After claiming an emotional victory in yesterday’s 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, Will Power has said post-race that he could not describe how he felt in that moment. The Australian, driving for Team Penske, won on his eleventh attempt and went on to admit that he previously thought that he may never win the famous race.
Power had a difficult first few races of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The first race at St. Petersburg saw him start on the front row but spin on lap one, eventually taking a tenth place finish. He had been running well at the second round at ISM Raceway before he retired after hitting the wall.
The third round at Long Beach saw Power’s first race of the year without drama. As a result, he would take second place, only to retire from the next race at Barber Motorsports Park the following weekend.
The all-important month of May saw Power’s performance shift up a gear. He won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course a few weeks ago after starting from pole position and then, after qualifying on the front-row, took his first ever win in the Indianapolis 500 yesterday. After the race, Will perhaps made the understatement of the century, hailing his last few weeks as “a great month.”
“Man, I just can’t believe it,” a shocked Power said after stepping out of his #12 Verizon Chevrolet yesterday in victory circle, “I changed my attitude a lot after Barber. Very positive, I had a great month. I just can’t believe it. I’ve got to thank Roger Penske, Verizon and my parents for allowing me to get to this point. I just … I can’t describe it. I feel like collapsing. I want to cry. I couldn’t stop screaming. I can’t believe it.”
After qualifying on the front-row of the grid, Power quickly used his strong starting position to good effect. He ran up front for a vast majority of yesterday’s five-hundred-mile race and was leading the way as the race entered its final stages.
However, Power did have his potential win threatened when a late caution played into the hands of those ahead of him on an alternate fuel-saving strategy. Tony Kanaan‘s crash at turn two with twelve laps to go allowed Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey the chance of making it to the end without having to stop; giving them track position for the final dash to the finish.
Power had fresh tyres and no worries about fuel, but initially, he struggled to gain positions as the three drivers ahead battled for position. Soon, the Penske driver picked off Servia for third place, but he was not able to catch up to Wilson and Harvey as quickly as he would have hoped. It looked as though he may have to fight hard if he wanted the win.
However, with five laps to go, Wilson and Harvey peeled off into the pits, with their teams realizing that they would not make it to the chequered flag. This gave Power a relatively uncontested run to the finish, laying down some of the fastest laps of the race to take the win; his first in the Indianapolis 500 and the biggest race win of his career. After the race, Power described how he was feeling during the tense final few laps:
“I’m like, ‘I have to get these guys.'”, Power said post-race, “I don’t know how much fuel they got, but this is the restart of my life. And then I go on, and the two [Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey] pit, and I’m like, ‘Man, I think I’m going to win this!’ I was screaming with one to go. Man, I got this. Unbelievable.”
Power went on to state just how much the win yesterday meant to him. When he first started out in American single-seater racing, he was a competitor in Champ Car; a series which did not race on ovals. When the series famously merged with the Indy Racing League in 2008 to form the current IndyCar series, Power struggled to get to grips with oval racing.
Over the years, Power steadily improved on the speedways, taking his first win on an oval at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011. His increased ability on the ovals, combined with his speed on road and street courses, enabled him to claim the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, but a win at the biggest race on the calendar continued to elude him.
Power said yesterday that, at various points in his career, he believed that he may never win the Indy 500. Now, however, he has done just that.
“I was wondering if I was ever going to win it, and thoughts went through my mind during the month like that,” he said, “In my career, I’ve had so many wins, so many poles. But everyone always talks about the ‘500.’ And I won it. I just couldn’t imagine winning a race in front of a crowd like this, this many people. It’s just amazing. What an event. I love it.”
Power will undoubtedly spend much of the next few days relishing his amazing accomplishment, but he will soon have to turn his attention to the next event of the season. Only a few days remain until the Verizon IndyCar Series is back out on-track for this weekend’s doubleheader at the Belle Isle street circuit. The 2018 Duel in Detroit will take place on June 2 and 3.