He’s experienced enough of the unexpected in the past two years. Will Power would like to his see race results be more consistent with his race pace.
After an unusual 2016 in which the Team Penske driver rallied with four wins to finish second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, he’s convinced he’s been consistently quicker this season.
But he’s encountered enough setbacks — be it a late tire puncture, engine failure or being taken out in crashes — to stall that surge to the front. Despite two wins and two seconds through the first 13 races this season, the 2014 series champion from Australia finds himself fifth in the points with four races remaining.
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Power trails teammate and series leader Josef Newgarden by 52 points, but is still confident he can claim his second title. He won the pole and finished second in his most recent start, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 30. The series is enjoying a short summer break before action resumes at Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 on Aug. 20.
“We’ve got the pace everywhere we go,” Power said. “We’ve just got to have it flow for us, which is does, it ebbs and flows. We need to have solid races from here on out and we can win the championship.
“You’ve got double points at the end (at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 17). If you’re within 20 of the guy you’re chasing, you can control your own destiny in the last race by winning. It’s a big chunk, that last race. I’ll be keeping that in mind. If we can just chip away at these points in the next few races, we’ll have a great shot.”
Power didn’t think he would contend last year after missing the season-opening race with an inner ear infection and getting off to such a slow start. But an incredible run of four wins and two runner-up finishes in a six-race stretch earned him a shot at the title. Sonoma became a showdown between Power and teammate Simon Pagenaud, but the Frenchman won the race from the pole to celebrate his first crown.
It marked the fourth time Power has been a points runner-up. With his two wins this season – he won the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May and the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in June – Power’s 31 career wins are tied for ninth on the all-time list. But as in 2016, he got off to a slow start. This time, it had nothing to do with regaining his strength from an illness.
He won the pole for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but finished 19th due to mechanical difficulties. He led 60 of 90 laps in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and was closing in on a win before a tire puncture forced him to pit and handed the victory to Newgarden.
He’s also been taken out by crashes in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, particularly costly as a double-points race, as well as at the Honda Indy Toronto.
“The difference is this year I’ve been fast all year. I’ve been way quicker, I’ve felt better and I’ve had the energy,” Power said. “(But) at St. Pete, engine failure. Sure win in Barber, tire puncture. Taken out of a double-points race at Indy, there’s a top-10 finish. I’ve definitely had some rough days. First lap at Toronto, things like that.”
He’s finished fifth or better in seven of 13 starts, but placed 13th or worse in the other six. During the course of a lengthy racing season, Power acknowledges every driver laments what could have been. It’s almost unheard of for a racer to get through a year unscathed.
In a season with nine different winners, the top seven title contenders are separated by 72 points. A maximum of 256 points are on the table in the last four races.
“It just makes it really interesting,” said Power, 36. “Obviously you think about yourself, trying to get it right and be in the fight at the end. Last year, between Simon and myself, there’s nine race wins. That’s very unusual. I wasn’t even expecting to be a part of the championship. I wasn’t feeling right. I didn’t expect to be a contender and I came back. I had two horrid last two races, basically two DNFs.
“Yep, it’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be interesting. All the guys in the fight are capable of winning.”
The fight resumes at Pocono Raceway, the “Tricky Triangle” oval in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, where Power is the defending race winner. Practice begins at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 20 (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com), with qualifying that afternoon airing live on NBCSN at 1 p.m. Coverage of the 200-lap race begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.