MILWAUKEE -- Will Power is steadfast in not allowing streaks and statistics – such as the championship points leader with three races left has failed to close the deal in four of the past five years – to infiltrate his mental preparation for the closing acts of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
"It all about execution," he says.
The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car carries a four-point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves into the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest, and 11 drivers are remain eligible entering the Aug. 17 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) race at the Milwaukee Mile.
With two oval and one road course races remaining, the points differential is the smallest since 2009 (four points with three to go). The driver/entrant championship has been decided in the season finale the past eight years, and that is one streak surely to be extended Aug. 30 at Auto Club Speedway.
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“At the end of the day, if you win two of the last three races or we win all three, obviously, we'll win the championship,” Power said. “You can have the same car, but it comes down to driving. You have to really know the set-up to suit yourself every weekend.
“We definitely want to stay aggressive – in a smart way – because we aren’t close to being in a safe position for the championship. If anyone knows that it is me. You can take a 50-60 point lead into the finale at Auto Club Speedway and still lose the championship because that is a double-points race.”
Power was atop the standings with three races left in 2010 and 2012, only to finish runner-up in the championship both years. He was second in 2011 (26 points behind Dario Franchitti) and again was second (by 18 points) after the 16 races.
During the 19-race 2013 season, Power resolved not to get caught up in points probabilities or corresponding areas not entirely in his control. Such a mind-set has been helpful, Power notes, this season in which the championship lead has changed hands five times through 16 races.
“It doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out there and tip-toe around the track because I’m worried about crashing and losing the points lead, but I’m more prepared mentally than I have ever been,” said Power, who has two top-five finishes in the past three years at Milwaukee. “I haven’t let myself fret over the points all year long. I’ve just gone out and raced as hard as I possibly could.
“We have corrected, or I have corrected, a lot of the mental mistakes that were made early in the year. Now we are coming to some outstanding racetracks for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team. I feel like we can win all three races that are left, I really do. A win this weekend at Milwaukee would be very sweet for me because I’ve come to really enjoy racing there.”
Castroneves, who also is seeking his first victory at Milwaukee and initial driver championship, is 59 points clear of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won the past two years at Milwaukee, and 60 points ahead of fourth-place Simon Pagenaud. Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who dominated the 2000 race at Milwaukee, is fifth in the standings.
“We’re right there, man, but we still have three very intense races left,” said Castroneves, a three-time pole winner at Milwaukee who was runner-up in the June 2013 race. “These next three tracks are very demanding so we have to continue to stay on top of our game. We know Will is going to be tough. Juan has as much – or more – experience than any of us on the remaining racetracks.
“Although it may be a little nerve-racking for Roger (Penske) I would love to have the three of us coming down to the wire for the championship at Auto Club Speedway. How cool would that be?”