INDYCAR continues our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas with 12 of the most memorable storylines from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Team Penske’s Will Power entered the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season as three-time championship runner-up. Coming off a distant fourth-place finish in the 2013 standings, he went into the new season with his career teetering on one of two directions. Could he break through to the top in his sixth season driving for “The Captain,” or would 2014 cement his status as a perennial challenger who wasn’t meant to earn IndyCar’s ultimate prize?
The 33-year-old Australian answered the question at Round 1 in St. Petersburg where scored a dominant win. Power and the No. 12 Chevy crew left Florida with a plenty of points in hand, and as the rest of the season revealed, they prized consistency over the 17 rounds left on the calendar. It was the most mature Will Power the series had seen, and with his mind set on points rather than winning at all costs, the 2014 championship seemed to flow smoothly for the Toowoomba native.
By the time the season finale at Auto Club Speedway arrived, Power added two more wins and held a sizeable lead over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in the standings. After 250 laps of racing around the 2.0-mile oval—and 10 years of combined Champ Car and IndyCar competition, Power finally earned his crown. Minus the highs and lows that left him on the outside looking in, his more consistent approach proved to be the championship-winning formula.
“I look back on the season and it was a very solid, consistent season--I wasn’t dominant; I was just competitive in every race,” Power said. “Obviously, I definitely did better on the ovals this year. I guess it just came with experience. I enjoyed it, actually, more than anything.”
Power’s raw intensity, which was often seen during his runner-up years, seemed to be more refined. His effort inside the No. 12 Chevy never wavered, but his game definitely evolved from always looking for the knockout punch to using a balanced attack across the entire season. Rather than fixate on points on where he finished at each race, Power took the longview on the 2014 season.
“Yeah, there’s always a time and place you do that sort of thing,” he said. “You can’t completely ignore points and all that altogether; you need to have an understanding in the season of where you’re sitting and the risk/reward factor, but you’ve also got to play it smart and not get caught up in how things went in each round. That’s how I went about things all year.”
Power also credited his sponsor and engine partner for the championship success Team Penske achieved.
“We missed out on the championship for three years, although we were very close, and I’ve become quite the fan of all the people at Verizon during that time,” he admitted. “It’s just great to finally win it for them, and win it the first year they became the series sponsor. They’ve been great for the team and for myself over the last five years. It was very satisfying.
“And Chevy has done a great job over the last three years. I think their reaction time to any time Honda seemed to have an upper hand on us was very quick. I would say for sure we had the best engine and it was very reliable as well.”
Assembling the contributions from Verizon and Chevy into a winning effort was the responsibility of the talented mechanics, engineers, and managers at Team Penske.
“I just think we had the whole package,” Power continued. “We were quick on every type of track. There were a lot of different winners this year but I always feel that we were there knocking on the door at every race. Every person involved with Team Penske got us to where we were at Fontana.”
As the first Australian to win an Indy car championship, Power says the grand reception he received at home was remarkable.
“I think it was just cool going back to my hometown and seeing how much support I had there and how happy people were that I won the championship,” he noted. “I probably didn’t realize how many followers I had there and I became more aware after I had won. I’ve been back every year finishing second and I’ve been running over here in the States for quite a while now. The reception back home was awesome, and it was cool to see what becoming the champion meant to everyone.”
Power’s younger brother Damien is a comedian in Australia, and promised to go streaking if Will won the championship. He mostly delivered on that promise, and his older brother says he’s slightly concerned what would happen if he wins a second title.
“Oh yeah, and he’d have no problem taking it up a level,” Power said with a laugh. “No telling what he might come up with. That is the beauty about being a comedian: You can do anything. If it’s in the name of humor so it doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself, and he’d definitely do something even crazier the second time around.”