Power takes IndyCar crown as Palou wins at Laguna Seca
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Australia's Will Power won his second career IndyCar drivers championship on Sunday with a third-place finish while Spain's Alex Palou captured the season-ending Monterey Grand Prix.
Palou pulled away in the final 20 laps to defeat US runner-up Josef Newgarden by more than 30 seconds after 95 laps over the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca Raceway in Northern California.
"It's good to finish the season with a win," Palou said. "We had some power and good fuel mileage. It was an awesome day. Everything clicked."
Power, who needed only a podium finish to clinch his first season points crown since 2014, took third to win the championship chase over Newgarden by 560-544 points with New Zealand's Scott Dixon third, 39 points adrift.
"It has been way too long," Power said. "What a team effort it was all year. You don't get years like this very often so I'm going to soak this in."
Power, 41, won his only race of the season at Detroit but managed eight other podium finishes.
"It was just playing the long game all year. It wasn't about going for the big wins," Power said.
Power became IndyCar's all-time pole leader on Saturday with his 68th, breaking the mark he shared with legend Mario Andretti.
Power fulfilled a prediction his wife, Liz, made before the season that he would win the season crown and break Andretti's record.
"She actually gave me confidence that I could do it, that's how much confidence I have in her gut feel," Power said. "She said those words and I just couldn't believe it came true."
Power battled handling and tire grip issues much of the race and knew the title was at stake when Newgarden, who started last in a field of 25, made a late charge.
"I just knew I had to absolutely get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions," Power said. "It was on the edge, very loose. What a relief."
Newgarden, the 2017 and 2019 season champion, settled for a third consecutive runner-up points showing despite a season-best five wins from 17 races.
"We came back. We fought. We nearly got there," Newgarden said. "I'm proud of the effort. We'll come back next year."
Dixon, who started 13th and finished 12th, missed out on a seventh career IndyCar season title that would have matched A.J. Foyt's all-time record.
"We ultimately just didn't have the pace," Dixon said. "We tried everything we could. Just frustrating. We couldn't bring all we needed to today. We'll keep pushing as hard as possible."
Palou, the 2021 season champion in a legal fight with team owner Chip Ganassi over his 2023 contract status, took his fourth career victory and hinted he might stay.
"Things are evolving good. We'll see," Palou said. "We'll enjoy the moment now and see what happens."
Power seized the lead through the first set of pit stops but Palou passed him for the lead on lap 27.
Fast-charging Newgarden passed Power for second on lap 46 in the downhill-plunge eighth turn known as the "corkscrew."
Newgarden made the last pit stop of the lead trio with 21 laps to go and returned to the track well behind Palou but ahead of Power and they stayed that way to the finish.