Monday, April 29, 2013

Power: A Year Since Victory

Exactly one year ago today, Will Power would do something he had done on two previous occasions--win the Sao Paulo Indy 300. Victory was something that had come to Power no less than 18 times in the years between 2006-2012. Yet after last year's Sao Paulo race, Power, who had been ridiculously dominant on road and street courses, would begin his longest victory drought as an IndyCar driver.

One full year. It seems unbelievable, but a driver who has often looked to be in another league on the twisty courses has seen victory elude him time and again. Oh, there have been plenty of pole positions--Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, and Baltimore, last season--and some close chances, but time and time again, Power did not finish where we all expected to see him.

It's probably a testimony to Power's skill and dominance that it doesn't seem as if it has been that long for Toowoomba's Favorite Son, but it has. Team Penske's top street and road course driver, on a schedule filled them, shut out of victory circle.

There's certainly many theories as to why Power hasn't won in a year. Perhaps the most likely reason, however, is that the Haves and Have-Nots of IndyCar are closer together than ever before. The Foyts and the Coynes have shown they can win, and the Andrettis and Ganassis remain almost always formidable. While Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi still have teams that are expected to maintain excellence, it isn't as if there are only 5-6 cars that can win. Most weekends, it seems more like 20. And yes, neither of the "Big Two" have won this year, between Andretti Autosport's continued resurgence and the Foyt crew grabbing a big win at Long Beach. It's a different world. The giants remain, but they are as vulnerable as they have ever been.

Power will look to Brazil to ease the victory drought.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Perhaps the most jarring sight has been seeing Will Power fight in traffic, and dropping backwards as challengers push their way past. That's not to say Power hasn't had some bad breaks, such as JR Hildebrand's "distracted driving" bump in the season opener, a fuel-saving strategy gone awry at Barber, or Tristan Vautier being told to gun it right into his car's backside. But there seems to be the lack of that "wow" moment, where you realize Power is in his element, and has totally checked out on the rest of the field. For whatever reason, he's not dominating.

Perhaps more alarmingly, through three races, Power is bogged down, tied for P8 in the standings, behind such key title rivals as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, and teammate Helio Castroneves. That's not an insurmountable lead, especially when we know Power can reel off a strong of top finishes, but it is concerning. He's normally working on a solid points lead at this point in the season.

The unpredictability we've seen this year has contributed to some exciting racing, and it's nice not having one driver or team monopolize the standings. Yet Power represents something: he's a record-breaker, a clear favorite, and sort of a gauge of how your favorite racer is faring. IndyCar is better when all the drivers are in the mix for a win, though to be fair, there hasn't been a weekend yet where it's felt like Power was out of contention. And really, the season is still young, there's time for Will to make up ground. But the clock is ticking.

If he's going to get that next win soon, one would suspect it will be this upcoming weekend at Brazil. He's won every single race IndyCar has held at Sao Paulo, and it's certainly his sort of course. If Power wants to get that title he's just missed out on for the last few seasons, Brazil could represent a massive step in that direction. Despite the year-long drought, Power has to be the favorite this upcoming weekend. He's simply too good for the next win not to come soon. Team Penske and Will Power will have their moment once again, but you can bet with what we've seen in IndyCar this year, it won't come easy.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent post. One would have thought that Power had figured out the new DW12, winning all three races last April - so the new car wasn't the reason. He has had his share of bad luck, some of it self-inflicted. Once a driver realizes luck is not on his or her side, it gets inside their head. Power has already shown that his head can be messed with by his non-performance in clutch situations.

    That being said, I think Power will win his fourth straight race at São Paulo.

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