Will Power isn’t much for reflection, which explains his answer when asked where his 32 career Indy car victories rank on the all-time, open-wheel list.
“I don’t know,” the Team Penske driver admitted.
He ranks ninth, just two behind Al Unser Jr. and three shy of Bobby Unser. Considering Power has won seven races in the past two seasons and has celebrated multiple race victories in every season except one since 2010, the 37-year-old Australian appears poised to ascend.
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG: Practice 1 results
But after finishing fifth in the championship last season, Power would prefer not to look back so much. Truth be told, when he does, he sees more of what could have been than that was accomplished.
“Since I’ve been at Penske, the amount of wins, poles and laps led, I feel like I probably should have had more championships,” he said.
He did finally celebrate a title in 2014, but Power has been a runner-up four times in addition to finishing third once and fourth once. All of this has occurred since 2010.
“To win a second title would be pretty big, but to win the Indy 500 would be even bigger,” he said of what’s missing from that resume.
Then again, he says the time span since winning that title “is actually a big gap.”
That’s why his foremost goal entering the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is to win another series title. He won this race in 2010 and 2014, and has won the pole a record seven times.
“A championship is the best driver,” he said. “The Indy 500, yes, it’s the biggest race we’ve got and a lot of history there, but being a champion is definitely what I came here to do. Winning the 500, I obviously really want to win it now, but my goal is to win the championship and win races, simple as that.”
What’s resonated about the past two seasons is watching teammates Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden celebrate championships. When Power talks about his 2017, he bemoans another missed opportunity caused by too many races he didn’t finish. Particularly crippling was finishing 23rd in the double-points Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Newgarden, in his first season with Team Penske, edged Pagenaud for the title last year. Is this the year Power reclaims that spot?
“We will be pushing very hard to make that happen,” he said. “Yeah, it’s obviously a new car and probably a different flow to the year with so many contenders and good drivers. We’ll see what happens.”
The team dynamic has changed with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves reassigned to race sports cars. Castroneves will be back in May for the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.
“It’s a bit less energy in the office, although Josef has kind of taken up Helio’s spot there,” Power said of the expressive Newgarden. “It would be nice if Helio was there, but he will be in month of May so we get the pleasure of having his company there.
“As long as you have Josef in there, it’s always going to be loud. If it’s just Simon and myself, like in 2007 (with Walker Racing in Champ Car), we couldn’t hear a peep. It was pretty quiet. All business.”
But when they get down to business these days, he says the team benefits.
“It’s great for learning honestly,” Power said. “There’s so much information going around with three fast drivers. It’s a good situation to have.”
Power can’t help but maintain a bottom-line, simplistic approach to racing. He’s set the bar so high for himself, expecting to win championships and races.
“These days, INDYCAR is so competitive, a win is hard to get,” he said. “It’s so satisfying when you get it. I don’t think you can get too down on not winning every race. It’s pretty tough to do that. You’ve just got to be knocking on the door week in and week out and it will open.”
Power got off to a modest start in this morning’s first official practice session of the season, logging the eighth-fastest lap among the 24 cars in the 45-minute session. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power’s top circuit on the 1.8-mile temporary street course was 1 minute, 2.3069 seconds (104.001 mph).
AJ Foyt Racing rookie Leist tops morning practice
AJ Foyt Racing rookie Matheus “Matt” Leist dropped in a late lap that led the field, at 1:01.7231 (104.985 mph) in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The 19-year-old joins the Verizon IndyCar Series after winning three races last season in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.
“We’ve been impressed with him from the first time we tested him,” team president Larry Foyt said of Leist. “It’s still just practice but it’s nice to have the rookie set of tires, so we had an extra set of tires which obviously helped out. He’s just a cool kid and he’s just out there and trying to keep learning.”
Leist’s teammate, 20-year veteran Tony Kanaan, was ninth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet (1:02.3370, 103.951 mph), giving the team more pride.
“It just feels good that all the work you’re putting in over the winter is headed in the right direction,” Foyt said. “That’s what we hope for.”
Defending St. Pete race winner Sebastien Bourdais posted the second-fastest lap of the session, 1:01.7719 (104.092 mph), in the No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was third in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:01.8812, 104.717 mph).
A second practice starts at 3:10 p.m. ET today and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Verizon P1 Award qualifying takes place Saturday afternoon, with the race airing live at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.