Team Penske‘s Will Power has spoken of his misfortune after a chance at winning the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway evaporated after a poorly-timed caution. Power was leading the race from pole position when the caution cycled him back into the pack. He would later stall in the pits and drop down to twentieth at the finish.
Power entered the second round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series hoping to bounce back after a disappointing thirteenth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Thankfully for him, he was heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Grand Prix circuit; a location which had proven to be a happy hunting ground in the past.
Power’s penchant for the Indy GP course showed itself once again in Friday’s qualifying session. Despite entering the session as the favourite to take pole, however, Will was pushed harder than many thought. Power stated after the session that he had to push really hard to beat Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey to the pole position and that the heat in Indianapolis had made the task even trickier.
“We left nothing on the table in that lap in the Verizon Chevrolet,” Power said after qualifying. “I knew that [Jack] Harvey had a pretty good time up there, so we put our best set on for the last run, and I just gave it my all. Fortunately, it was enough. But man, the heat. I just want to jump into an ice bath right now, I’m so bloody hot!“
After being asked about why he had not been one of the first drivers on the track during the session, Power went on to talk about how he hoped that a mindset change would help him be in contention for the victory in the race and, hopefully, the championship after that.
“We don’t need to be trying to get out first,” Power added. “If you’re thinking of that, you’re going to make a mistake, or I don’t need to be thinking about winning. You just need to be thinking about what you’re really good at, which is for me, driving; and for the crew the stops that they’ve done thousands of. We’ve all had a chat, and we all understand that. That’s how we’re going to win a championship.”
Power’s hopes of converting an Indy GP pole position into a victory for the fourth time looked to be pretty good after the Australian’s start on Saturday. Will got a great jump on the field and held onto the lead on the long run down into turn one. He would go on to lead much of the early stages of the race, but he could not relax as Harvey was able to stay within a second of him.
The original plan for much of the field had been to complete the race on just two pit-stops. However, when Scott Dixon abandoned the plan to switch to a three-stop strategy, many teams were concerned by how fast he was able to go on new tyres. This prompted many to make the switch, with Power among those who also changed their tactics.
Despite the change of plan, Power continued to hold the lead. As the field began to make their second stops shortly before the halfway mark, Power waited out on the track for an extra few laps. However, at this moment, the race flipped on its head. Oliver Askew crashed his #7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet at the final corner and brought out a caution. The caution came at the worst time for Power, as it meant that he would have to pit during the caution period and would, therefore, be mired back in the mid-field for the restart.
Power would emerge from the pits and would restart the race down in fourteenth place. Meanwhile, Scott Dixon’s second stop had taken place just before the caution, thus allowing him to restart in fourth-place with only the three remaining drivers on the now compromised two-stop strategy ahead of him. Dixon passed them with relative ease and would go on to cruise to victory with almost no competition.
Power’s race, meanwhile, would soon go from bad to worse. On the Penske driver’s final pit-stop, he would stall the #12 Chevrolet whilst trying to exit his pit-box. Precious time would be lost whilst his crew pushed him back into his box so that he could be restarted and sent back on his way. Ultimately, the slow pit-stop would see him finish in an eventual twentieth place finish as the last driver on the lead lap.
Power would be left disappointed that yet another potential victory had slipped through his fingers. Bad luck and mistakes plagued his 2019 campaign and, so far, his 2020 challenge is not going much better. After two races, Will sits fifteenth in the championship standings with a seventy-three point deficit to the leader, Scott Dixon.
“We had a great Verizon Chevy and definitely had the speed that we showed in qualifying,” Power said post-race on Saturday. “Just got caught out by an unfortunate caution that really didn’t help. After that, we had a problem in the pits that cost us a lot of time and then there was no chance to recover. Chevrolet did a really great job with the power and we had an awesome car, but we just had a tough day.
“This Verizon team is fast, we just need to put a full race together.”
Power’s next opportunity to try and put an end to his run of bad luck will come this weekend at Road America. The REV Group Grand Prix event will consist of two NTT IndyCar Series races, the first on Saturday, July 11 and the second on Sunday, July 12. Will won at the track on its return to the championship back in 2016.