Will Power has been pushed to the brink by Team Penske but withstood the internal challenge from his teammate to close out a season of consistency and win his second IndyCar championship.
Power finished third at Laguna Seca Raceway to beat teammate Josef Newgarden for the championship by 16 points in the final standings. The Australian's first IndyCar title came in 2014.
"Oh, man, it sounds so surreal," Power said as he crossed the finish line behind outgoing IndyCar champion Alex Palou and Newgarden, who used a white-knuckled drive through the field to make Power sweat until the chequered flag.
"I did not relax at any point. I knew I had to keep digging. I went hard the whole race," Power said.
"It was high-stress the whole race. It was very like our whole season. It was a very solid, consistent, no-mistake day."
Power needed only to finish third to win the championship. But Team Penske have proved over the last week that their cars race individually and all three drivers were on their own in this title decider.
The 41-year-old has insisted all year he's been "playing the long game" with an eye on a second title. The Australian won his 68th career pole on Saturday to break Mario Andretti's mark for most in series history.
Power won just once this season at a time Team Penske notched nine of IndyCar's 17 wins, and watched from the sidelines as teammates Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin became close friends and developed a YouTube Series.
Then came the last month of racing, when many believed former three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin gave Newgarden a win at Gateway but denied Power a similar favour last week at Portland.
Power said he never felt as if he's the odd-man-out at Penske, where McLaughlin finished fourth in the final standings.
"The two boys, well, I guess they're younger and similar in age and enjoying having fun," Power said.
"I find Scott McLaughlin a great guy, easy to get along with, and Josef is, as well. They're good guys. Fiercely competitive, and I expect Scott to be a legit championship contender next year.
"This is the strongest combination that Penske has ever had as far as driver, speed, ability. A tough group. Tough, tough trio."
Now the fastest man in IndyCar is the most consistent, too, and rewarded team owner Roger Penske with a 17th championship.
Palou, eliminated from the championship fight last week and locked into a legal battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren over his 2023 rights, won his first race of the year. He was the only Ganassi driver competitive at Laguna Seca, where five drivers were in title contention in the tightest championship race since 2003.
Palou was the ninth different IndyCar winner this season. The four Ganassi cars tested at Laguna Seca but contenders Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were never in Sunday's fight. Ericsson, the Indianapolis 500 winner, finished ninth and six-time champion Dixon was 12th.