Wednesday, November 29, 2023

2022 IndyCar Driver Reviews: Will Power

Will Power celebrates winning the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
Will Power celebrates winning the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship. Photo courtesy of James Black/Penske Entertainment.

Continuing our driver review series of the top 20 drivers of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, we have now reached Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.

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Will Power’s 2022 IndyCar championship-winning season was one of consistency and measured, calculated results that made the Australian look like Alain Prost.

Power put points in the bank at the early part of the season with a pair of thirds and a trio of fourth place finishes. A mini roller coaster of race results followed with a 15th at Indianapolis and a win at the final race at Belle Isle. Power then finished 19th at Road America following contact with Devlin DeFrancesco and followed that up with a third at Mid-Ohio after a first lap spin.

Toronto wasn’t as kind to Power with a 15th place finish following some rotten luck in the first round of qualifying. The 2014 IndyCar Series champion then finished third, second and third in the next three races.

While the bad days were less than ideal, damage limitation became the focus, and it worked. Power’s finishes at the Indianapolis 500, Road America, Toronto and Nashville were his only finishes outside the top six all year long. Taking it a step further, Power had 12 top-four finishes all season long. The only oddball race in this statistic was when Power finished sixth at WWT Raceway.

That’s right. 13 top-six finishes, 12 of those in the top four out of 17 races for an average finish of 5.94. That’s how you win a championship.

Power had two races that really stand out and show how the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet crew won the title. At Detroit, the red sidewall alternate compound of tire was not the preferred tire to be on that weekend. While the tire gave more grip for a faster lap time, the tire’s effective lifespan was extremely short. 

Most competitors started the race on the red tires and ran very short opening stints, discarding them for the primary black sidewall tires that had much more durability that weekend.

Power’s crew decided to flip the script completely. Instead of running the red sidewall compound at the beginning of the race, Power’s race engineer David Faustino gambled that the 2.35-mile street circuit would take on enough rubber during the 70-lap race that the tire falloff at the end of the race would be much less than at the beginning. 

By pitting on Lap 55, Power only had to manage the gap to second place finisher Alexander Rossi as the Californian charged on his black sidewall tires. Power scored his only win of 2022 by just over one second.

At Mid-Ohio, Power had one of the fastest cars during the weekend’s second practice session and was probably going to make it far in qualifying, but an interference penalty for slowing Helio Castroneves.

Starting 21st on a track where overtaking is difficult meant that there was a large challenge on Power’s plate. That challenge grew when Power spun while overtaking Christian Lundgaard and Takuma Sato on the first lap of the race.

Now in 27th place, Power used strategy and the race’s many restarts to gain positions. Eventually Power gained enough positions to finish third behind race winner Scott McLaughlin and Alex Palou.

Sure, there may have been some luck involved, but all racers get dealt those cards at one time or another. It was simply Power’s turn to cash in.

If Power can duplicate his 2022 form, then expect him to contend for his third championship. We’ll see what happens at St. Petersburg in March.

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