winner's circle, he screamed some more. Some two hours after the race, he was exhausted.
"I just screamed like I've never screamed before. It was just amazing. The last two laps, the last lap, seeing the white flag, the checkered, I mean, you can't explain it,'' Power said. "It's what I needed so badly, what I wanted so badly, and it came true. Anyone here knows how that would feel. You want something so much, it comes through to you through hard work and determination.''
In the winner's circle, Power could not contain his glee. He screamed to his wife, Liz, took a sip of the traditional milk and then dumped the rest over his head and around his crew.
Liz Power reached for the empty milk bottle, then pointed out to her husband that he'd sprayed milk all over one of the Indy 500 princesses. He apologized, then started screaming again.
Power's win gave Roger Penske, 81, his 17th victory in the Indianapolis 500.
"To be able to race on Memorial Day in the biggest sporting event in the world, have America the way it is, that's what I'm going to take away from this race,'' Penske said. "I'm just so thrilled, 17 wins. Now I have to worry about 18. I'm not going to look back. I'll look forward. We have to be back next year.''
Pole sitter and hometown hero Ed Carpenter, who led the most laps of the race at 65, finished second, more than three seconds behind.
The 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was held on a scorching Sunday afternoon, so much so that it had the Speedway's old-timers trying to recall whether they had ever seen such high temperatures for the Memorial Day weekend event. By 9 a.m., air temperatures were already in the 80s, and at the halfway mark of the 200-lap race, those temps were in the low 90s. On-track temperatures were reported by ABC during the telecast as hitting 130 degrees.
Those conditions, plus a still-new race car design, sent the 33 teams into the event admitting that they didn't know what to expect from the race until it was well underway. That led to a series of varied pit strategies and a long list of race leaders, 15 in all via 30 lead changes, many of those coming during pit stops, when teams were employing their chosen strategies, be they fewer pit stops, staggered pit stops or fuel-saving measures.
Before a second-half restart, multiple drivers could be heard over their teams' radio channels asking for clarifications on exactly what strategies were being employed. The final round of pit stops, starting with 28 laps remaining, was particularly tense, as every drop of fuel gathered or missed could have made the difference between winning and losing.
An abundance of second-half cautions moved most of the field onto two strategic pages: those with full tanks and fresh tires and those working to milk the last few gasps out of what little fuel they had remaining. Power benefited from being in the first group, while Wilson was undone by being in the second.
Wilson, making his second Indy 500 start and only third career IndyCar Series start, was forced to surrender the lead, pitting for fuel with four laps remaining and handing the lead to Power.
There were seven caution periods in all, claiming some of the event's biggest stars. That list of victims included 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, driving for A.J. Foyt, four-time Champ Car series champion Sebastien Bourdais and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Defending race winner Takuma Sato crashed out just shy of the race's one-quarter mark after tangling with the much slower machine of James Davison.
Shortly thereafter, Danica Patrick lost control of her ill-handling car while running 17th and smacked the Turn 2 wall. She finished her eighth and final Indy 500 race in 30th place, a career worst. It was her first race back at Indy since 2011 and her second finish outside the top 10.
"What really bums you was this, but really both of them," she said, referring to February, when she crashed out of her final Daytona 500. "We had some moments to be proud of this month. They just didn't come on race day. But we had some good moments."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.