Power shocked to have taken Detroit podium following early misfortune

4 Mins read
Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

Team Penske‘s Will Power has stated that he “couldn’t believe” he was on the podium in the second race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Detroit Grand Prix after having endured a terrible start to the race. Power was on course to have a torrid weekend after having finished off of the lead lap in eighteenth place on Saturday before suffering numerous issues at the beginning of Sunday’s race. Somehow, Power would recover from his early issues to take his second podium of the season on Sunday.

The story of Will Power’s 2019 season so far has been one of immense frustration. The season began on the right foot when he stood on the podium at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. However, at the second race of the season at the Circuit of the Americas, Power lost an almost certain and dominant race victory after an ill-timed caution and a car failure during a late pit-stop forced him into retirement.

Power’s woes continued into the third race of the year at Barber Motorsports Park, where Power suffered from handling issues throughout the race and spun. He would finish eleventh. He broke back into the top ten in Long Beach, but he would finish only seventh after having locked-up into turn one and forcing himself into the run-off area; losing a lot of time in the process. An unspectacular month of May saw Power take seventh on the Indianapolis road course and then fifth place in the Indianapolis 500; with Will never really looking as though he was truly in contention to defend his crown in either of the Brickyard races.

Entering the Detroit doubleheader, Will was determined to finally get a brace of solid results to try and get his season back on track. However, qualifying for the first race on Saturday would not go to plan. A mistake on his final lap of the session saw him qualify way down in the mid-pack, a cause of massive frustration given the difficulties of overtaking at the Belle Isle Street Circuit.

The race would not go to plan either. Power had worked his way into the fight with the race-leaders when the field made their stops to switch from the wet tyres to the dry tyres. At first, it looked as though Penske had given Power a blinding pit-stop, as he emerged in front of Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden. However, it quickly became apparent that the team had not executed the stop at all well, as Power’s right-front tyre made a bid for freedom, detaching itself and forcing Power to crawl back to the pits with three wheels on his wagon.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Will would eventually finish the race down in eighteenth place and would state after the race that he and the team needed to go out in the following day’s race and “execute in every way” following a string of mistakes throughout the year so far.

“We just have to rebound tomorrow,” Power said on Saturday, “Simply put, we just have to go out there and execute in every way. We’ve made a lot of little mistakes this year, some with strategy and some on me making a mistake in qualifying; we just need to do a better job and we have an opportunity to do that tomorrow. It just seems like one of those seasons where things don’t go your way, but I’ve had it the other way before too. We have really fast Verizon Chevys so I know it can turn around quickly.”

Heading into Sunday’s race, it looked as though Power had another difficult day in store. Power made an almost identical mistake in qualifying as he had the day before, putting himself down into a lowly grid spot of eleventh-place.

The race, too, would start in a terrible way, with Power being rear-ended during the opening lap melee at turn three. A few laps later, whilst running under a full-course caution, Power would be forced to stop his car on the race-track after losing the ability to change gear as a result of the contact on lap one. A pit-stop would follow whilst the team made repairs, with Will rejoining the race at the back of the pack.

As a result of his lowly position, Penske opted to put Power on a different tyre strategy for the remainder of the race. The gamble paid off, with Power emerging from his final stop of the day in fourth place. He would soon blitz his way by Ed Jones to take third place and would soon set about chasing down Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s Marcus Ericsson for second place.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Power had been slowly gaining on Ericsson as the race drew to a close, but the race was halted within the final ten laps due to a crash for Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist. The race would be red flagged whilst the circuit was cleared. When the race resumed, Power seemed to not quite have the pace to stay on terms with Ericsson. Nevertheless, Will would cross the line on lap seventy to take a superb third place, his second podium finish of the season and a remarkable comeback given his position earlier on in the race.

After the race, Power would state that he thought his race was over after the opening lap incident. He would go on to thank his team for giving him an amazing car to complete his comeback with, ending by stating that the race that day was the first time he had been satisfied with a result since winning at Gateway Motorsports Park last season.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Power said post-race on Sunday, “It was an amazing day. I’ve got to thank Chevy and Verizon for giving me a good car. I definitely thought we were done. We were done – I couldn’t shift, and then obviously, I tried to reset it and then I stalled. But just a great recovery. We went fast when we needed to in that sequence to get a bunch of spots.

“I haven’t been satisfied with a race since Gateway [2018], and this is the first time I’ve been satisfied with a race [since].”

Power currently sits in sixth place in the championship standings, trailing championship-leader and team-mate Josef Newgarden by eighty-four points. Power will be hoping that his run of bad luck is finally over so that he can set about gaining some ground in the title fight to be in contention by the end of the season.

The next round of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, takes place this weekend on Saturday, June 8.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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