A strong start to an NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is what Will Power is aiming for in 2021.
2014 series champion Power has struggled early in recent seasons. He finished 20th and 13th in the first two races of last season, part of an eight-race opening stretch with an average finish of 12.7.
Surprisingly, Power hasn’t won a race prior to arriving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May since 2014, the year he won his INDYCAR championship. Last year, it took him 10 races to reach Victory Lane. In 2019, it took 14.
Power certainly knows how to finish races – he has 10 wins over the past four seasons, which ranks second only to Josef Newgarden’s 15 – but most have come after he has already dug a big points hole.
Power has finished fifth in three of the past four INDYCAR seasons.
“If we can just have a solid first few races, I think it gives the team and myself confidence,” he said.
Power also has had too many tough races in recent seasons to contend for a second championship. Last year, he finished in the back half of the field six times. In the years prior, his total was five, six and seven, respectively. Compare that to Scott Dixon, whose two recent championship seasons have had no such low finishes.
Power recognizes the issue, but it’s not an easy fix since he has had trouble of multiple kinds.
“It certainly isn’t speed that’s the issue,” he said of winning a series-leading 18 NTT P1 Awards for pole over the past four seasons. “It’s that our bad days are just too bad. That’s our problem.
“The speed is certainly not (the problem); winning is certainly not (the problem). It’s consistency, whether it’s mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me.
“We have to have a solid beginning to the season!”
Team Penske will offer even its drivers more information with the addition of Scott McLaughlin, the three-time champion of the Virgin Australia Supercars championship. Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, who have combined to win three of the past five season titles, also return to the team.
Like Newgarden and Pagenaud, Power said a stronger run in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is desired. Newgarden finished fifth, Power 14th and Pagenaud 22nd. Power won the “500” in 2018, Pagenaud in 2019.
“I think that’s probably the most disappointing we’ve been since I’ve been at (Team) Penske,” said Power, whose time driving for Roger Penske dates to 2009. “It was a surprise to us. Certainly (we’ve) worked very hard on that. I feel like we’ll be much better than we were last year.”
A better start could lead to a stronger finish.
“Looking forward to it,” Power said.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season begins April 18 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. The first of the season’s 17 races will air on NBC and the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 3 p.m. ET.