After claiming his first win of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Team Penske‘s Will Power has stated that he is “absolutely over the moon” to have finally gotten the monkey off of his back after what has been a difficult year so far. Power surged late in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway to take his first win of the year and, thus, continue his winning streak in the IndyCar Series into its thirteenth year.
Power entered the fourteenth race of the seventeen-round 2019 IndyCar season having still not stood on the top step of the podium. It is fair to say that it has been far from a straightforward, or successful, season for Will. The season had started off strongly with a podium at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but a race retirement from the lead at the Circuit of the Americas, followed by driver errors at Barber Motorsports Park and the Grand Prix of Long Beach started to put Power in a rut. As a result, heading into Pocono, Power had only been on the podium on three occasions; a far cry from his usual performances that we have become accustomed to over years.
Pocono, however, provided perhaps the strongest opportunity for Power to get back on track. The Australian entered the weekend as a two-time winner of the event – having gone back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 – and was seeking to get his third win after just falling short in 2018 after battling with Alexander Rossi.
Power and his Penske team-mates did not have the opportunity to put their cars at the front of the grid on merit in qualifying. The session was cancelled due to rain, which meant that the grid would be set on championship points. This would put Josef Newgarden on pole position with Simon Pagenaud in third-place, whilst Power would have to settle for fifth on the grid.
At the start of the race, however, the Penske trio was determined to get to the front as soon as possible. Pagenaud made a great getaway to jump into the lead of the race into turn one ahead of Newgarden, who would slot in the second place. Power, meanwhile, also had a fantastic start and slipstreamed both of his team-mates to move into third place. All three, crucially, would be ahead of the infamous wreck that took place at turn two, which would eliminate perhaps one of the biggest contenders who had not been driving a Penske; Alexander Rossi.
Things were looking good, initially, for Penske. But Power would soon be hit with an issue. After the red flag was lifted and the cars began to circulate again prior to the restart, a drop in tyre pressures signalled that Power had a puncture; perhaps due to the debris at turn two. He was forced to pit for a new set of tyres and would restart the race well down the order.
The race went back to green and Power would soon work his way back into the top ten. As a result of his early pit-stop for new tyres and a top-up of fuel, he was now a handful of laps off-sequence with the race-leaders. When the first pit-stop sequence came around, Power would assume the race lead by staying out on the track for a couple of laps longer than anybody else. Just as he peeled into the pit-lane, Spencer Pigot would crash at turn one and bring out a caution. With the field behind now forced to slow down, Power was able to re-join the race in second place, right behind his race-leading team-mate, Simon Pagenaud.
Power would battle for the lead with Pagenaud in the first few laps after the restart. He remained in the leading group for the second stint but would fall back during the second pit-stop phase after another caution came out whilst he was out on the track. This put him further back in the top ten and left him with work to do. To make matters worse, Power potentially did not have a lot of time to recover from the setback, as rain and lightning were on the way which could potentially end the race early.
Power soon got to work in chasing down the race-leaders once again. He would quickly breeze his way back up into fifth place, still trailing his two team-mates as well as Scott Dixon and Santino Ferrucci. On the third and final pit-stop, just after the halfway point, Power would use the pace of his Penske to jump up into second place behind the new race-leader Dixon.
On lap 115, with Dixon slowing due to car setup issues, Power would take the lead of the race and would begin to stretch his legs. Just five laps later, he had built up a lead of almost five seconds; such was Will’s pace advantage. Another eight laps would go by until IndyCar Series officials would call the cars back to pit-road after lightning had stuck near the circuit.
After a pause to see whether the race could potentially be restarted, IndyCar officials decided to end the race due to the conditions as the race had gone past the halfway point to make it official. Therefore, Will Power would be declared the winner of the 2019 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Power was visibly delighted with the news as he had finally taken his first win of the season. After the troubles he has experienced so far this season, the pressure was starting to build up more and more as the season came to a close. Now, with a win under his belt, he can look forward to the final three races of the season and can aim to end the year as strongly as possible to build momentum heading into 2020.
“Absolutely over the moon to finally win a race this season,” Power said post-race, “The guys working on the car, they’ve worked their [tails] off this year – just had bad runs. Yeah, [it’s] awesome, awesome – a great feeling.”
“I had a few issues during the race but we just kept coming back,” Will would add, “Full credit to the team. We had a great car and we just kind of hung there and saved fuel and when it was time to go, I went. I was so determined and I really wanted to win. This is my 13th year in a row of winning races and I have been thinking about that. I just wanted to win a race for Verizon and these guys who have worked their butts off all year and just haven’t had the results.”
With some positive momentum finally behind him, Power will head to the next round of the season hoping to win again. The 2019 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park will take place this Saturday, August 24. Power will enter the weekend as the most recent winner at Gateway, having passed Alexander Rossi to take the win at the speedway in 2018.