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Will Power wins second IndyCar championship with third place in season finale

Will Power credits his wife for believing in him and predicting before the season started that he would pass Mario Andretti for the most pole positions of all-time and win his second IndyCar Series championship.

MONTEREY, California -- Sticking with the steady and unspectacular methods he used all season, Will Power clinched his second NTT IndyCar Series championship with a third-place finish Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

After starting on the pole position for a record 68th time in his career, the Team Penske driver led 17 laps in the No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet and stayed near the front for 95 laps on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course on California’s Monterey Peninsula.

Power, who also won the title in 2014, finished 16 points ahead of teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second after starting 25th because of a spin in qualifying.

Race winner Alex Palou also turned in an inspired drive, leading 67 of 95 laps and winning by more than 30 seconds after starting 11th because of a six-position grid penalty. It was the first victory of the season for the defending series champion, who has been embroiled in a contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing.

But the main story was Power quietly playing the long game as he had all season. Though he had one only victory this season (at Detroit Belle Isle in June), Sunday was Power’s ninth podium finish in 17 races, and it came a day after he broke Mario Andretti’s mark for pole positions.

“Let me tell you, in the offseason my wife (Liz) said to me you’re going to beat Mario’s record and win the championship, and it actually gave me confidence that she said I could do that,” Power, 41, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “That’s how much confidence I had in her gut feel. She said those words, and I just can’t believe it came true.

“Man, I had to drive the thing today, it was loose and on the edge. What a relief.”

The race’s first caution flag flew on Lap 39 after Callum Ilott, who had started a career-best second, stopped in Turn 2 and was unable to refire his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara-Chevrolet.

IndyCar officials held the yellow for a lap while waiting on whether Ilott would start moving again, and points leader Will Power was among those who dove into the pits to change tires while still under green.

When the race restarted on Lap 43, all five championship contenders were in the top 10 with Palou in the lead ahead of Power with Newgarden (fifth), McLaughlin (sixth), Ericsson (eighth) and Dixon (10th).

IndyCar: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

Sep 11, 2022; Salinas, California, USA; Team Penske driver Will Power (12) of Australia celebrates his series victory following the Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

But the race went green the rest of the way, and though Newgarden kept climbing through the field (while making an extra pit stop), Power never lost his cool despite getting passed by his teammate and losing the lead to Palou.

It was the first victory for the Spaniard in more than a year. Monday marks two months since Palou went public with having signed with McLaren Racing despite Ganassi’s claim to have an option on Palou’s services for 2023.

“Today was awesome,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Awesome job by all the team. Strategy was on point. It’s good to finish the season with a win. Struggled a bit during the whole weekend, and I don’t know what happened today, but everything clicked, so super happy to win a race this year.”

Though Palou has maintained for several weeks that he won’t be driving for Ganassi next year, he didn’t rule it out when asked by Lee if this was his last race in the No. 10 Dallara-Honda.

“Yeah, things are moving good, so we’ll see what can we tell, but yeah,” Palou said. “We’re going to enjoy the moment now and we’ll see what happens.”