Photo: John Cote
The championship came down to the final race for the ninth consecutive season, with 3 drivers – Will Power, Helio Castroneves (both Team Penske, Chevrolet), and Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing, Honda) – still in contention. Castroneves won the pole, with Power starting second to the last and Pagenaud in P12. Power led Castroneves by 50 and Pagenaud by 81, with 100 points available to the winner in this double-points race season finale.
Power would clinch the championship by finishing sixth or better; Castroneves by winning with Power finishing eighth, coming in second with Power finishing P16, or third with Power in P21 or worse; and Pagenaud by winning with Power finishing P21 or worse and Castroneves third or worse. Castroneves and Power entered the race at #1 and #2 on the all-time list for most wins without a championship, 29 and 24 respectively, both having finished second in the standings three times.
Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya (Penske), and Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Honda) started on Row 1, with Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Enterprises, Honda), Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy), and Charlie Kimball (Ganassi) lining up right behind them.
Power dropped back on the start to avoid any potential accidents, with Montoya leading Castroneves and Newgarden at the end of Lap 1. Dixon took second from Castroneves during Lap 11 (of 250). Power had climbed to P15 on Lap 14. Pagenaud pitted with handling issues during Lap 22.
Montoya pitted from the lead on Lap 35. When the first cycle of stops was complete Montoya remained in the lead, Dixon ran second, and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport, Honda) third. Hinchcliffe was battling Montoya for the lead during Lap 53, taking it and holding it five laps later.
In the meantime, Pagenaud pitted for a second time in continued efforts to get his handling right. Montoya came in on Lap 66, complaining of understeer. Hinchcliffe followed 8 laps later. Montoya returned to the lead, followed by Castroneves and Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevy). Carpenter passed Castroneves for second during Lap 85. By Lap 94 Dixon had taken third.
Montoya made his third stop on Lap 100, Carpenter four laps later. Carpenter was given a pitlane speed violation penalty. Dixon pitted during Lap 108. Montoya remained in the lead at the end of the cycle – closing in on the bonus point for most laps led -- followed by Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti).
Hunter-Reay passed Montoya for the lead on Lap 120 and built a 3.1-sec lead over Montoya by Lap 133. Montoya pitted during Lap 140, Hunter-Reay coming in two laps later. Castroneves ran first at Lap 153, but had pitted four laps earlier than the rest of the front runners, followed by Tony Kanaan (Ganassi), and Hunter-Reay.
Kanaan passed Hunter-Reay for second during Lap 171. Hunter-Reay spun on Lap 176, bringing out the race’s first caution. The laps run under green set a new record for the most consecutive laps run without a yellow from the start of an IndyCar 500-mile race, breaking the old record of 159.
All the leaders came in under the caution, Kanaan and Dixon moving up to first and second, with Castroneves slipping to third. Power left the pits in fourth, followed by Montoya. The green waved to start Lap 188. Power and Castroneves fought hard for third place, Power eventually taking it and then moving low to pass both Ganassi entries and take the lead.
Kanaan challenged Power for the lead during Lap 197, eventually making it past, with Dixon following suit. Carpenter pushed Power to fourth, one spot ahead of Castroneves, with 45 laps left. Kanaan, Dixon, and Carpenter ran 1-2-3 with 10 to go. This order remained in place to the end, with Carpenter followed by Montoya and Hinchcliffe.
Power finished ninth to take his first career championship, bursting into tears in the car before doing his donuts.