Sunday, October 1, 2023

Will Power Plays the Long Game to Win Second IndyCar Championship

Will Power at the 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
Will Power at the 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Photo courtesy of Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment.

MONTEREY, Calif. — In the end, playing the long game worked for Will Power.

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Collecting his ninth podium finish of the season was enough to get Power his second NTT IndyCar Series championship with a third-place finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

While Alex Palou won Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey and Josef Newgarden finished second after starting 25th, Power ran a consistent race to end the 2022 IndyCar championship 16 points ahead of Newgarden.

“It’s been like a long journey over the year,” Power said in the post-race press conference. “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 led the first 14 laps of the 95-lap race before pitting for the first time on Lap 15. After the rest of the leaders made their first pit stops, Power led three more laps before Palou took the lead on Lap 27.

The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner remained in the top four positions for the rest of the race as other title rivals gradually dropped out of title contention.

Power finished all 17 races of the 2022 season on the lead lap, scoring nine podium finishes, 12 top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes in a very consistent season. While in years past he might have taken more risks, the Toowoomba, Australia native decided that taking the points available and thinking long term would help him win a title, instead of just going for outright wins.

“I’ve said it from the beginning of the year, I said I’m playing the long game all year,” Power said. “I’ve never done that, and I’m doing it this year. I don’t really care about the wins; I just want to win another championship, and I played that game. Maybe I go out next year and try to win races.

“If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to play a long game.”

Power’s four finishes outside the top-10 were all the result of weird circumstances. There was the Indianapolis 500 where all of Team Penske struggled, an early collision at Road America with Devlin DeFrancesco, bad luck in qualifying at Toronto keeping Power in the midfield and involvement in an early collision at Nashville with Pato O’Ward.

Despite just those four less than ideal races, Power entered Sunday’s race with only a 21-point lead on Newgarden and Scott Dixon, who ended up third in points, 39 points behind Power.

“You can’t leave anything on the table,” Power said. “That’s what makes this series so tough and unique is that you’ve got all these disciplines. Even the difference between a road course and a street course is quite significant in our series because the street course is extremely rough and bumpy and tight. There’s not a series like it.

“I’m going to say it’s the toughest series in the world because of what you’ve got to master to win it and the competition level. You don’t even have to take my word for it; just do the math on lap times, and you’ll see that we’re the toughest, the most competitive series in the world.”

Power’s podium was the 94th of his career.

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