BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Michigan - Could anything in racing top Will Power’s emotional 2018 Indianapolis 500 victory last May?
Probably not, says Team Penske’s ace, the Australian-born driver who battled his inner demons to overcome self-doubts that he could ever win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” at the unforgiving Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But despite the triumph, don’t for a moment think Power is finished with business at IMS – he badly wants to add another 500 win to his resume before giving any thought to retirement.
“Oh, man, the 500 is the coolest thing I have won, something I’ve been working so hard on for so long,” said the 37-year-old Power, who will begin his 11th year at Penske in the 2019 IndyCar Series season. “To finally get it, it was so, so good. But I want to win it again – the 500 and the series championship – before I retire.”
Power visited Penske Corp. headquarters on Tuesday with the Borg-Warner Trophy to meet with Penske staff and sign autographs. Power spent several hours on his feet in the Penske boardroom before taking a seat to chat with IndyCar.com.
On his victory at Indy, Power, the 2014 IndyCar Series champion, admitted it still stirs his soul.
“At the end of the day, I had built it up so big in my mind,” said Power of his struggles to win the 500. “You start to wonder, ‘Will I ever do it?’ It had been so elusive, so hard to crack. But, it just turned out to be a perfect day of execution. I had a fast car. I knew I was going to get there. We simply were the quickest out there that day and no one was going to get me once we had clear air.”
While Power, who has recorded 35 series victories, said Tuesday “I don’t think you’ll ever top your first 500 win,” he won’t rest on his laurels.
“You pinch yourself after winning your first 500,” said Power. “It is such an epic event. There is nothing like it. It is the greatest trophy to win in sports. “But, man, I want another one.”
An accomplished triathlete, Power is one of the sport’s fittest drivers. Last weekend, he took first in his age group in a triathlon held on Lake Norman, near Charlotte, N.C.
“Not a big deal, really,” said Power, who raced against 250 competitors. “Not doing anything too crazy (about his offseason plans). Just relaxing for a couple months before the preseason begins; then straight back into it.”
Power knows driving for a second series championship and a second Indianapolis 500 victory in 2019 will be extraordinarily tough. As well as having to beat out Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, Power, who finished third in points this year, must contend with 2018 series champion Scott Dixon, series runner-up Alexander Rossi and a growing list of fast youngsters.
“The talent of the young guys coming in is exceptional,” said Power, who pilots the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet. “It’s just a tough field, top to bottom. But I love it; it’s the way it should be.”
It won’t get any tougher than on Belle Isle May 31-June 2 next year, when the Motor City hosts the 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear, the sole doubleheader IndyCar Series race weekend on the calendar.
The 2.3-mile Belle Isle street course is wickedly tough on drivers and equipment and two races in two days can be bone-jarring and energy-sapping.
“It is very grueling,” said Power, a two-time Belle Isle winner. “But I really enjoy it – being in Roger Penske’s and Chevrolet’s backyard.”
This past season, Power won three races and claimed four poles.
“We were super-fast everywhere we went,” said Power. “Yes, we were frustrated at times – two mechanical failures, radio issues and me making several mistakes – but the 500-win trumped everything, so it doesn’t matter. It was just the way it was.”
Power said he continues to be happy with the new-for-2018 IndyCar and its universal aero package.
“The car looks great, races better, way better on road courses, and is nimble and fun to drive,” said Power. “Obviously, there will be some little tweaks here and there, but the series has kind of ticked the boxes they needed to. They put the car in the drivers’ hands.”
Renewing rivalry with five-time IndyCar champion Dixon will spur Power on in 2019, he said.
“It’s pretty cool to compete against a driver like Scott who is getting up there in records with A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti,” he said. “It makes this sort of a golden era of racing to race one of the greats like Scott. It’s good for the future of INDYCAR.”