Dominant Power extends championship lead
17 August 2014 – Australian Will Power did not lead the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 from wire to wire, but it may have felt like it, leading over 2/3 of the laps en route to a crucial victory, stretching his championship lead from five to 39 with just two races to go.
Shouting "I love winning on ovals!" over his radio on the cooldown lap, Power led 229 of 250 laps to win for the first time in his career on a short oval – something he had dreaded a few years ago.
But as his championship hopes would grow on road courses only to shrink on ovals, the Australian continued to work on the latter. As a result, after the race he called this one of his most satisfying wins, despite winning on larger ovals before.
Championship rival and teammate Helio Castroneves was mired throughout the race, finishing in P11, even getting lapped by Power with a few laps remaining. The loss of points wasn't enough to knock the Brazilian out of second in the championship standings, but his speed could not match his team-mate's in the end.
Juan Pablo Montoya looked as though he might have something for Power with 20 laps to go, but lapped traffic prevented the Colombian from attacking his Penske teammate. The lead would swell in clean air, but the nature of a short oval meant that a multitude of cars would slow the leader enough to give Montoya a chance, just not consistently. He was nearly four seconds ahead of Tony Kanaan, who rounded out the top three.
Early in the race, many eyes were on former Milwaukee winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started a paltry P19. By the first round of pit stops, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner was into sixth and looked poised to challenge for the lead, but a slower second stint saw his speed fall off to the point that he dropped out of the top ten.
Oddly, on lap 170, Hunter-Reay's Andretti Autosport machine suddenly became twitchy on the straightaway. As he slowed, the car's right rear suspension had broken and the American's day was done. Officially classified as P21, the finish was enough to drop Hunter-Reay out of third in the championship (jumped by Simon Pagenaud), severely dampening his title hopes.
In all, the race was a speedy affair with just one caution coming when Carlos Munoz also broke his suspension after brushing the wall on lap 132. Continuing a trend of mixing up strategies, this caution divided the field between those who stayed out on 20-lap-old tyres (like Power) and those who decided to pit off-sequence (like Kanaan) and reap the speed advantage of new tyres. The advantage of new rubber averaged around 6mph by the end of a stint, but it failed to deliver a silver bullet effect like it did for Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden earlier this year at Iowa, the other short oval on the calendar.
Newgarden, especially, looked set to have another solid finish or even contest for a win, but his fuel strategy gamble failed to pay off when a late race caution never materialised. Denied a victory at Mid-Ohio by running over an air hose in the pits, Newgarden again drove a brilliant race only to be denied because of calls in the pits, but the young American would still nab fifth, just behind the man who won two weeks ago, Scott Dixon.
Today's win is the third of the season for Power and the 24th of his career, tying Bobby Rahal for 16th on the all-time wins list. His championship lead now grows to 39 with just two races left, but the final race of the year – the 500-mile affair at Fontana – is the third leg of the IndyCar Triple Crown and is thus worth double points, meaning the championship is far from over.
The IndyCar season comes to a close with those final two races spread over the next two weeks, heading to Sonoma, California, next Sunday.