Will Power took the lead in the Indianapolis 500 with four laps to go, knew he had it won when he took the white flag all alone and spent the final lap yelling to himself as he pulled away from the field.
“Man,” he said, “I think I’m going to win this!”
The 37-year-old Australian did just that in a dominant performance for Team Penske. He managed his fuel strategy perfectly as Oriol Servia and Jack Harvey had to pit in the closing laps, and then made all the right moves to hold off pole winner Ed Carpenter to win his first Indy 500.
“I was wondering if I would ever win it and thoughts when through my mind during the month, my career,” he said. “I’ve had so many wins, so many poles. Everyone talks about the 500 and I just couldn’t imagine winning a race in front of a crowd like this, this many people. It’s just amazing.”
Power extended team owner Roger Penske’s record of 17 wins in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” and it completed a sweep of May in Indianapolis for him. Power also won the road-course event.
He has 34 wins in IndyCar now, tying him with Al Unser Jr. for most on the career list.
“He hated ovals and now he loves them,” said Carpenter, the local boy who had dominated the early stages of the race. “He and I love racing together. Maybe someday he’ll race for me. I don’t know if we have a tampering rule in IndyCar, but congrats Will.”
Near-record temperatures at the start created a slick, 2 ½-mile oval, and new cars with less downforce proved to be a handful for even the most experienced of drivers.
Defending race winner Takuma Sato crashed out early in IndyCar’s most prestigious race. Danica Patrick’s career ended when she lost control and slammed into the wall. Sebastien Bourdais, three-time winner Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan also lost control and wrecked.
Patrick was completing the “Danica Double” after wrecking out at the Daytona 500. She decided long ago that the race that made her famous would be her last, and while she called the outcome disappointing, she also expressed appreciation for all that Indianapolis had given her.
“Yeah, it’s an entire career,” she said, “but what really launched it was this. It’s both of them. I had a lot of good fortune here and did still have some this month. It just didn’t come today.”
Bourdais crashed a year after missing the race because of a harrowing, high-speed accident during qualifying, while Castroneves — who is now driving sports cars for Penske — was going for a record-tying fourth victory in the Indy 500 in a brief return to open-wheel racing.
Moments after climbing out of his wrecked car, he begged Penske for another chance.
“We’ll certainly take a good luck at that for sure,” Penske said. “He got a good run and got a little high there. You don’t see a guy like that lose it very often.”