INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power has grown over the years of how he reacts inside of the race car. He’s admitted that. A driver who’s going to go down as fast as anyone who’s ever raced in the history of the NTT INDYCAR Series, is used to pushing hard for every inch on every lap. That’s why he is such a good qualifier. One doesn’t luck into 64 career poles. He’s 4 away from taking over 1st all time all by himself and 3 away from tying Mario Andretti for 1st.
But, a change in philosophy has him focusing more on race pace than qualifying laps. Friday was only Power’s 8th pole in his last 50 times he’s strapped into his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet to take part in a qualifying attempt. He had 13 in his previous 50 and 36 total in his first 7 years in the sport. With the last few being harder and harder to come by he told me yesterday that he cherishes these poles more now than he did before.
“I do, yes,” Power told me. “Yes, I really, really enjoy them. I know that you don’t even know if you’ll get another one, so you’ve got to be — any win or anything I get in this series now I feel very bless and happy to have got it because it’s tough. Obviously, I’m not 20 anymore either. Yep, got to keep digging.”
So, on a day that he had the pole and on a track that he’s won at 5 times, 4 of which from the pole, does pole No. 6 at Indy mean win No. 6?
It unfortunately didn’t. Power, lost the lead on the first lap and ironically enough, never led a single lap all day. While having 0 wins all season, he’s leaving here tonight soggy but in the points lead heading into the Indianapolis 500 in 15 days. He finished 3rd in the wild GMR Grand Prix.
Saturday was more about Power points racing than going for the win. He saw what had happened to Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou. He knew Pato O’Ward was on slicks in a crucial moment of this race. He knew Scott Dixon was a lap down and watched Scott McLaughlin spin. These are the 5 others racing him for the title right now.
“Yeah, it is, and those sort of days you’re thinking points when you see Palou out and you see Newgarden out and a couple of the main contenders that you are going to be fighting,” Power said. “You start thinking a little bit that way, yeah.”
So, he felt like it was a day to salvage his 64th career podium and head to Indy 500 practice in a couple of day with a 12 point lead.
“Yeah, honestly it’s not that good to think about points, but sometimes you have to be smart about it if you’re — you know Palou is going to be the guy and, obviously, Newgarden as well. It’s just one of those days where if you can finish in the top six, you’re going to get a good chunk of points on those guys,” Power told me.
“If I had the car to win and the chance to win without big risk, I would definitely have gone for it. If it had been a constant condition, it would have been a different story, but it was just too easy to get caught out by a patch of water. It’s just a day to be smart and finish.”
Power told me on Friday that he feels like he’s driving as good now as ever before.
“Yeah, I’m right there,” he told me. “Right there. It’s so competitive these days. You can’t leave anything to chance. You can’t just rock up.
“Like I said, before you ever even get to the race track let alone qualifying for the race, there’s just so much that has gone into it with simulated time, video, data, and analysis. It’s endless.
“Yeah, I’m there with a lot more experience. I’m still as quick as I was. I just have so much more available if my toolbox.”