It wasn’t all that long ago that Will Power dreaded going to ovals. After all, his first 11 Indy Car victories came on either road or street courses including 19 of his first 20 overall. Furthermore, if you go all the way to the middle of the 2016 season, 25 of Power’s 28 wins at that point came on twisty tracks. But, that’s where everything changed.
In fact, that dominating win from the pole at Milwaukee in 2014 was really the turning point of where he became stronger on ovals than road/street courses. It just didn’t really start showing until the 2016 season.
Power, won at Pocono in August 2016. That started a trend to where six of his last eight trips to victory lane have come on ovals.
“There’s a time in everyone’s career where you would have said, He’s just not an oval guy,” Power said last weekend from the Pocono Raceway.
I can make a case now to where ovals are Power’s playground. Out of his now 36 career Indy Car wins, which breaks a tie with Bobby Unser for seventh all-time, nine of which are now on ovals. His last three series wins though are on ovals, so are five of his last six.
“Now you’d probably go, Yeah, he’s pretty good. He’s pretty good,” Power said about himself as he’s been an oval specialist as of late.
His teammate Josef Newgarden agrees.
“For drivers, it’s different,” Newgarden said of Power. “Sometimes you pick up to that quicker at certain places than others. I think Will (Power) is a very strong 500-mile runner. It’s good to have that, too, because you can kind of look at — for me, I know I look at Will, his style, try to learn a bit from him, what makes him good at these types of tracks.”
So, what is his secret? What makes him so good in 500 mile races?
“I mean, you’ve got a bit more time, you got a bit more time to not take a risk and kind of sit back, plenty of stops for it to unfold, get the car right,” Power said. “You don’t need to get too desperate at the beginning.
“I was a lap down, I came back and won (in 2017). Actually, as I was sitting a lap down, I was thinking, If I get our lap back, I can have a top five because the whole field is actually bunched up. I actually won the race.
“Take your time, as we saw last year.”
This weekend Power doesn’t have 500 miles but 225 laps. Gateway is a track where starting position is so key. Last year, he started fourth and won. He led 93 laps overall. Last weekend in Pocono, he qualified fifth.
Penske, is 4-for-4 on ovals in 2019 and Power can easily make it 5-for-5 on Saturday night. Also, since the series started coming back to Gateway in 2017, Penske won both times.