Will Power picks his best Indy car wins

Next week marks the 10th anniversary of Will Power’s first win in an Indy car, on the streets of downtown Las Vegas in Walker Racing’s Panoz-Cosworth Champ Car. David Malsher asked the 2014 IndyCar champ to recall his favorite victories.

The original plan was for this to be a list of five, but with 29 victories to choose from – a figure that puts Power level with Penske legends Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves – it proved a struggle. In the end the #12 Verizon Team Penske-Chevrolet driver came up with seven… along with a couple of near misses and a classic “one that got away.”

2007, Las Vegas

Walker Racing, Panoz DP01-Cosworth
First one’s always good. I really liked that track. I was really pleased that although we had a brake issue and tagged the wall in practice, by qualifying we were really on it. I pulled a good margin on everyone for pole [0.9sec] and then we just kinda controlled the race, even though there were lots of different strategies going on. The team had problems in the final stop and couldn’t give me a full fuel load, so I had to save fuel, but we had a decent margin and good pace. That was my first race with Dave Faustino [race engineer for all but one of Power’s victories] so it showed we were clicking right away, and I seem to remember it was the actual birthday of Derrick [Walker, team owner], too, so it was nice to give him his first win in quite a few years.

2009 Edmonton

Team Penske, Dallara IR09-Honda
Any driver’s first win for Penske is going to feel special. But it was also a great weekend for everyone on the #12 car because we were only part-time at that point. It was Penske’s IMSA sportscar crew that ran that third car, and we felt we’d missed out on wins at Long Beach and Toronto, and not from anything we did wrong. At Edmonton, we only had a couple more races guaranteed that season, so we really needed to convert our speed into a proper result.

We got pole which was important because I think if Ryan [Briscoe, teammate] had started first, I’d have had to tuck in behind him because he was in the running for the championship, and I was just a part-timer. But at the start I stayed in front and just gradually pulled enough of a lead to make up for the fact that my team were at pit-in. The race went without a yellow all the way through until two laps from the end, so pulling a lead actually made a difference. Wish more races went that way…

2010 Sonoma

Team Penske, Dallara IR09-Honda
Taking pole was pretty crucial to this one, too. It was all about going quick, looking after your tires and so having clean air up front was important. I ran more front aero than just about everyone, I think, so the car was rotating around the front. That old IRL car had a very forward weight distribution which degraded front tires really quickly, but because I ran with such a front-end-positive setup, I didn’t have to put a heap of steering angle in, so I minimized the understeer, the tires weren’t sliding across the surface in the corners, so I didn’t degrade them. So when everyone else lost grip, we were still doing consistent lap times and just left them all behind. Coming just a year after I broke my back at Sonoma, that was special.

2011 Baltimore

Team Penske, Dallara IR09-Honda
That was awesome after the final caution period, where Tim [Cindric] told me that from the restart, I’d have to pull 22 seconds in 10 laps to make sure I could pit and come out ahead of Oriol [Servia, then driving for Newman/Haas] who didn’t have to stop again. It’s just great for a driver to get an instruction to drive flat out. I had to use all my car up – no fuel-saving, just turning in qualifying lap after qualifying lap. A lot of fun, especially around that track.

Looking back, I think maybe we should have done that more often – take off in the lead, never save fuel, just charge and pit early and then you cycle to the front if there’s a caution because everyone else stops. Too often we just kinda edged away while saving fuel to make the stint longer and the stop shorter, and got caught out when a caution fell right around pitstop time. The early stoppers would cycle to the front, and we’d come out of the pits in the middle of the pack.

2013 Fontana

Team Penske, Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
There’s a couple from 2012 that mean a lot [see below], but this one was really important. Getting that first 500-mile win, beating TK [Tony Kanaan] and Ed Carpenter who are two of the best oval drivers. And it’s a race where I really remember just thinking, ‘****, this is fun!’ because there were a few different strategies going on, and we had one bad restart, too, so I was having to do a lot of fighting through the pack. Plus it was the season finale so that sent us all into the off-season on a high note, which hadn’t happened in my career before – and has only happened one time since!

2014 Milwaukee

Team Penske, Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
This was special because we were fighting for the championship, we pretty much dominated it but we were able to make one less stop than the others. The other big satisfaction was holding off TK again, because he’s very fast round there. While we were fighting, we came so close to touching wheels, but he was careful and I was careful and it was just really good clean racing. I remember Roger [Penske] really loved that win, too.

2016 Pocono

Team Penske, Dallara IR15-Chevrolet
I liked this one because it was really different from the Fontana win, where the car was just right from the word go. At Pocono last year we started off just OK, but we focused on race setup and methodically improved the car throughout the race. The crew gave me some great pitstops, and we were also pretty good at anticipating how the track was evolving so we were at our best at the very end, which is how you want it. Those Hondas were fast on superspeedways, so it was also really great to hold off Mikhail Aleshin [polesitter for Schmidt Peterson] and stick a Chevy in victory lane.

Other contenders

Does it have to be just wins? Because in Sao Paulo in 2013, when we had a electrical fire that ended the race – that was pretty special, even though I was only in it for about 20 laps. We started 22nd because me and Helio hadn’t got our qualifying laps in before someone caused a red flag. And I just flew through the field in those early laps. We’d set the car up with very little rear downforce, which you could do with the original DW12 – you could really trim out the rear wing, so we were fast in a straight line which was important at that track. I didn’t even touch the push-to-pass boost we’d still reached 11th within about 15 or 16 laps – it was amazing. I have no doubts I was going to beat everyone. When we talk about wins that got away, that one really does kill me.

The Barber 2012 win was satisfying. We’d started ninth because there was a yellow flag during my qualifying lap. It pissed me off losing pole, especially because I didn’t see how we were gonna win starting from ninth on that track. But again, it was one of those races where we just kept charging; Tim’s strategy meant he called me in at times where he could send me back out in clean air. We caught up with [Scott] Dixon and Tim called me in just in time for me to hit pitlane where Dixie couldn’t quite make it. The new-tire advantage around there was massive, so it meant I could lay down a really quick out-lap, and when Dixon came out a lap later, we were ahead.

Long Beach, the next race, was interesting too and that’s where fuel-saving actually created a good race, because we had to come from 12th on the grid because of an engine penalty for all the Chevy cars. We got to the front by making one less stop than most of the others, going quick while saving fuel.

Man, I can’t believe that’s my last win at Long Beach, because we’re normally strong there. If I could win it next week on the 10th anniversary of my first win here in the States, that would be massive.