Sebastien Bourdais made it three series championships in a row and his French countryman Nelson Philippe picked up his first Champ Car win in an incident-filled Indy 300 yesterday.
Bourdais secured his third series title when A.J. Allmendinger of the US, his closest pursuer for the season championship, crashed out on the 19th lap.
"Once I saw him [Allmendinger] stopped on the track, I knew we had won it," said Bourdais. "I radioed the team and said, `OK, let's go racing.'"
Nine laps later, Bourdais was penalized by officials for "avoidable contact" after colliding with pole sitter Will Power of Australia.
Power, among the leaders, stalled after the accident and fell back in the field, finishing 12th. Derrick Walker, a co-owner of Power's Team Australia, said it was a "bonehead move" by Bourdais.
Bourdais served his drive-through penalty in the pits on lap 33 and finished eighth.
Later, Bourdais received the Vanderbilt Cup for the third year in a row, raising the trophy overhead following the ceremony in pit row. Bourdais also clinched last year's title during the Australian race.
Members of his Newman/Haas pit crew surrounded him, most of them raising three fingers in the air to signify the three straight titles.
The French driver had to fend off persistent questioning from Australian media over the incident with hometown favorite Power, and admitted it took some of the gloss off his third straight series title.
"It hasn't sunk in yet due to the controversy over the contact with Will," said Bourdais, who appeared visibly upset. "It was really just a racing incident. I wasn't trying to do anything, just make a pass."
Bourdais was also verbally abused by another Team Australia co-owner, Craig Gore, when Bourdais left the media interview area.
Philippe finished .728 seconds ahead of 2002 Australian winner Mario Dominguez of Mexico, followed by three Canadians -- Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy and Andrew Ranger.
"It's an amazing day," said the ponytailed Philippe, who relaxed before the race by listening to soul singer James Brown on his iPod. "Right now I need to come back down to earth."
Philippe, whose previous best finish was a third place in Milwaukee this year, becomes the 16th different winner of the Australian race.
He finished 59 laps of the 4.47km temporary street circuit in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 50.985 seconds at an average speed of 143.64kph.
The biggest -- and potentially most dangerous -- early incident occurred on the 14th lap in the pits when Tracy appeared to leave his area too soon with fuel still being dumped into his car.
A fire started and several of his pit crew had flames around them before water was thrown on them to extinguish the fire.
Going into the Surfers Paradise race, Bourdais had a 58-point lead over second-place Allmendinger in the standings. The French driver needed to finish ninth or better, assuming that the US driver picked up the maximum number of points in Australia, including 31 for a win.
But Allmendinger's exit -- hitting the wall on the 19th lap -- gave the title to Bourdais with one race remaining on Nov. 12.
Ted Horn is the only other driver in the 97-year history of Champ Car racing to win three championships in a row, from 1946 to 1948.
Katherine Legge, racing for the first time since surviving without injury a serious accident three weeks ago at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, hit the wall on her 43rd lap and did not finish the race.