Power high on life after popular, dominant Fontana win

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Will Power came into the media center last night after his third win in the last five races in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, and second of his career on an oval, absolutely high on life.

Power turned in his most dominant oval performance of his career, leading six times for a race-high 103 laps. Even more satisfying was that was taking the motivation from last year’s accident at Auto Club Speedway and using it to fuel him last night.

“The incentive was, Ed Carpenter said (last year) that ‘Will Power did exactly what everyone expected him to do at the last race last year,’” Power said. “I thought that was just such motivation for me to beat him and win at this track, and just be good at ovals.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to beat Ed.’ Ed, I really respect him. A very good, fast clean oval racer. Always good to race. I don’t dislike him, but I told him, I said, ‘Man your comment last year gave me a lot of motivation.’

“That comment definitely got to me… in a good way.”

It’s been a rough few season finales for the Australian at Team Penske. A crash at Homestead in 2010 cost him his first shot at a title, contact from another car in the pits at Kentucky cost him in 2011, and of course last year’s accident here still sticks fresh.

So for the first time in five years, since Power finished fifth at Chicagoland Speedway in his last race for KV Racing Technology, Power heads into the offseason on a high note.

“I said it to Merrill Cain (Penske PR director), ‘When am I going to finish a season in a good way?’” he opined. “I think 2008 I finished fourth or fifth, Chicagoland, yeah got it.

“2009, broke my back. 2010, hit the wall. 2011, got hit in the pits. Then the Vegas thing. 2012, crashed here. 2013, I won!” he exhaled as he smacked the podium table (one of several times he did so) for extra emphasis.

The icing on the cake, perhaps, was the fact this win came over Carpenter – the Fuzzy’s Vodka driver finished second and just missed out on his third straight season finale victory.

But for Power, the win could not have been any sweeter, after downing some of Carpenter’s sponsor in victory lane. If his momentum carries in 2014, look out.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.