2014 Verizon IndyCar Season Review: Will Power

October 8, 2014

Can you name the last Australian to win the championship in a major international racing series prior to 2014?

If you said 1980 Formula 1 champion Alan Jones, give yourself a pat on the back. 

That is until Toowoomba, Australia native and Team Penske driver Will Power etched his name on the silver Astor Cup trophy as the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. 

How does a former canvas goods manufacturer from Toowoomba become the champion of one of the premier racing series on the planet? If you ask Power that question he will tell you hard work, determination and an unyielding will (pun intended) to be the best. 

“To become a champion in the Verizon IndyCar Series you have to be totally committed,” said Power. “About 15 years ago I made the determination that I would become the best racecar driver I could be. This championship is the culmination of all that hard work.” 

There’s no question that once he arrived on the IndyCar scene, Power quickly established himself as one of the fastest and most consistent drivers in the sport. Since joining Team Penske – first on a part-time basis for the 2009 season, then full-time in 2010 – no driver has more wins than the 21 victories Power has racked up at a prodigious pace. In addition, he has been the fastest qualifier in the series with 30 Verizon P1 Pole Awards during that span. 

With those kind of numbers, the expectations have been high for Power. After three consecutive years of championship runner-up finishes from 2010-2012, in 2013 he adopted a new approach after a tough start to the season. Power decided to take each race as it came, to race as hard as he possibly could and not worry about where he was in the point standings. That approach paid fruitful dividends for the Aussie. 

Power wasted little time in claiming his first victory of the 2014 season as he took the checkered flag in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., which gave him three wins in a row dating back to the end of the 2013 season when he closed out the year with consecutive victories at Houston and Auto Club Speedway. Top-five finishes at Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park gave Power a solid start to the season and an early lead in the championship standings. 

The month of May held a lot of potential for Power and the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team as their speed was apparent to everyone that filled in the gates at 16th Street and Georgetown Road. Unfortunately, both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 were highlighted by pit road speeding penalties that took the team out of contention for the wins. However, eighth-place finishes in both races meant that Power continued his streak of seven-consecutive top-10 finishes, dating back to 2013. 

Refusing to let the disappointment of Indy linger, Power quickly put together one of his most-complete weekends of the year at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans on the beautiful Belle Isle circuit. After picking up his second win of the year in the first race of the dual-format weekend, Power produced a second-place finish to teammate Helio Castroneves in the second event, helping Chevrolet and Team Penske to their most successful weekend in the backyard of both organizations. 

After winning the Verizon P1 Pole Award and finishing second at Texas Motor Speedway, the consecutive top-10 streak came to an end for Power at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. However, eight top-10 finishes to start the season (and 10 straight overall) placed Power in the championship lead by 39 points over Castroneves. 

Unfortunately, the Houston dual weekend also started another streak for Power – four-consecutive races with finishes of 10th or worse, ending with a 14th-place result at Iowa Speedway in July. Over the course of those four events, Power’s 39-point lead over Castroneves in the standings had morphed into a nine-point deficit. The issue wasn’t speed but multiple pit road and on-track penalties that kept the fast-paced driver from challenging for wins. 

Undeterred, Power began to correct the issues that had plagued his summer months. At the Toronto doubleheader race weekend he scored his first podium finish since the Texas Motor Speedway race in June. A sixth-place finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the next weekend signaled that Power was rounding back to form, but the biggest championship statement to the Verizon IndyCar Series field came the following weekend. 

Having long been considered a street and road course ace, Power has worked tirelessly over the course of his career to become a threat, week in and week out, on oval tracks as well. He did own two oval wins prior to the 2014 Milwaukee Mile weekend, but neither his victory at Texas Motor Speedway (2011) or at Auto Club Speedway (2013) was as dominant or convincing as his performance in Milwaukee. A flat one-mile oval that is part of the great history of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Milwaukee Mile is a place where every driver wants to win. Power absolutely proved his place as an oval racer at Milwaukee by winning his third Verizon P1 Pole Award of the season prior to leading 229 of 250 laps for the win, a harbinger of things to come. 

Power backed up his win at Milwaukee with his fourth Verizon P1 Pole Award of the season at Sonoma Raceway, a place where he had won on three previous occasions. However, on lap 40 of the race, Power spun the No. 12 Verizon Chevy as he tried to move back through the field following a pit stop. He was able to rally back to a 10th-place finish to carry a 51-point lead over Castroneves heading into the season finale at Auto Club Speedway. 

Needing only a sixth-place finish to secure his first Verizon IndyCar Series title, Power narrowly avoided disaster during qualifying for the finale as the handling of his Dallara/Chevrolet was not to his liking around the two-mile, high-speed oval. He started the race from the 21st position, but Power gradually made his way through the field to lead a total of eight laps. After Castroneves was assessed a late pit lane violation, Power knew a top-10 result would clinch the title for Verizon Team Penske. His ninth-place finish secured the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series crown. For Team Penske it was the first championship since Sam Hornish Jr. won it in 2006, the 13th IndyCar title overall and the 26th national championship in the organization’s storied history. 

“It’s amazing, man, it really is,” said Power. “This has been a dream of mine since I came to America to race and make my home. After the years of coming so close – so bloody close – you try not to let doubt creep into your mind. Speed was never an issue for us this year, there were just some things I needed to correct. To win a championship for Roger (Penske), Verizon, Chevrolet and everyone who makes this team go is such a great feeling. I am not satisfied, though. The desire and passion is still there to win more. I feel that we can do it.