Power immediately reclaimed the lead, but Dixon was happy enough with second place ahead of Dixon and Kimball and Castroneves stuck in fourth place seeing his remaining title hopes slip away lap after lap, especially as the attrition continued to chip away at the number of cars still on track with Graham Rahal next to fall from engine issues and then Alex Tagliani falling prey to the notorious surface seams with a spin in turn 2 on lap 210.
Roger Penske attempted to claim a strategic advantage by immediately calling Castroneves into pit lane under the caution, only to find that the pits were still closed which forced Castroneves to drive straight through and wait until the pits reopened on lap 212 at which point the entire field streamed in. "I'm sorry," a chagrined Penske radioed to Castroneves. And then to Power's pit crew: "Keep that tyre out of the way for Dixon," a reminder of the incident earlier in the season where a Penske crewman had been clipped by the #9 exiting its pit stall at Sonoma. Dixon had been penalised for that incident, butt he rules had been changed since then and Penske didn't want the title decided by cosmic karma payback if he could help it.
Kimball challenged Power for the lead a the restart on lap 216, and then Power fell away and Kimball found himself contesting the lead with none other than Castroneves, the only way left now for the Brazilian to have a chance of edging Dixon for the title. But others had designs on the top spot of the podium, with Bourdais, Hinchcliffe and Carpenter also throwing everything that they had into the fray, during the course of which Castroneves sustained critical damage to his front wing: there was no option for the #3 but to pit for a replacement, which put him a lap off the lead and his championship hopes surely now over.
Or maybe not: Dixon was not immune to overheating issues, and with 20 laps remaining he too made an unscheduled appearance on pit lane. At the same time, Sebastian Bourdais snapped into the wall at turn 3 while battling at close quarters with Will Power to throw yet another wild card into the game, as over half the field was now eliminated from the proceedings and just seven cars remained on the lead lap - and Castroneves no longer one of them.
Other than Dixon - who continued to fret about overheating - only Ed Carpenter opted for a pit stop before the race went green again on lap 236 with Kimball quickly succumbing to Power, Kanaan and Hinchcliffe as the engine in the #83 emphatically blew up at the same time as JR Hildebrand's #98 Bryan Herta Autosport car also pulled down off the track and parked on the apron to bring out the seventh caution of the night.
That left eight laps to go and just nine cars still on the track when the green came out, Power flying off into a huge lead as Carpenter leapt to second place ahead of Kanaan and Hinchcliffe, with Dixon the last man on the leap lap in fifth place and now just content to make it to the finish to seal the title. It didn't matter than he crossed the line a full 15.8s behind the race winner Will Power, the important thing was that he crossed it, and did so ahead of Castroneves. The title was his, the third in his US open wheel career, and continuing his run of winning on a five-year cycle after earlier titles in 2003 and 2008.
It was also a night of vindication for the race winner Will Power, who finally displayed that he could master an oval with the best of them. "That is the most satisfying win of my life," said Power after his win, a year on from the disastrous outing at Fontana that cost him the 2012 title when he crashed out. "I'm so stoked."
Even Helio Castroneves was still smiling at the end of the race, despite seeing his latest opportunity for a maiden IndyCar title slip through his fingers. "We did an excellent job," he said. "I has so, so much fun out there," he added, pointing out that the championship had effectively ended for him back in the disaster of the Houston double-header.
For Castroneves, it was already time to look forward to next season and the next opportunity to put his name on the Astor Cup, while for tonight all he could do was watch on as Scott Dixon took receipt of the trophy. Power knew the feelings Helio was going through all too well, having been the runner-up too many times than he likes to remember, and he was equally determined to do everything he could to rectify that in 2014. Next year both Castroneves and Power will have stiff competition from within their own team in the form of series returnee Juan Pablo Montoya, while meanwhile Ganassi will be joining Penske on the Chevrolet roster and their own team line-up will be augmented by the arrival in the squad of Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan.
Even as the confetti and the fireworks marked the crowning of this year's champion in the form of the personable 33-year-old Kiwi, the wheels were already starting to turn on next year's campaign It'll be March before you know it...
Full race results available