INDIANAPOLIS—Will Power can win anything now, even the Indianapolis 500, an intimidating race on an oval he hated because it marginalized his talent.
He drives for Roger Penske and nothing matters more to the boss than winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
So Power worked to change his attitude, improve his performance on ovals, and respect the track.
It got Power into the most storied winner's circle in history yesterday when he won the Indy 500 to give Penske a 17th victory in “The Great American Race.”
Power actually swept the month of May at Indy after winning on the road course two weeks ago and the 37-year-old Australian now has 34 wins in IndyCar, tying him with Al Unser Jr. for most on the career list.
“I can't believe it!" he screamed in the winner's circle. "I can't believe it.”
Penske arrived in Indy with four fast Chevrolets, and an engine builder determined to snap Honda's two-race Indy 500 winning streak.
The Chevys were the fastest cars in the field and Team Penske had four strong chances to win.
As Power held off pole-winner Ed Carpenter to win his first Indy 500, the 81-year-old Penske pumped his fist in the air and clapped for his driver.
Penske was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this month, and had a shot at closing yesterday with a victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina.
“He won this race today because he was the best,” Penske said of Power.
In the winner's circle, Power could not contain his glee. He screamed to wife, Liz, took a sip of the traditional milk, then dumped the rest over his head and around his crew.
Liz Power reached for the empty milk bottle, then pointed out to her husband that he had sprayed milk all over one of the Indy 500 princesses.
He apologized, then screamed some more.
Splashing the princess was the only wrong move Power made all day during an event that saw many of IndyCar's top drivers make costly mistakes.
Toronto's James Hinchcliffe, a championship contender, failed to make the race at all. Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais, and Danica Patrick were among those who crashed in single-car spins.
Defending race winner Takuma Sato also was knocked out when he ran into the back of a slower car.
IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens of Toronto was ninth while Montreal's Zachary Claman De Melo was 19th.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster today," Wickens remarked. ”I thought we had a great car but we just couldn't progress.
"We would make some moves forward with the strategy, and then we would get a yellow that would put us at the back again. . . .
“I'm leaving here feeling like I want more, but a top-10 finish as a rookie in the Indy 500, it's hard to complain,” he added.
Power led 59 laps but his final pit stop dropped him to fourth, behind three cars that were trying to win on fuel mileage.
Kanaan's crash with 12 laps to go set up a final restart with Oriol Servia out front. He didn't get a great restart, thought, and was passed by Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey.
But all three needed enough gas to get to the finish line, and it was Power who was frantically chasing them down.
Wilson and Harvey both ducked onto pit lane for gas, giving Power the lead with four laps remaining.
He knew he had it won when he took the white flag all alone, and spent the final lap yelling to himself in joy as he drove away from the field.
Carpenter was second in a Chevy.
Scott Dixon used strategy and stretched his fuel to finish third and was followed by Alexander Rossi, who drove from 32nd to fourth and made some of the most spectacular moves in the race.