INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power has won 154 trophies in his lifetime in the NTT INDYCAR Series. His parents have seen him take home just 1 of those. The biggest one. A championship in 2014. He didn’t win the race that year. He finished 9th but still won the Astor Cup and took some champagne drenched hardware home with him that night. The other 64 pole trophies, 41 race winning trophies and 48 trophies to finish 2nd or 3rd?
They weren’t here to witness any of them in person.
That’s why he could only smile at the site his eyes were witnessing when saw Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin celebrating in victory lane the last race out in Mid-Ohio a couple of weeks ago. It was McLaughlin’s second career NTT INDYCAR Series victory but the first one with his parents here in the States. It was emotional for the McLaughlin’s.
Power saw it first hand. He was next to McLaughlin on the podium that day taking a 3rd place trophy home and adding it to his collection with the other. Power scored his 7th top four result in the 9th race of the season putting him 20 points back of the lead too. The Australian native started 21st, spun on the opening lap and fell to last but rebounded to net his 89th career podium that Sunday afternoon in rural Ohio.
Power didn’t care about that yet. He knows it’s amazing to be able to win races with your family here. He knows first hand still. His brother was here to witness his 2018 Indy 500 crown. Damien Power was back this year to see him drive from 16th to 1st to win in Belle Isle.
However, Power’s parents, well they though have actually never seen him win a race before.
“Yeah, having your parents, family there to win a race, yeah, great feeling,” Power said of McLaughlin’s Honda Indy 200 win two weeks ago. “I’ve had it twice, with my brother when I won the Indy 500 and when I won Detroit recently. Yeah, it’s good that they can see what you actually do.
“My parents still think I’m an accountant.”
Power says his mom was a nun for 7 years. She was in a covenant but left because it caused such anxiety because of the community work that she had to do with kids and such. He describes her as a very gently and arty person.
His dad however, Power says is nuts. His last race he’s been to was 2011 Power thinks. He wasn’t even here for the title.
“Like he’s a race car driver and he’s just crazy,” Power said of his dad. “I don’t know how they ever ended up together, but they produced this, which is kind of weird. They produced a bunch of funny, weird kids.”
Damien is a comedian with a big following back at home. He’s able to go back and forth every once in a while to see Will race. Their parents aren’t. Neither are his other 2 brothers. They’ve also never seen Power here. In fact, Power says they’ve never even seen him race before.
“I have two other brothers as well that have never been to a race,” Power told me.
So with 8 races left of the season and Power within striking distance of a 2nd title, will they make the trek back?
He doesn’t think so. Unless his wife Liz (Power) surprises him like she did when she flew Damien over before this past year’s Indy 500.
However, Power enters Toronto with a great shot at closing that gap even further. We have 2 street courses, 3 short oval races and a return trip to Indy in store over the next 6 races. Penske has won 7 of the last 10 short ovals, has won the return trip to the Indy road course in each of the last 3 tries with Power winning 2 straight as well as going 3-for-3 on street circuits in 2022.
Is it too early to start thinking championship now?
First up is Toronto. He says he’s typically struggled for whatever reason in qualifying here but races well. 2 of the 3 street course races run this season were won by a front row starter. 17 of the last 19 races in Toronto were won by a top 7 starter. 7 of the 9 races this season from a top 7 starter.
Power hasn’t started better than 11th in any of his last 4 starts and has been outside the top 10 at the start in 5 of the last 6.
“Toronto is always one that I struggle in qualifying for whatever reason. Usually good in the race,” he said. “After that they’re all — you’ve got to be good at all of them, and some that you think you’ll be really good at you may have a bad day, so you’ve got to make the most of everything. But there are some tracks your car is better, you’re stronger at, some click with you very well. That’s a path that you’ve got to keep working on, so be strong everywhere.”
That’s an area he says that if he can improve anywhere, it’s qualifying this season.
“For me personally is to qualify better,” he says. “It’s not always been about pace. Last week it was just strategy and the lack of communication that got us. I actually feel like we would have definitely made it through to the Fast Six and potentially had a pole.
“Yeah, the last couple, Road America being P2 in practice, then not converting that in qualifying, that’s the sort of thing we’ve got to be on top of.
“I’ve just had a messy year of qualifying as far as being in the wrong place on track or not getting a big enough gap to the car in front, or simply not performing, not being fast enough. I’ve had all those situations. That’s the area I need to improve on for the next half of this season. I think that will put me in a really good position, if I do.”
Even in saying that, he’s still 2nd in points (-20) coming to Toronto at a track he hasn’t qualified well on during a season that he hasn’t qualified well many places either. It could concern him. However, Mid-Ohio was a prime lesson. He could have given up. He could have sulked and made mistake after mistake in an effort to get to the front. Instead, he kept calm and finished on the podium.
“Yeah, I think the lesson is that even if you don’t pass any cars today, you’re still making positions,” he said. “If you don’t make any mistakes, just to start with, and then you have a fast car on top of that and you make smart moves, you’re going to make positions.
“You can’t get too desperate — like the first lap, that little — that was just being in the wrong spot sort of where I spun. But yeah, these races are so unpredictable, as you’ve seen all year. If you just hang in there, you’re going to end up in a good spot.”
Was this a new Will Power? I mean he seems rejuvenated. He told me back in May he feels like he’s driving as good as he ever has. What’s changed?
“I don’t think — it’s not that different. I’m not doing anything crazy different,” he said. “I’m just not having strange things happen like spark plugs and brakes not working and just weird things happen to me. I think we had just a great year all around because we haven’t had any mechanicals or anything like this.
“We also did a lot of development in the off-season. I actually feel like last year we had bad luck. I wouldn’t call it luck, but just strange things happened when we had cars in position to win and such. Yeah, last year wasn’t as bad as it looked on performance. It was just one of those years that was just a little bit messy and things didn’t flow our way.
“Newgarden should have won Road America. I should have won in Detroit. We should have challenging for the win in Laguna. It’s just races like that that kind of made it look worse.
“Yes, we’re certainly firing on all cylinders this year.”
Power did admit that a slight change in the offseason after watching what defending series champion Alex Palou did could be a factor here but it’s not like he’s altered his approach much to racing.
He also says the tire change between last year and this could have affected that too.
“The tire changed a little bit,” he said. “Basically the Firestone tires that we were running last year had sat around a lot, so the tire was obviously hardening over time. I think the tire’s simply better this year, which brought our cars into a better place for where we live.”
Now it’s to Toronto for what Power describes as a tough track.
“The track is just difficult because there’s so many different levels of grip,” he says. “Like, you never feel in the track, on top of the track, it’s sliding. The car never handles well. It’s kind of difficult to tell your engineer what to do because there’s so much compromise.
“Maybe it’s a track that it’s easy to make a mistake on. That’s why maybe veterans or people being around a bit longer don’t end up making mistakes. That might be the reason that you’ve seen champions win.
“Yeah, it’s a tough track. A lot of mayhem can happen there, a lot of mayhem.”