For the second time this season, Will Power needs to turn things around.
The Team Penske driver heads to the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (2 p.m. ET Sunday, July 8, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network) looking for a top finish to get back into title contention after an accident and a mechanical failure in the last two races put a dent in his quest for a second Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
“It is unbelievable the amount of DNFs I have had this season. I have never had this many in my career in such a short period of time,” said Power, who has had four non-finishes in the first 10 races this year.
“Yeah, that’s racing. Goes one way and then the other.”
There's no doubt that the last two outings went the wrong way for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. The DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9 saw Power crash out in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet after a miscommunication caused a tangle with rookie Zachary Claman De Melo. The 18th-place finished dropped Power from first to third overall in points.
Things got worse at the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America on June 24, where engine trouble hit as the green flag flew to start the race and Power ended up retiring. Rob Buckner, Chevrolet’s racing program manager, told Motorsport.com that the problem was traced to an ignition system issue that led to a header failure. Power finished last in the 23-car field and left Wisconsin fifth in the championship standings, 65 points behind leader Scott Dixon of rival Chip Ganassi Racing.
The latest slump hit after Power experienced what's best described as an inconsistent start to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. After two DNFs due to accidents and only one top-five result in the first four races left him 10th in points, it looked like Power might be in for a terribly long season.
He suddenly found his stride in the month of May, sweeping the double at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by taking owner Roger Penske's 200th Indy car victory with a win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the road course before triumphing in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The victories moved Power’s career total to 34, knotting him with Al Unser Jr. for eighth on the all-time list.
As good as his May was, the 37-year-old Australian had what what was arguably his best weekend of the season the week after the Indy 500, at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Fighting though an obvious disadvantage to the Honda-powered competitors, Power battled hard and ended both races as the top-performing Chevy driver, taking seventh place in Race 1 and second place in Race 2 of the doubleheader.
“I drove pretty hard for seventh place,” Power said about the first race. “And I drove my (rear end) off all day (in Race 2). We’re really happy with second place. I think that is about as good as we could get.”
Those five weeks delivered a four-race, 180-degree turn that delivered 228 points and moved Power into the championship lead, only to see it slide away with the frustrating results at Texas and Road America.
This year's slow start was reminiscent of 2017 for Power, who had one top-five in the first four races. A win finally came in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, but five finishes of 13th or worse in his first seven starts put him in a huge whole. In the end, Power climbed to fifth in the final standings after surging in the second half, but he finished 80 markers behind champion and Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden.
The good news this time is that the points haul from the Indy and Detroit races ensured Power didn't lose too much ground to the leaders, despite the pair of poor results most recently.
One thing is for sure, Power knows the bad luck hasn't made the road ahead any easier, but he's already shown once this year that he can fight though adversity and get back into the championship picture.
“Who knows how it'll play out, but you've got to just be good changing and adapting very quickly, and that's what INDYCAR is all about. To be a champion, you've got to master every single discipline,” Power said.
“As quickly as it's down, it can swing the other way quickly in a good way. When I think about it, we came into the month of May I think fifth in points and left as the leader, so it can change, man.”
Power will get his first chance to start that turnaround at Iowa Speedway later this week. Practice begins Saturday with a 60-minute session at 11:15 a.m. ET that streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Single-car qualifying starts at 3:30 p.m. and airs live on NBCSN. A final 60-minute practice rolls off at 6:45 p.m. and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
The 300-lap race on Sunday, July 8 is the 11th of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and the fourth of six oval events.