SALINAS, Calif — Josef Newgarden may have won more races than Will Power (5-1) and finished one spot ahead of him on Sunday (2nd to 3rd), but it was Power who took home his 2nd Astor Cup championship trophy instead. A day after topping Mario Andretti for most career poles (68) Power capped a dream season under the warm sun filled California skies and showed that even though he’s 10 years older than his first championship, he’s much wiser.
“Yeah, what a great weekend all around,” said a joyous Power.” I couldn’t really enjoy the pole yesterday because I was so focused on the race.
“A lot of stress. A lot of stress this weekend. Not really any other — I was pretty calm all year. Once I got in the car and we started rolling, it was fine. A bit sketchy in the middle of the race. I was digging.
“I’ve got to give everything I can. I can’t lose any position here, and the car was — the tires, yeah, it was interesting. Some sets of tires were really good, and some were not quite so good. A bit of a difference there.
“But yep, mentally drained. Couldn’t show the sort of emotion that I showed when I won the 500.
“But it’s been like a long journey over the year. I think it’s pretty fitting that we just did another solid day, just a sort of long-game day like today. That’s just been the story of our year.”
Power was in the top 4 of the standings every step of the way including being in the top 2 in points after 12 of the 17 races. His consistency is why he was even in this position.
While it took him until the month of June to pick up a victory this season, as he had to watch both of his teammates win 3 of the 1st 6 NTT INDYCAR Series races of the year in general, it was Power who was the most consistent among them.
He had 9 podiums and 12 top 5 finishes. That got it done.
“Look, you’re never disappointed. Looking from a championship perspective, every time you get a podium, that’s not the day you’re looking back on it. You’re looking back on the day you finished 19th like at Road America. They’re the days that lose championships. Top threes don’t. We got a lot of them this year. Anytime I got a top four, I was pretty happy.
“But in the past I would have been really pissed off. When your teammates are winning, that was a big change. It’s like, I don’t care. I’m going to weather their storm while they’re having a good run, and just — that in itself was a mental change. It’s like, I’m not getting pissed off with a top four, where before I would have been, just after the race, just seething.”
That’s a far cry from a decade ago to where Power was the fastest man on the track but also had days like Newgarden and McLaughlin.
He had 5 wins in 2010, 6 more in 2011 and 3 in 2012. That’s 14 wins in a 3 season span. He didn’t win the championship in either year. He was runner-up in each. So to have just a single victory this season but a chance to win a title, it makes up in a way from those lost titles.
This year though is a completely different approach for him as he’s finding ways to keep his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet up front which in turn has even given him a chance to take a title. Even doing so when he doesn’t start there too. Mid-Ohio and the Indy road course in July come to mind of days he rebounded to go from the back to the front. Even his Belle Isle win in going from 16th to 1st was a sight to behold.
It shows that last year was just a down year for a driver that’s consistently up front. He had just 1 win and 4 total podiums in a 9th place finish last year in the points. That was the only time in the last 13 seasons that he didn’t have a top 5 finish in the final standings.
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.”