Mental Shift Puts Power in Contention for Second Title

  • Racing News
Will Power

Due to his numerous successes, Will Power’s prowess at racing is no question. What remains a mystery, however, is what has caused Power to undergo an apparent shift in performance and mentality during the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?

2014 series champion Power is second in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings entering the Honda Indy Toronto this Sunday, just 20 points behind leader and fellow Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson.

Power won the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear in June and, more importantly, has shown tremendous consistency in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He has finished in the top four in seven of the nine races this season, with three other podium finishes besides the victory on Belle Isle.

The legendary Power fire has a bit of chill, as Power is taking what his car will give him and not overdriving. Technical adjustments also are one source of this shift in approach.

“The tire changed a little bit,” Power said. “I think the tire’s simply better this year, which brought our cars into a better place for where we live.”

Power also thinks fortune has smiled more upon him this season than in 2021, when he finished ninth in the series standings. That was his lowest position in the final standings since he became a full-time Team Penske driver in 2010.

“I actually feel like last year we had bad luck,” Power said. “I wouldn’t call it luck, but just strange things happened when we had cars in position to win and such.”

This change in luck isn’t the only shift that has occurred. In past years, when faced with such “strange things” and other inconveniences, Power used to have a fiery, passionate response.

For instance, in past years he often became very emotional after setbacks, such as after he was collected in a late accident in 2011 at New Hampshire and after his car wouldn’t refire when he was leading during a red-flag period in 2021 at the first Detroit race. Power also let championship pursuits in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to slip away very late in the season.

That’s all changed this season. And perhaps there was no better example of that than The Honda Indy 200 on July 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Power qualified a dismal 21st and spun on the second lap while trying to hurry up through the field. He dropped to 27th and last in the field.

Instead of panicking, Power methodically climbed through the field, balancing level-headed driving with superb aggression on restarts and finishing third. It was one of the sterling salvage jobs of his illustrious career and kept him squarely in the hunt for his second Astor Challenge Cup.

“I think the mistake people might make, that I’ve made in the past, you get desperate,” Power said. “‘Oh, my God, I’m at the back. I made a mistake.’ That is right there, the mindset, that will make you have a worse race.

“I wasn’t even upset or mad. It’s like: ‘OK, how do I keep going? Don’t stall the car.’ Got right back into it. Didn’t even think about it. The sooner you can get over that stuff, the better. You can’t be thinking about it three laps later. You have to keep chipping away.”

Power also has shifted his general outlook on racing.

“You’re not going to win every race, so it’s just getting the most out of every situation,” Power said. “That’s really what I have been doing this year.”

This change in mentality could pay off for Power this weekend in Toronto. Power, tied with Scott Dixon as the winningest active INDYCAR SERIES driver at Toronto with three wins (2007, 2010, 2016) noted the challenging circuit on the streets of Exhibition Place benefits veteran drivers, especially since the series hasn’t raced there since 2019.

“Maybe it’s a track that it’s easy to make a mistake on,” Power said. “That’s why maybe veterans or people being around a bit longer don’t end up making mistakes.”

Even still, regardless of mistakes and setbacks, Power’s new mentality will allow him not to harp on these mistakes but focus on progress.

“INDYCAR at the moment is so competitive that who knows?” Power said. “At the end of the day, you can never give up.”