Andretti crowns Power as first IndyCar Road Champion
Mario Andretti relayed a few cautionary tidbits, based on his own experience to Will Power a few days before formally presenting the inaugural Mario Andretti Road Championship Trophy and a $50,000 check to the Team Penske driver in Victory Circle following the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
"You have to enjoy it while you can; it never lasts long," said Andretti, who won 23 road course races during his distinguished career. "Right now, he's on a roll and God bless him. It's wonderful to see."
Power, who outdistanced Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti for the award, also maintains the overall championship points lead heading into the final four races of the season.
"Even though he has the points lead, you don't rest," Andretti said, "and that's the beauty of IndyCar. To win the overall championship, you have to be proficient on all sides of what it has to offer. That's what I really enjoy about the series since it started having the mix (in 2005) of ovals and road courses. As a driver, that always was the ultimate challenge."
Andretti, 70, was selected as the award's namesake through a fan poll on indycar.com. The driver who totals the most points through the Sept. 19 race at Twin Ring Motegi will receive the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy, which also was determined via a poll on indycar.com.
"It's special that the fans voted on it and it's a real compliment at this stage of my life," Andretti said. "It's wonderful that the oval trophy is named in honor of A.J. He was the yardstick for so many years and when I came on the scene he's the guy we were gunning for. That was the man. If you can't beat him, you'll never win a race.
"In the future, I will certainly enjoy watching young drivers in pursuit of this trophy. Throughout my career, there was a thrill in knowing and feeling that fans were connecting with me."
Power wrapped the road/street title Aug. 8 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, buoyed by victories at Brazil, St. Petersburg, Watkins Glen and Toronto. He added a victory in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, and also finished on the podium at Long Beach, Edmonton and Mid-Ohio. His points total was supplemented by seven PEAK Performance Pole Awards on road/streets.
"To get the award named in honor of someone I looked up to as a kid is fantastic," Power said. "The key was winning, actually. In any championship, winning makes a huge difference, but so does consistency. I've had a very strong team around me all year and two very good teammates who have helped me a lot. I've had a good run."
Team support, according to Andretti, has been integral for Power, who's in his first full season with Team Penske.
"He's benefiting from great equipment and he's making the most of it," Andretti said. "I attribute what he's been able to do this year to having all the pieces of the puzzle fit and just having that harmony within the team. He is, of course, a very good driver and the team is giving him everything he needs versus the competitors. He's in a very enviable position.
"He has two other teammates who have done well, but somehow it seems he's got the formula a little bit better."