June 3, 2014

Power ranking: Australia’s Will Power gets back to top in IndyCar

The three-time series runner-up has his eye on one thing only — winning.

Will Power promised himself not to race for points this year.

And look what’s happened. He’s leading the points in the Verizon IndyCar Series as it heads to Fort Worth this weekend for the Firestone 600.

The three-time series runner-up moved to the top spot with finishes of first and second in the doubleheader at Detroit last weekend. Power, who won the season opener at St. Petersburg, had led the standings until an eighth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500.

“Those two races were a couple of the best races I’ve ever had,” Power said of the finishes on the street course at The Raceway at Belle Isle. “Just really strong, good racing.”

Except for one thing.

The “bloody” drive-throughs.

Power took a drive-through penalty in the second Detroit race, or he might have won it. He took a similar penalty at Indy and another at the Indianapolis Grand Prix the race before.

He could be a light year ahead in the standings.

“It’s just not helping,” he said. “I’ve got to stop making mistakes like that.”

If Power is mistake-free, it means trouble.

“In sheer talent — raw talent — and pace, Will’s probably the most impressive driver I’ve ever seen,” Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay said. “When he gets it right and his team gets it right, it’s another level.”

Power has been so close to that other level. The 33-year-old Australian has 21 wins in 98 IndyCar Series starts.

He was the series runner-up in 2010, ’11 and ’12. He has recorded a podium finish in more than a third of his starts, and with Team Penske power behind him, has earned 28 poles.

“He’s got a win tally that’s starting to get ridiculous, considering how many seasons he’s been in the series,” Hunter-Reay said.

But the championship eludes Power. He said after last year’s fourth-place finish in the standings, he was trying too hard to rack up points and that this year, he would just think about winning races. The points, he figured, would sort themselves out.

“When you’re point racing, it mentally is just the wrong thing to be thinking of,” he said. “I think you should ignore what the points are and race how you race. Obviously, it’s impossible to win every race. But it’s got to be the goal. The goal is to get the most out of every situation possible. I just remember the three years that I’ve been a contender to win the championship, when you start talking points and all that, it’s just something you don’t need to think about.”

Right now, he can think about Fort Worth. Power has top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in each of his past four starts. He was on the pole last summer, and he’s never qualified worse than eighth here.

There’s no reason for him not to be optimistic.

Or is there?

“In 2012, [I] felt I could have won the race,” he said. “Got a bloody drive-through.”

Maybe he can promise himself not to think about that.

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