For all that he’s accomplished in his IndyCar career, Will Power did something Saturday night he’s never done before – win with Roger Penske calling his strategy.
“I was so happy to win my first race with Roger,” said Power, whose Gateway victory was the 35th of his career, tying Bobby Unser for seventh on the all-time wins list.
“I was just wondering when that was going to come because I didn’t get to work with him in Indy and obviously won two races there. That was my first win with Roger, and when he told me I could go wide open and not save fuel, that was a great call and a lot of fun, to chop through the field, passed — I’ve never passed so many cars in a shorter period of time.”
Penske brought Power in with 17 laps to go for a 4.2-second splash-and-go that turned out to be the winning strategy, while second-place Alexander Rossi’s Andretti Autosport team made the opposite call to try and make the race in three pit stops.
Asked if he knew Rossi’s strategy, Power said, “All I knew was Roger said go wide open and the other guys dropped back and tried to save fuel.
“I figured that there would be a bunch of guys trying to do it, and I saw the number you had to get for us, and I was like, you have to go so slow to get that number, and I thought that we could probably make that time up if we just ran wide open, and that was the case.
“It was the first time in my career where I’d gone that way instead of saving fuel because obviously I’m very good at saving fuel, but so many times I wish we could just go wide open. When you’ve got Roger on the radio, he’s always pushing just to push, to go, if you’ve got a fast car, and that’s what we did.”
Power’s win moved him to within 68 points of championship leader Scott Dixon and 42 points from Alexander Rossi with two races remaining, including the double-points finale at Sonoma. He’s still within reach, but the 2014 series champion admits the No. 12 crew will have to take some risks to close the points gap.
“It’s going to be very tight. It’s really hard to close a gap at this point of the season because as you can see, the same guys are finishing in the top five every week, and they’re all the guys you’re racing. I need those guys to have a bad day and for me to win a race.
“We have been so quick everywhere all year, we’ve just had — amongst the guys I’m racing, between them they’ve had one DNF. I’ve had five DNFs, basically five. I’ve had a lot to make up, and we’re on the way there. Still a big chunk of points, honestly, when you’re only gaining maybe 10 or 12 a race.
“I think we have to [take risks] strategy-wise, but it will all depend on where the guys we’re racing — teams like Rossi and Dixon are the main guys, and Josef. He’s in our team. But if they’re at the front, yes, I mean, we have to take risks. We have to make things happen. Kind of like tonight, we just said, let’s go, let’s run hard. We’ve got to beat these guys. We can’t finish behind anymore. So I’m going to be aggressive with them racing-wise. If there’s a half gap there, I’m going to go for it. You have to. They know it; they’ve got a lead. I’ve got nothing to lose. That goes for strategy, as well.”