Will Power

INDIANAPOLIS — For a brief moment, Will Power can enjoy living in the past.

The Team Penske driver returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for last week’s oval open test and saw the banner over the main gate with a picture of a jubilant Power celebrating his 2018 triumph in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“Every time, I drive in with a big smile on my face,” he said. “Seeing that big banner obviously is pretty cool for me. I’m very proud to have won this race. I can’t wait to get started again.”

And then, just like that, the feel-good moment is past. Power reminds he flipped the switch on last year during the offseason. As much as he enjoyed that career-changing Indianapolis 500 accomplishment, as well as becoming the first NTT IndyCar Series driver to sweep both IMS races with a victory in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, Power can’t fixate on it any more. Not with the 2019 editions of both races looming.

Will Power on track IMS open test“He realizes you’ve got the rest of your life to look back,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “Right now, you’ve got to continue to kind of make your career. He’s always pretty focused on the next time out, the next race, the next opportunity. He’s still in the prime of his career and he wants more. He’s still hungry. I think that’s a good thing. He’s not kicking back.”

Cindric adds that Power finally winning the Indy 500 still resonates.

“I do think that it gives him a whole another sense of confidence, having won this race finally,” Cindric said.

As Power returns for the May 11 INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course, he is unfortunately lamenting a familiar plight from recent years. He’s been quick as usual, winning the pole for the season’s first two races at St. Petersburg and Austin, Texas, but also encountered misfortune — most notably a drive shaft breaking on his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet in the INDYCAR Classic at the Circuit of The Americas, where he finished dead last in 24th.

“It drives me nuts,” said Power, whose 93 points have him a distant sixth in the standings, 73 behind points-leading teammate Josef Newgarden. “But that’s racing, right?

“I’ve been on a mission. It certainly has not been the season I wanted to start with considering the pace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that the last few years. Once again, man, I just can’t believe it. Simply, if COTA hadn’t happened, if I didn’t have the issue there, I’d be right there in the championship. The rest of the results have been reasonable.”

As much as he expects to be a quick contender in every race, Power admits he’s supremely confident at IMS, and rightfully so. He’s won three of the give INDYCAR Grands Prix to date in addition to last year’s “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I’m definitely looking for a good month, as per usual,” the 38-year-old Australian said. “Everywhere we go, I can’t pick a race where I’ll go, ‘I’m not going to be good there.’ I feel good here. I expect to be good, but I expect to be good every weekend. The INDYCAR GP, I love that track. And the superspeedways are now what I really enjoy.

“I expect to be competitive everywhere. I’m very disappointed if I’m not. And if I’m not, I really, really try to understand why and fix the problem. It’s similar to last year. If I could have eliminated like three DNFs (after Indianapolis) … You go through waves like this. Then suddenly, you have a couple years like (five-time series champion Scott) Dixon with everything going totally right for you. He’s been through this, too. He’s gone through some slow starts.

“Everyone has their good and bad runs. You’ve just got to keep weathering that storm.”

Power’s 35 career Indy car wins are tied with Bobby Unser for seventh on the all-time list. The 2014 series champion is always in the hunt for another title, too, having finished no worse than fifth in the points in every year since 2010.

That’s why there’s something to be said for having a positive vibe about a venue. Power concedes he’s stayed upbeat despite not getting the desired results this season.

Will Power celebrates winning 2018 Indy 500Then he drives into IMS and sees that banner, and it reminds him of how racing fortunes can turn dramatically in an instant.

“It helps. It does,” he said. “Positive and optimistic thoughts definitely help results.”

Asked if he can imagine what it would be like to repeat as the Indianapolis 500 winner on May 26, Power (shown reacting to his 2018 Indy 500 win at right) nods and says, “Yeah, I can imagine.”

He’s raced enough to realize that each year is different. He’s fast approaching another opportunity to keep his face on an IMS banner for another year.

“Any time you see that banner, you’re obviously very happy about it,” Power said. “You always will be. Proud about it, happy about it, but you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to keep focusing. You can’t live in the past and just be happy with that.”

INDYCAR Grand Prix practice and qualifying is set for Friday, May 10 with the race airing live on Saturday, May 11 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Indianapolis 500 practice runs May 14-17, with qualifications May 18-19 and the 103rd running set for Sunday, May 26 (11 a.m., NBC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Tickets for all May events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are available at IMS.com.