SALINAS, Calif — Will Power had been in this position before. Being the championship leader heading into the NTT INDYCAR Series season finale wasn’t new to him. Unfortunately, it’s not also been fond memories either.
Power entered the final race of the INDYCAR season as the points leader 4 times prior. He had only celebrated at the end of those 4 seasons just once.
Here he was back in a familiar spot heading into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. This time he was on the pole and leading by the 2nd largest margin that he’s ever led over 2nd place entering the final event.
Before you get to Sunday morning, you first have to go back to last offseason.
The 41-year old driver was down. He was coming off of his worst season in the sport since 2009. A ninth place finish in points on the heels of just 1 win and 4 total podiums ensued. That was the only time in the last 13 seasons that he didn’t have a top 5 finish in the final standings.
He knew of his abilities but was starting to doubt. Was this the new norm?
Then a comment by his wife Liz turned this focus a whole different direction. She told him not only was he going to get at least 5 poles and become the all-time NTT INDYCAR Series pole winner, but he was going to hoist his second Astor Cup championship trophy in September too.
“She said, I believe — because there’s probably a time where I was disappointed in something or just saying like — talking about my career or something,” Power said. “She goes, I believe you’re going to beat Mario’s record this year and win another championship. That’s what she said. Legit, she said that.”
Power said he remembers exactly when and where he was with this moment occurred. He was in the kitchen.
“Yeah, I do. We were standing in the kitchen. I remember it exactly,” he notes.
That confidence his wife had in him did wonders for his psyche. So he came to St. Pete back in February with a new fresh mindset. It paid off. Power began the 2022 season with 5 straight top 3 finishes.
Even in the midst of that, he wasn’t winning. Liz kept reminding him what she said last winter.
“She said that a couple times in the year, and it actually gave me confidence,” Power continued. “It actually like — that’s how much faith I have in her gut feel. It kind of made me feel, okay, yeah, she’s said things like this before. Like the 500, she said, I believe you’re going to win one. I think you’re going to win one.
“Even before this weekend, she said, I know you’re going to do it. She said that. I know you’re going to do it. Man, it’s so much pressure — not pressure, but everything has got to go right. But deep down, I was like, I know how life flows at times, and I kind of thought that this could happen.
“But yeah, she said that. Yeah, she has a good gut feel, a good gut feel for things.”
It paid off. Even with those nights that he woke at 3 a.m. the calming sense that he had from Liz helped him endure in the long game in the end.
“Yeah, it was waking up at 3:00 a.m. a couple times over the weekend, and you can always relax yourself back to sleep, but it’s obviously a big day,” he says. “Everyone has put a ton of effort in, and you don’t want to let it go. Those nerves make you perform at a high level.
“I had those nerves going into qualifying. It just pumps you up to another level. That’s what it does for me.
“A couple of times in my career I’ve actually gotten in the car too relaxed, and it just doesn’t work. I’ve been around long enough to understand the perfect amount of sort of nervousness you’ve got to have. You’ve got to have it. You’ve got to have it. Your subconscious won’t perform to what you want it to if you don’t. Your subconscious needs to understand the importance of what you’re doing and then you can put yourself at another level.”
This wasn’t the first time his wife had a good feel on how Power’s career would go either. Every step of the way she’s predicted where he’d land even when it didn’t seem at the time he’d become a 2-time series champion for Team Penske.
“I mean, legitimately told me to sign the contract for A1 GP, didn’t have anything else,” said Power. “Then she told me to get out of that contract because Penske or Ganassi might call you. I was just like, there’s no way, but I did it anyway. I don’t know, I just did it. Then sure enough, she goes, yeah, Helio just got arrested. I’m like, what? What? Derek is down there, he’s talking to Roger — no, it was uncanny. Unbelievable. She actually talked me out of that contract. Yeah, I did end up with Penske. It just blew my mind. How could she know that? She didn’t know, she just felt that.”
That feel has led Power to a conversation of the all-time greats.
He just became the 27th driver to ever win multiple titles in the series. Does he ever feel under appreciative? We talk about that a lot about Scott Dixon, but what about Power?
He’s the career leader in poles. His 41 wins is 5th best ever and one shy of Michael Andretti for 4th most all-time. His 25 runner-up finishes is 12th best. His 94 podiums is for 7th most. He has 123 top 5’s which is 9th best.
He’s won a race in 16 straight seasons, which is 2nd longest ever. He’s done so in 267 career starts. Dixon by comparison has 100 more starts on Power. Is he under valued?
He’s now eyeing a 3rd championship next season.
“Yeah, I mean, very encouraging for next year,” said Power. “I’ve learnt a lot this year, as well. You never stop learning. Having two really good teammates helps.
“Yeah, look forward to some time off, to be honest. I haven’t seen my parents in three years. I want to get back over to Australia and relax and then I’ll start thinking about what happens next year.”