WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Pole-sitter Will Power fended off Juan Pablo Montoya to win Sunday at the Milwaukee Mile, giving a huge boost to Team Penske’s IndyCar season title bid.
The 33-year-old Australian added to the slim lead he had in the standings over teammate Helio Castroneves. A Penske driver has finished second each of the previous four seasons and five of the last six.
Power raced to his third victory of the season, and his first on an oval. He has said his top priority is to win a title for Penske.
Montoya, another Penske driver, finished second. Tony Kanaan was third.
After coming into Milwaukee with a four-point lead, Power heads to the road course at Sonoma next week with 602 points, 39 more than Castroneves.
Plus, Power proved doubters wrong who said he couldn’t win on ovals. It was Power’s third career oval victory, following Texas in 2011 and Fontana last year.
“Yes! I love winning on ovals! I love winning on ovals!” he yelled on his radio after taking the checkered flag. The season could be decided on an oval with the final in two weeks at Fontana.
Power’s victory ended Ryan Hunter-Reay’s two-year winning streak at the Mile. Hunter-Reay won the Indianapolis 500, but his championship hopes took a hit after exiting following 168 laps with mechanical problems.
Hunter-Reay was third in the standings entering the race. His day had started on a high note after signing a three-year extension with Andretti Autosport to stay in the No. 28 car.
The day belonged to Power, who was in familiar territory after also having led the standings with three races to go in 2012 and 2010. Power crashed in the finale both years.
Once again, Power is in control going into this season’s final two races in California.
“We asked him today to drive on an oval like he would on a road course,” team president Tim Cindric said about the fuel strategy Power used Sunday.
Power led by 2 seconds late Sunday before Montoya was able to shave about a half-second from the lead around lap 238.
Soon, Power and Montoya were the only two cars on the lead lap, with traffic ahead. It could have provided Montoya with a prime opportunity to get by.
Instead, Power started pulling away again and won by 2.7 seconds.
“Yeah, it was just hard,” Montoya said. “Here, it’s just one line” to pass.
Castroneves finished 11th in the race.
Simon Pageneaud, who finished seventh at Milwaukee, moved up to third in the driver standings, 92 behind Power.
Hunter-Reay fell to fourth place, while Montoya is fifth. Sixth-place Scott Dixon is the only other driver who remains eligible for the title.