Will Power mentioned on Saturday afternoon that the pace of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet was just down in comparison to the main contenders here this weekend at the Barber Motorsports Park. That’s because their engine was close to mileaging out. They’d receive a new Chevrolet engine for the Indy road course in a couple of weeks.
This weekend, he had to just get by.
He qualified 11th on Saturday. A top-10 finish would have been a good day. A Top-5 finish a great day. A podium? That’s a win.
Power gained eight positions to finish third in Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix to score his third consecutive top four finish here. This was his 95th career podium in 272 starts and third top seven finish in the first four races to his championship defense season. That has him in striking distance to another championship as he enters the Month of May seventh in points (-26).
“Yeah, look, if I finished fifth I would have been happy, or sixth, even eighth honestly. There are days that it’s a bad day that get you,” he said.
“I would say in the start of my season, it’s just been pretty good. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad start of the season at all. I’ve been happy with all the results except for one, which was Texas. You can’t win ’em all. In fact, it’s very difficult to win one or two in a season. You just have to keep racking up good finishes.”
The strategy by Team Penske on Sunday was a pristine as their cars. Power pit on Lap 15 then on Lap 38 right before that lone caution. He’d pit for the final time on Lap 66 to run the final 24 laps on the Firestone alternates.
It paid off.
By doing the overcut, he moved up to third after the pit sequence, 10 seconds back of the lead. He nearly chopped all 10 seconds off by finish on Grosjean’s bumper for the podium.
“Yeah, in the first stint when I saw everyone saving fuel about eight to 10 laps in, I said to the guys, Maybe we should switch to a three-stopper here,” said Power. “Do you want me to push? It was the best thing to do at that time.
“Yeah, it worked out well. We had a very fast car. Any time we had clear air, we were pumping out some seriously quick times. During that last sequence is where we gained a ton of track position. I was able to do 67s in the last few laps.
“Yeah, using the tires up. As soon as I started getting Romain’s dirty air, he was doing a really good job of sort of saving fuel and also getting big exits, not making mistakes. I did everything I could to get to him and I just couldn’t get there.”
This has him with massive momentum heading to the biggest month of the year at Indy.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s good for the whole group on the car,” Power admitted. “Obviously mentally for yourself, it’s a very positive thing. Everything’s heading in the right direction.
“Indy is a very, very different animal in terms of the 500. Obviously you have the Grand Prix before that. But, yeah, the 500 is a very standalone, tough, unique event. Yeah, we’re hoping to be in the game this year. We’ve been pretty disappointed with the performance the last few years.
“We’ll wait and see. You don’t say anything. We’ve done a lot of work.”