2016 Season Review - Will Power
December 5, 2016
The thing that amazes Will Power about his 2016 season is the same thing that amazes the people who witnessed it: Despite missing the season-opening race due to illness, he eventually moved into contention to win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
He eventually finished second in the final standings, 127 points behind Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, but a stretch in which Power won four of six races put him back in contention and nearly brought about his second IndyCar title.
“It was remarkable, actually,” said Power. “It was almost a surprise, in a way, because we had such a good run in the middle there. I do remember seeing the points lead Simon had when I was still quite a ways back. I thought if I was going to be able to win this championship that I would need a run like he had. We pretty much went on a run like that – a lot of firsts and seconds – but then the last two races really cost us. It was a great season. It really was.”
The run was a stretch of four wins in six races that began in June at Detroit and carried into Road America, Toronto and Pocono. And the two races he didn’t win during that six-race period? He finished second, at Iowa and Mid-Ohio. The most memorable performance for Power was at Pocono, especially after two previous fourth-place finishes (2015 and 2013) and a 10th-place result after starting from the front row in 2014.
“That’s probably one of my favorite wins ever,” said Power. “I had to survive some restarts at the end and methodically went about the whole race all day. I was pretty determined to win that race. Not just because of the championship, but because in previous years I’d had the cars to do so and didn’t pull it off. But I really seemed to click with that place this year.”
But winning the return of IndyCar racing to Road America, the legendary road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, ranked a close second in Power’s list of 2016 favorites, mostly because of the large, enthusiastic crowd.
“I really enjoyed that one,” explained Power. “It was a great crowd. I went around on Friday night on a walk with my wife (Liz). There were so many people there camping out and playing games and just all sorts of stuff. They had cool bars set up and everything. It was something else. They had so many people. It was great to see.”
Power’s career statistics rank him among the elite of IndyCar racing. He has 29 victories, 44 pole positions and 55 podium finishes in 170 races during his 12 series seasons. He has finished among the top four in the final standings in each of the last seven seasons, including his championship campaign of 2014.
“You do feel like you get better as time goes on,” said Power. “It’s really interesting the different phases you go through as you evolve as a driver. I would say this year was very different from the year I won the championship. Then, I was very much in an attack mode all the time. I was taking more risks. This year everything was very methodical. I was able to let the races come to me. I was picking my times to get aggressive. I think that comes from experience. You know when to take the risks and when not to.”
Now 35 years old, the native of Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, is reaching the peak age for performance. Still, he wouldn’t mind having an opportunity to turn back the clock, especially knowing what he knows now.
“You kind of wish from here I could have another 10 years,” he said. “You feel like you’re at your best right now, but I wish I was 25, not 35. That’s experience, and you see it in guys like Helio (Castroneves), (Tony) Kanaan, (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Scott) Dixon. You can tell that they race with experience. They’re very good to race around and very respectful, but also very tough. They make the right choices at the right times. They’ve got that experience.”
The combination of experience and knowing he was close enough to contend despite the early setback in 2016 gives Power the motivation to return at peak form when the 2017 season opens March 12 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“I should be in way better shape at the start of 2017,” said Power. “It’s funny. Sometimes during a season you feel great and things just don’t flow for you. It was just really disappointing for me to turn up at the last race and not be a realistic contender. You always want to have that feeling like you have a shot. That’s always the aim for everyone, and that’s what we hope to make happen next year.”