- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- This was the scenario that Will Power's competitors feared the most.
Having maintained the lead of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship through the year's first group of oval races -- his perceived weak period of the season -- Power was back in his element on a natural road course at Watkins Glen International. The Australian dominated the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen weekend, leading 45 of 60 laps to claim his third victory of the 2010 season.
It was Team Penske's first win at Watkins Glen during the modern IndyCar Series era, despite the team's cars having started from pole position every year since 2004. Penske won all three CART-sanctioned Indy car races run at the famous road racing venue from 1979 to 1981.
Ryan Briscoe capped an excellent day for Roger Penske's organization by finishing second ahead of defending IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti. But overall, the day belonged to Power, who extended his current points lead to 32 over Franchitti.
"I wanted to win this one really, really badly," Power said. "It had been a long time since I won [March 28 at St. Petersburg]. I can't stand it when you're quickest in qualifying and then you have a bad race.
"Honestly, that was the first race that I pushed on every single lap," he added. "It was a satisfying day because it was a hard-fought win. I had to push, had to pass someone, had to save fuel, had to qualify well. It's very satisfying when you have to fight for it and have someone on your tail right until the end."
Briscoe's No. 6 crew grabbed their driver the lead during yellow-flag pit stops on the 38th lap. But he was powerless to stop his countryman from zipping past at the Bus Stop chicane on the ensuing restart.
"I knew my only chance of passing Ryan was on that restart," Power said. "It was very slippery, but I attacked hard. That was key to winning the race because once it spread out and we were back to saving fuel, I don't think I could have gotten him. Determination won this race."
Briscoe then fell into the clutches of Franchitti. The Target Ganassi Racing car demoted Briscoe's Penske machine to third place, only for Dario to over-extend his red-sidewall Firestone alternate tires.
Franchitti ran wide at Turns 10-11 on the penultimate lap, allowing Briscoe to reclaim second place on the final tour.
"My car was getting stronger at the end of runs and Dario's tires went off a lap or two too quickly," Briscoe said. "I could smell the candy and started pushing him even more."
Briscoe said his car carried too much downforce to be completely effective in Sunday's hot, dry conditions.
"As a team, we ran different strategies to make sure we had everything covered," Briscoe said. "I had more downforce -- I had a parachute on the back of my car and that's the story of my day. I was just too slow on the straights. But in hindsight, that probably helped my car in terms of tire wear.
"I spent most of my day looking at that Verizon rear wing [on Power's car]. It's a good-looking thing, but I just wanted to get past it. But big congrats to Team Penske -- it was a great day for the team."
Power, considered a road-course specialist, built a 50-point championship lead by winning the first two races of the season and generally dominating the first road-racing quarter of the campaign. He emerged from the second quarter, consisting of four consecutive oval races, still holding an 11-point advantage.
With the second half of the season set up pretty much the same way -- five road races followed by four final oval contests -- Power knows the pressure is on to maximize his advantage during this road-racing quarter.
His cushion currently stands at 32 points, and he's a former winner at the next two tracks on the IndyCar Series schedule -- Toronto and Edmonton.
"That's not that much," Power said of his advantage. "It's one weekend. You could have a bad race, somebody wins, and you're back behind again. I realize you actually have to win races to win the championship. That extra 10 points you get for winning counts and the guys I'm competing against, it's really tough. It's really competitive and you can't relax.
"I mean, people say there are road courses coming up. But [Scott] Dixon, Franchitti, Helio [Castroneves], Ryan [Hunter-Reay], they're all as quick as I am. So you've got to win, but you've got to make no mistakes. It's a tough championship and I'm really enjoying the competition."
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.
Will Power was expected to be a force through the road- and street-course portion of the IndyCar Series schedule. His win Sunday at Watkins Glen announced he may be the man to beat for the title.