“I think it went pretty good,” Montoya said. “We were just burning up the rear tires with the setup that we decided to run. It was just a little too aggressive. You know, we will learn and pass some people and some people passed us. There are a few things we have to do better but I didn’t feel my pace was too bad there at the end. I was keeping up with everybody and it was good.
“It’s going to be a lot of work but I am very excited.”
Power led three times for 74 laps in a race that was went 75 laps before the first of two caution periods slowed the field. That was for Charlie Kimball’s crash in turn one. The other caution was for the three-car incident on the Lap 82 restart that included Carlos Munoz, Hawksworth and Andretti.
Power started fourth but brought the packed grandstand crowd to its feet on several occasions as he picked off positions going into turn one until he finally took the lead on lap 31.
After finishing last season with such momentum Power has established himself as one of the leading contenders to the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
“Will is quick no matter what,” Hunter-Reay said. “If he gets out in front, it’s going to be hard to take it away from him. He’s going to be in the hunt for the championship no matter what, unless he has some crazy bad luck again. He’s been in the hunt just about every year unless luck gets in his way. Hopefully you can say the same about me and I’ll be fighting with him again at Fontana.
“Will definitely hasn’t skipped a beat. He’ll be a definite pain in the rear end this year.”
Castroneves’ third-place finish means he has started off the 2014 season showing signs that he can once again contend for that elusive title. But it’s Power that has established himself with the fast start to the season.
“Obviously the perfect way to start,” Power said. “I wasn’t expecting to be that competitive in the race actually as the weekend was unfolding. It was just good team strategy, good pit stops, mistake-free driving, and obviously a good car. It’s just hard work basically.
“Tim Cindric (Team Penske president and race strategist) pitted me early. It was actually a very good call. I was able to pump out some good lap times. Sato came out on blacks, I think, just like I was. I felt our car was definitely stronger on blacks and was able to hunt him down and pull the move on him that I’ve had pulled on me two years in a row. I learned my lesson and finally pulled it off myself.”
Power’s disappointing 2013 season actually taught the driver from Australia a positive lesson. He was able to race without feeling the pressure of contending for a title.
After his performance on Sunday he believes he is in better position to handle that pressure and win his first IndyCar championship in 2014.
“I just got to keep reminding myself, it doesn’t matter if you lose,” Power said. “You just got to keep reminding yourself that it’s a race, and you race hard to win a race. Sometime years I’ve started here and been so conservative. I just race now, race hard. I just want to race, race hard, and I want to win. That’s the only way to think of it, not think of points. I want to win a championship, but I like winning races. Hopefully the two come together and it happens.
“Can you have fun not winning? Do I have fun? No. You know what, you come here to win. Good, hard racing is fun. You start at the back of the grid; you finish up third, that’s fun. There’s nothing worse than just struggling, though, not having the car or equipment to do well. That gives you a good hit – your self-confidence, you start to question yourself. I just remind myself that everyone is human; you’re capable of doing everything everyone else is if you work hard.
“At the end of the day the hard work we did to get a good race car, good strategy, good pit stops, all the boxes were ticked that you need to win a race, and that’s just a good team effort basically.”
Power likes the reward of hard work by winning races and hopefully a championship. It’s the all that comes with it that he doesn’t like.
“I hate attention,” Power said. “I just loved last year, too. No one paid attention. I could just do my thing. Yup, I hope it continues. I don’t want people to talk about me. I like to be low-key. I don’t like to be in the limelight. I just like to do my job, enjoy it, race hard, and that’s it.
“Last year, I didn’t’ win and I didn’t have to do appearances. It was great. No one cared. It was awesome. If I could get wins and not be hassled both, I’d be stoked.”
From the way he looked in Sunday’s victory, Power may have to get used to dealing with attention as a race winner and championship contender in 2014.