DETROIT -- Will Power didn't have the fastest car in qualifying for the first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit.
But he certainly did in the race itself -- which, combined with perfect pit stop strategy from Team Penske, allowed the Australian to score his second Verizon IndyCar Series win of the 2014 season and 23rd of his career.
Like so many Indy car races, this one was decided by fuel management and the timing of full-course cautions. Power started 16th after battling handling problems in qualifying, and his run to victory was keyed by an early pit stop under yellow on Lap 7 after Simon Pagenaud tapped the wall.
AP Photo/Dave FrechetteWill Power gets a champagne shower courtesy of Graham Rahal, left, and Tony Kanaan on Saturday.
Power made the second of his three pit stops under green on Lap 30, turning a series of quick laps that allowed him to take control of the race from pole winner Helio Castroneves and the other drivers who stuck to a standard two-stop strategy. Once the final round of stops cycled through, Power led, and he held off a charging Graham Rahal by 0.3008 seconds at the flag.
"Graham made it very difficult -- man, he never gave up," Power remarked. "I thought I could pull a gap, and every time I'd relax, he'd be straight back on me.
"What a tough race," he added. "No fuel saving, just run hard, and good strategy from the guys. I'm very happy."
Power still probably wasn't as happy as Rahal, who posted his first podium finish in 22 races dating to Long Beach 2013.
Rahal ran a stint in the lead and he and Power were the only drivers to lap in the 1-minute 17-second bracket.
"I thought I was going to finally get the monkey off my back today," said Rahal, whose last Indy car race win came at the 2008 St. Petersburg GP. "I knew I had a car that was as quick as him.
"I said after Indy that this team was made of champions and that it would come in time, and we're going to win one," he added. "We're going to do it -- I can promise you that, and it's coming soon."
"When you can put Will out front and get him some clear laps, he certainly puts them together," said Team Penske president Tim Cindric.
"Things kind of fell our way. We needed some of those breaks to break the race up a bit and we really took advantage of it. An awesome day for all of us."
It was a big day for Power in the IndyCar Series championship, as he cut Ryan Hunter-Reay's lead from 40 points to three. Castroneves is third in the standings, 44 points behind Hunter-Reay.
The Indy 500 winner had a terrible Saturday in Detroit, with a crash in qualifying forcing him to start from the back row. Pushing hard at the end of the race, Hunter-Reay again crashed on the last lap, costing him a potentially crucial five points as he dropped from 11th to 16th place.
Power looked somewhat knackered when he stepped from his car, but he said that his stamina will not be an issue for Sunday's 70-lap contest (ABC, 3:30 p.m.ET).
"I was thinking on the last stint, 'Man, I've got to do this again tomorrow!'" Power admitted. "I was absolutely puffing.
"But that's why we do fitness and I'll try to recover the best I can to come back and do it again."