NEWTON, IA — Will Power inched closer to breaking Mario Andretti’s pole record on Saturday by winning the pole for both NTT INDYCAR Series races at the Iowa Speedway this weekend. He’s now 1 pole shy of tying him. However, in saying that, while having the top starting spot for each race, he came out of Iowa this weekend 0-for-2 in race victories.
That’s astonishing for a track that rewards track position but trends say it’s not as shocking as one would think. Since the 2021 season finale at Long Beach, we’ve had 13 races run. Just 1 of them was won by a pole winner (St. Pete).
In 16 races at Iowa, only 1 driver has won from the pole too. So it’s not too shocking that Power came out of this weekend winless. While he knows he has to win again at some point this year, Iowa was a great points weekend for him.
He entered 35 points back and leaves 8 points out heading to a track that he’s won the summer road course race 2 years in-a-row now. Then we go to Nashville to where Power has been solid on street courses this season. After that it’s to Gateway to where he has 2 straight 3rd place performances at and three straight podiums on a like track in Iowa too.
This championship is far from over. But Power doesn’t feel like he can get a title with just 1 victory either.
This weekend, he led the first 22 laps from the pole on Saturday before 2nd place starter and teammate Josef Newgarden passed him on the 1st restart of the day on Lap 23. Newgarden would lead the next 36 laps before hitting pit lane on Lap 60. Power led that lap when he did so. The Aussie would pit a lap later.
He’d never lead again.
Power was between 3rd and 4th from that point forward before cycling back to 2nd when he came off pit road behind Newgarden after the final stop on Lap 167. Newgarden got a great launch and set his sails to his 24th career victory, 4 of which coming on these grounds. He led by .2308-seconds on Lap 181. The lead grew to .3606-seconds on Lap 190. By Lap 200, it was up to .5606-seconds. Power lost the 2nd spot to Pato O’Ward with less than 30 to go.
His tires were falling off hard. In the end, Power crossed the finish line 20.2822-seconds behind Newgarden.
On Sunday, he led the first 65 laps before his first pit stop. He was 2nd fiddle to Newgarden from then on out but the 2nd to last pit cycle lost him the race.
Pato O’Ward pit on Lap 193. Newgarden and Power hit pit lane on Lap 194. That was the difference.
O’Ward jumped ahead of Power exiting pit lane and with Newgarden’s crash, O’Ward was in the lead and never looked back in leading the final 66 laps.
Power had to settle for 2nd.
“Yeah, very consistent run this year really,” Power said. “I mean, had a lot of podiums a lot of top fours. I know we got good cars here, so it was a matter of just being mistake-free. I felt like we were going to finish in the top five. That’s exactly what happened.
“Been trying to win around here for a long time. Been really wanting to win at this place, but keep coming up short. Yeah, really happy with the weekend.”
Marcus Ericsson is making things difficult for him. He was 5th in Toronto, 8th on Saturday and now 6th on Sunday at Iowa. That’s 19 top 10’s in his last 22 starts if you go back to last year. Despite qualifying 12th and 15th this weekend, for him to come away with a pair of top 10’s is great for him.
“I’m happy with our day, our weekend,” Ericsson said. “Two top-eight finishes. Still in the championship lead. Coming into this weekend, even though not saying it, we were a bit worried because we knew that Penske is very strong here. We haven’t been very strong here in the past.
“Yeah, with that in mind I’m really happy with my race today.”
So much so, Power took notice.
“Yeah, I’m hoping that this is a good weekend for us to catch Marcus because he’s very tough,” he continued. “He’s not the best qualifier, but he’s probably the best racer in the series, in my opinion. Just over the years watching him race, he’s one of the toughest guys. Like he’s very, very good at starting back there and making his way all the way to the front.
“Yeah, try to get some points on him. He’s no joke. He’s tough to beat.”
Ericsson was thankful of those comments.
“Yeah, I did read that. It was very nice of him,” he said. “It means a lot because he’s one of the best INDYCAR drivers in the last, what, 20 years, whatever he’s been here, one of the fastest. Yeah, that means a lot to me obviously.
“But I think as well, we’ve been obviously very strong. I worked extremely hard to put myself in a position where I can be running up front and fight for the championship. It’s nice to see that hard work — reward for that hard work.
“Again, it’s a team effort. I’ve had incredible support with my core group of people, my engineer Brad, Michael O’Gara on the strategy, all the other people that have been with me since I came to Ganassi. That stability helped me build my confidence and be where I am today.
“Yeah, coming back to what you said, it means a lot to hear that from someone like Will.”
They each have to watch Scott Dixon too who went from 44 points back to 34 arrears following a pair of top 5’s himself. Dixon now has 5 top 5 finishes in his last 6 starts on the season and 190 for his career.
Power and Dixon have combined for 93 series victories but each need at least 1 more win to get a title in 2022. Ericsson says he needs to as well.
“I think I probably need to win at least one more race,” he said. “That’s sort of my mindset. But at the same time, I think we have the best consistency in the field so we just need to keep doing that. If we keep being consistent, inside the top 10, even since the month of May I think we’ve been in the top eight every race.
“We need to be there all the time, then we have some strong tracks coming up, try and grab a win or two would be nice to try and close up the championship.
“But it’s going to be tough. We just need to maximize every weekend, yeah. That’s the name of the game, right?”
Power says they have to keep doing what they’ve been doing and wins will come.
“Yeah, just doing what I’ve been doing. Simple as that,” he says. “We’ve been executing, not really doing anything special. Get on top of the qualifying thing because we cannot have what we had in Toronto. Definitely got the pace.
“Yeah, putting it together for the next – how many left – five. It’s getting down to the wire, man. Better bring your A game or I’m going to take it from you young blokes.”