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Author: Mark W. Theisen
August 17th 2014 -
    West Allis, Wisconsin August 17, 2014:   When Will Power won the 2013 Verizon IndyCar season ending race last fall on the super speedway oval at Fontana, California, his first career win on an oval track, I immediately pegged him as the championship favorite for 2014, for the master of the street and road course circuits just needed to get the confidence on the ovals.

     And that confidence he now seems to have!

     This afternoon on the short oval, The Milwaukee Mile, Power has it on cruise control to lead 229 laps of the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 and take a 39 point lead in the 2014 IndyCar standings heading into the final two races of the 2014 campaign.  A lot can happen in two races, with the final at Fontana in two weeks being a double point race, but for now Power is making my predication look good thus far.

     Power, the pole winner in yesterday's qualifications, paced the opening 57 laps of the 250 lap affair before surrendering the lead to his Penske Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya who ruled the race for just two laps before his stop.

     Ed Carpenter then led three laps before making his initial pit stop of the race to complete the first cycle of green flag pit stops and when that was over it was Power cycling back to the lead that he held until the next round of pits stops began on lap 122 when Power made his second stop turning the lead of the race over to Tony Kanaan, who had qualified second on Saturday and was one of five drivers who could stay close to Power as the race unfolded.

     Kanaan was in front when the caution waived for the first and what would turn out to be the only yellow of the race, on lap 131 when Carlos Munoz drifted high in the fourth turn sliding into the "marbles" or loose chunks of worn tires that collect near the wall and hit the wall ending his day prematurely for tad river of one of four Andretti Autosport entries in today's race.

     Things got worse for the Andretti group, the winner of the past two Milwaukee Races, with Ryan Hunter-Reay as the driver.  Hunter-Reay, who came into the Milwaukee ABC Supply 250 in third place in the season standings suffered a poor qualifying effort yesterday and then battled an ill handling car today that exited the race on lap 168 with what was described as mechanical problem.

     "Something popped in the right rear," said Hunter-Reay, the winner of this year's Indianapolis 500.  "It was undrivable after that.  We did not exactly get the balance we needed this weekend here and this is probably our championship hopes going up in smoke."

     Hunter-Reay fell one spot in the standings leaving Milwaukee but is significantly behind Power but still within mathematical possibility of winning the title.  Hunter-Reay did experience some positives this weekend at Milwaukee.  He re-signed with Andretti Autosport and sponsor DHL for three years.

     Power retook control of the race on lap 133 when Kanaan made his second spit stop and stayed in the lead until lap 187 when it was time for his final stop.

     Kanaan led two more laps and than Montoya for two more during the pits top cycles and when it was all done Power was in front again and cruised home the final 57 laps for a 2.7949 second win over Montoya with Kanaan third.

     Scott Dixon was fourth Josef Newgarden finished fifth after a late race pit stop for a splash of fuel took him out of contention for a top three or podium finish, the second race that Newgarden suffered the same fate.

     "The handling was awesome, said Power in victory circle.  "We hardly made any adjustments over the whole race. Full credit to the team for giving me such a great car!  These (ovals) are my favorite tracks these days.  I really enjoy the ovals now it's great fun.  The team's done such a good job, everybody at Team Penske these last few races has had it all together.

     Montoya, who has settled back into his Verizon IndyCar schedule, after spending time in Formula One and NASCAR echoed Power's team sentiments.  "I think Team Penske is going a really good job.  We had a good car from the first lap this weekend, made a couple of changes and that was it.  Our cars were all so good that I am really disappointed we came in second.  We were that close.

     Kanaan, who took over at Target Chip Ganassi Racing for Dario Franchitti this season, had struggled earlier in the year but now is performing well and finished third today for his fourth podium finish in the past five Verizon IndyCar races.

     "Good run, said Kanaan, "not what we wanted though.  I thought we had a car to win the race but I think we missed a little bit on the set up

     Kanaan, who is looking for his first win of the season, is looking forward to the final two races.  "We're on a roll now and looking at Sonoma to get that first win for the team.

     Dixon, a team mate to Kanaan at Target Chip Ganassi racing finished fourth following his first win of the season two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.  "The entire Target team was strong today and the car was good, said Dixon.  "We got caught in slower traffic and we pitted out of sequence to try and make up some time but in the end that didn'™t work out.

     Newgardens drive to fifth was the highlight of the day.  "We had to stop for fuel near the end, said Newgarden.  "We weren't planning on it.  I was thinking we were going to run in third place til the end, we were saving as much fuel as possible.  It turned out that we had to stop, though, and that put is all the way a lap down and in 11th place so we had to take tires and that was the advantage, getting the tires on and trying to smoke as many people as we could.  I can't even believe we made it back up to fifth!

     It was exciting to watch this young driver weave his way through traffic, a real highlight to an otherwise less than exciting race.

     Ryan Briscoe, Simon Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin, Carpenter and Jack Hawksworth rounded out the top ten of the race as only the first seven finished on the lead lap.

     Power came into Milwaukee with a four point lead over his other Penske Racing team mate, Helio Castroneves, who finished 11th today, and now heads into the final two races with his 39 point lead over Castroneves. 

     Six drivers have a mathematical chance for the championship which will be decided in the double point season ending race on August 30th at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. 

     Simon Pagenaud moved to third ahead of Hunter-Reay with his seventh place finish today, Montoya and Dixon are the other two drivers who still have an outside chance at the title.

     Penske drivers have thrown away chances at titles the past three years so anything is possible within this group yet the odds favor Penske this year as everything seems in order.

    "It's a perfect way to start this three-race chase, said Power.  "If we have a couple more days like this it's going to be a great finish.  We're going to keep our head down, don't think of points, and execute.

    With what I saw today, they are executing!