His victory in the Champ Car-only Long Beach Grand Prix aside, Will Power hasn't had much to cheer about in his rookie season in the IndyCar Series, but ended the campaign on a high note with fifth place in Chicagoland finale.
While he had proved his potential with fourth place on the road course at Mid-Ohio, the Team Australia driver had suffered his fair share of bad luck as the inaugural unified competition progressed, with the ovals in particular proving to be something of a bugbear. However, it came largely right for the former Champ Car rookie of the year when he made a late charge top claim his best-ever placing in the IRL's signature format.
Having already qualified well on the Joliet oval - putting the #8 Aussie Vineyards car on the outside of row five - Power ran towards the front of the field throughout the 200-lap race before clawing his way into the top five in the final stages through a combination of strong car speed and slick pit-stops. His previous best finish on an oval was the ninth place he took at Iowa Speedway in June.
“I have never had so much fun in a race,” Power enthused after crossing the line just 1.3secs off winner Helio Castroneves, and a handful of tenths from overhauling former champion Tony Kanaan for fourth, “The car was good, and the crew did a great job in the pits. We picked up positions on every stop and had good restarts - everything was good."
The result means that Power finishes twelfth overall in the 2008 standings, and third in the Bombardier rookie of the year competition.
“This has been a challenging season, but the whole team has worked very hard, and I am just so happy to be able to have a good finish, especially on a mile-and-half oval," he reflected, "It really shows the progress the whole KV Racing Technology team has made this year.”
Power now turns his attention to the Gold Coast in his native Australia, where the IndyCar Series will end with a non-championship race in Surfers Paradise. Power twice took pole position there while racing in Champ Cars, but has yet to win - something he will be looking to put right when the Nikon Indy 300 gets underway next month.
“Will and the team did an outstanding job today and a top five on an oval is an excellent achievement for us,” Team Australia's Craig Gore noted, “It really shows that the hard work from Will and the crew is paying off. My hat goes off to them all and they deserve to be very pleased. Now we look ahead to Surfers Paradise and the Nikon Indy 300. That is a massive event for us and we are aiming for the win.”