Dejected and lost for answers, Will Power was left contemplating his oval track "jinx" after another IndyCar championship title slipped from his grasp.
For a third straight year Australian star Power started the last race as series leader and emerged a downcast runner-up when his heavy crash into the wall today all but handed American Ryan Hunter-Reay his maiden title.
Not even a herculean effort by his pit crew to get his car back on the track for a few more laps to eke out more precious points could save his day.
"It's the season. You can't make mistakes like that," said Power of his crash when running 12th, just ahead of his only challenger Hunter-Reay, on lap 57 of the 250-lap, 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Power "caught a seam" in turn 2, spun and hit the barrier.
"My team was pushing me to get around him, and it was just a mistake," he said.
In 2010 and 2011 it was Scotland's Dario Franchitti who pipped Power for the title. This time he began the race with a 17-point advantage from Hunter-Reay.
A dramatic 45-minute rebuild involving at least 18 members of the Penske Racing pitcrew at least allowed Power to re-enter the race after missing 60 laps following his crash.
The 31-year-old took his stricken car around the 2-mile oval 12 times to move up into 24th and gain two more championship points.
But Hunter-Reay, who started the race way back in 22nd, kept his cool to finish fourth and claim the title by just three points from Power as Ed Carpenter won the race.
Power was full of praise for his crew but was at a loss to explain his inability to deliver on oval circuits as he does on road-style tracks.
"If I look back, again this year on the ovals, three crashes in three of the oval races - that's a massive hit in the points," he said.
"Three years of winning the road-course championship convincingly, so it's obvious, very obvious, where I lack.
"It's not like we're slow or the same thing happens every time, man, I just don't know why I'm jinxed on the ovals.
"Where do you look to be better at that? Either become massively conservative or you become really aggressive, it's hard."
Power said it was Hunter-Reay's ability to be able to deliver on both ovals and road circuits which had proven the difference in the end and said the Michael Andretti driver was a worthy victor.
"There was definitely times there where it looked hopeful," Power said of the race's final laps, with Hunter-Reay only moving into a championship-winning position with 21 laps remaining.
"Credit to my guys on getting the car out to do those 12 laps and get a couple of points but at the end of the day Hunter-Reay is definitely a deserving champion. A real fighter, and probably as far as all-round drivers go the best in the series because he wins in each discipline.
"Three years in a row man, I feel, because all the guys have been in my car the last three years, tremendous effort and I feel bad for Penske Racing."
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