For better or worse, 2018 will be a year to remember for Australian open-wheel veteran Will Power.
After sweeping both races in the month of May at Indianapolis, Power had catapulted from a lowly 10th place standing in the points to 1st overall entering the Detroit Grand Prix. Power left the Motor City with the points lead following finishes of 7th and 2nd in the doubleheader, but since then, the 2014 series champion has endured a series of “Jekyll and Hyde” results.
A late-race crash with Zachary Claman de Melo removed Power from a top-five finish in Texas, concluding with an 18th place result. Then at Road America, header issues left Will finishing 23rd after qualifying on the front row.
Since then, Power has sandwiched a bad Toronto result (18th) with finishes of 6th in Iowa and 3rd at the series’ most recent race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Looking at Power’s results in 2018 on a line chart could give a person vertigo, but nonetheless, he sits 5th in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship while holding possibly the most coveted prize of all – this year’s Indianapolis 500.
With all of that considered, Power was especially cheerful to test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday – his first visit to the track since winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this past May.
“Yeah, it was pretty nice feeling driving through the tunnel and just going back to that place with such great memories and actually get back out there on the track,” Power said during a Tuesday teleconference. “Always brings a smile to my face any time I think about it or obviously drive into the place at Indianapolis.”
A trend started by 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato, it appears that the Borg-Warner Trophy could be on the move again during the offseason. Power hinted that there are plans in the works to bring the iconic trophy to his native Australia, one year after it left the country for the first time when Sato brought it to Japan.
“I think we’re kind of, maybe, planning on taking the Borg-Warner (to Australia),” Power stated. “Just depends on the situation. We’ll think about that in the off-season.”
Power was joined by current championship leader, Scott Dixon, at IMS on Monday to test not only new tire compounds for Firestone but also some aerodynamic prototypes for IndyCar.
“We found some pretty good tires actually,” Power reported. “I think they brought probably a lot of different compounds, constructions. IndyCar actually also did a test on aero stuff.
“They have a lot of data to manipulate it in the way they want, how they want to race. I think they’ll take a look. We definitely found some good stuff.”
That is music to fans’ ears after this year’s Indianapolis 500, where passing was at a premium for most drivers (not looking at you, Alexander Rossi).
Still hopeful for a late-season championship surge, Power will take his talents to Pocono Raceway for August 19th’s ABC Supply 500. The Australian driver has won three of the last four 500-mile races on the IndyCar Series calendar (including back-to-back years at Pocono), which certainly gives him hope for another fine performance.
“Pocono has been a track I’ve always enjoyed, always done well at the races. Yeah, looking forward to running there again,” Power remarked. “Love superspeedways. Really, really feel right at one with them, so yeah.
In comparing Pocono to Indianapolis (Power has won each of the two most recent oval races at the tracks), the Team Penske driver noted the similarities and differences between the two facilities, and what he likes about the racing challenges.
“I think the thing that differentiates that track is it’s three very different corners: one with a lot of banking, one that’s very open, pretty much wide open every lap, then one that’s kind of like Indianapolis with no banking and the car slides around,” Power explained. “It is a great race circuit. Really, really cool. A lot of fun.”
While there are adjustments in the pipeline to make passing a bit easier at Indianapolis, the series announced in June that adjustments to the package would come for August’s Pocono race. Teams are testing today (August 9) at the Pennsylvania speedway to evaluate the effectiveness of two front wing mainplane extensions that should make the speedway aero kit front wing more efficient.
Still, Power is confident that this aero kit can produce the same exciting racing we saw at the Tricky Triangle in 2017.
“It’s really hard to tell, but I feel like this car drafts better,” says Power. “It punches a bigger hole than the old car, so you get a big run. I think the racing will be similar. I think it will be an exciting race.
“Without testing there, it’s very difficult to understand how this aero kit will work exactly. I think the downforce number’s pretty similar. I predict it will be like it was last year.”
At the end of the day, the goal remains: cut into Dixon’s points lead. A realist in nature, Power understands the challenges that lay ahead for his team with a significant gap between he and the Kiwi.
“Obviously, Newgarden and Rossi are very reachable. But Dixon, we need him to have a bad run, simple as that,” Power exclaimed. “That’s how we’re going to catch him. He’s had a very good run all year, very smooth, very consistent. We just need him to have a bad day basically.”
Whether he was in the championship hunt or not, one thing is for certain: Power will be a threat in the final stages at Pocono. While there is no triple crown in IndyCar at the moment, the Aussie driver would take a clean sweep of the two 500-mile races in 2018 as a fine consolation prize.
And maybe, just maybe, it could spark a dramatic run to Sonoma.
Image courtesy of Chris Owens/INDYCAR Media.