After an ill-timed caution and a mechanical failure cost Will Power a shot at winning the inaugural NTT IndyCar Series race at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, the Team Penske driver has stated that is “massively disappointed” that all of his hard came to nothing.
Power led forty-five laps in Sunday’s race before a caution period looked to take him out of his dominant race-lead. To rub salt into the wound, the Australian’s #12 Chevrolet would suffer a driveshaft failure during a pit-stop, forcing Will to retire from the race.
The race weekend at the Circuit of the Americas got off to a fantastic start for Power. Will would finish all three practice sessions inside the top ten, leading the way in the second session which took place on Friday afternoon. In Saturday’s qualifying session, Power easily transferred his way through to the pole position shootout, but it looked as though those around him had the better speed.
Nobody told Will that, however. In the final session of qualifying, the drivers around struggled to replicate the form they had shown in previous sessions. What’s more, Penske opted to put Power on an alternate plan for the short session, allowing Power to make two single-lap runs as opposed to one two-lap run. The less fuel onboard the #12 Chevrolet gave Power a lighter car, but with only single laps to get the best out of the car, the pressure was on.
Naturally, however, Power would deliver. As has become somewhat of a formality in recent years, Power would claim the pole position, putting his career tally up to an astonishing fifty-six; just eleven pole positions short of matching Mario Andretti for the all-time record.
Additionally, winning the pole put Power in with a shot of claiming an additional $100,000 bonus prize if he were able to win the race on Sunday.
“I thought, when I looked at the Firestone Fast Six and where we stacked up, I thought the only chance we have at getting pole is if we do one lap of fuel, and one lap on our tires, and do that twice,” Power said on Saturday, “And that’s what we did, so it paid off.”
Power was later asked whether he was starting to take pole positions for granted. He responded: “Whenever you feel like that, you never ever win the pole. I always feel like I don’t have a chance, I don’t know why, but the last two races I thought our best chance was a top three [start] if we’re lucky.”
Power’s chances of claiming the first IndyCar win at COTA, along with the $100,000 bonus, looked strong at the start of the sixty lap race on Sunday. Power got off to a strong start, with his lead going unchallenged on the run up the hill into the first turn. From there, Power, along with Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta, would break away from the pursuing pack; with the trio of drivers remaining three seconds apart from each other for the vast majority of the race.
Despite not putting away to take a comfortable advantage over Rossi and Herta, the pair never really got close enough to make a move. Power would remain in the lead of the race for the entirety of the opening forty-five laps, but his race was totally unravelled during the final pit-stop sequence.
With just under twenty laps remaining, the entire field had pitted except for Power, Rossi and Scott Dixon. All of a sudden, Felix Rosenqvist crashed his #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda whilst battling for position with Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s James Hinchcliffe. The accident bought out a caution, which subsequently closed the pit-lane and forced the trio of Power, Rossi and Dixon to wait until the field had been bunched up behind the safety car before they could pit; as per the regulations.
This, alone, was enough to effectively end Power’s chances of taking the victory; as a pit-stop under caution would see him fall right back into the midfield with only a handful of laps remaining. However, things got even worse at the conclusion of the reluctant pit-stop.
Power went to pull-away after the pit-stop finished, but his car would not go anywhere. The Australian was able to rev the #12 Chevrolet, but there was no drive. Ultimately, the team discovered that the driveshaft had failed, which forced the team to retire the car. It was a hugely frustrating way for the race to end for Power, especially considering that he very well could have won the race.
“Yeah, it feels like an input shaft,” A dejected Power said moments after stepping out of his car on Sunday, “I just released the clutch snap and I could kind of hear it grinding together. I’m massively disappointed, man; like you lead all those laps and worked so hard all weekend to put yourself into position. If the yellow [flag] didn’t get us, the driveshaft did.
Power went on to describe his frustrations at having yet another early season race retirement. Last season, Power failed to finish races on four occasions and repeatedly found himself having to claw back points on his championship rivals. Despite the numerous disappointing races, Power still found himself in mathematical contention for the title at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, but he was too far back to realistically be in with a shot.
Heading into this season, Power was hoping to avoid retiring from races as much as possible, hoping that a clean season could put him in with a much better chance at contending for the title. Now, Power finds himself in a similar situation, with his retirement yesterday already leaving him forty-six points adrift of his championship-leading team-mate, Josef Newgarden.
“Another hole at the beginning of the season,” Power continued, “But the guys have done a great job. We’re quick every weekend. Oh, I just want to have a good run, man. I just want to have a normal run in a season without this sort of c**p.”
Power will be hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of COTA at the next race in two weeks time. The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will head to Barber Motorsports Park for the Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 7.