“It was certainly strange,” Will Power says of his uncharacteristic 2017 season.
The Team Penske veteran, a Verizon IndyCar Series champion in 2014 and perennial title threat for the Captain, closed the year in a bizarre place. Despite winning more races than all but one of his teammates, the final Drivers’ standings showed Power ended up last within the four-car Penske camp.
It was the first time since the Australian joined the team full-time in 2010 that he’s been at the bottom of Penske’s heap. He took more poles than anyone in the series, added three more victories to his record and factored in plenty of races, but it was an off year by Power’s championship-or-bust standard.
If you add in the disappointment Power experienced in 2016 where a pre-season illness derailed his early form, it has been a little while since the mercurial 36-year-old has started and finished a season at full strength, or arrived at the end of the year without major peaks and valleys in the final results.
Factor in how his two newest teammates, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, have gone on to win consecutive championships for Penske, and one might wonder if Power has spent the offseason searching for ways to reassert his dominance within the program.
If you know Will Power, the answer to the question came quickly, in a single word, and was delivered with conviction.
“No. The bottom line is you can’t have four DNFs as I did last year, [with] one of them being a double points race, and expect to be in the championship hunt,” he told RACER. “We lost a huge chunk of points early and then when we did get going, we’d get a win, but then have another problem. It went like that, up and down, all year. Two of those DNFs were on the first lap at Toronto and Gateway.
“I was one of the first guys to go out at St. Pete with engine problems to start the year, and again towards the bottom at the Indy 500, and you can’t have that. And Barber. You’re leading almost the whole race, 10 or 15 laps to go, and you have to pit for a flat tire. It was unbelievable bad luck. I picked up some of the smallest amount of points possible at too many races. It’s as simple as that. Take away one or two of those and it’s a big swing in points.”
Power’s approach to the upcoming season will be a simple one: avoid misfortune and make fewer mistakes.
“If you have all those problems sprinkled in, almost equally, you can’t build a championship run,” he said.
“That’s the thing to fix. It’s not a new idea, but that’s the improvement to make. We came almost all the way back in the championship last year, got the win at Pocono, and then, as it turned out, the last thing I needed was to be on pole at Gateway. The track was so slippery, we had that spin coming off Turn 2, and that was it.
“You try and think of all the little things you’d do differently, you’re always learning, and hope the bad luck goes somewhere else. You have years like that sometimes. A clean year – as clean a year as I can have – is what I’m after. If we can accomplish that, the conversation will be a lot different after (the season finale in) Sonoma.”