April 30, 2012 | By John Oreovicz
Three-Peat Makes Power Number One
You’ve got to hand it to Will Power.
Loss of his best qualifying lap at Barber Motorsports Park, leaving him ninth on the grid?
No problem. Victory.
A ten-place grid penalty at Long Beach, forcing him to line up in 12th place?
No worries, mate. Victory.
A rulebook-technicality win for the Honda contingent, boosting longtime championship rival Dario Franchitti to his most competitive weekend of the 2012 season in Brazil?
By now you know where this is going. Although he would never admit it, Power was dominant in Sao Paulo. He led 63 of 75 laps in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 and held off Ryan Hunter-Reay and a charging Takuma Sato.
It gave the 30-year old Australian a perfect three-for-three record in Brazil over the last three years, and it also marked three consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race wins in the last four weeks.
“No, I wouldn't call it dominating at all,” Power said in the post-race press conference. “I was driving and giving it absolutely everything I had to keep Ryan behind. I knew I had to pull some sort of gap, because if you give him a tow, he would most definitely be able to pass me.
“Ryan’s one of the hardest guys you’ll ever race,” he added. “You know that when you're racing Hunter-Reay that you've got to be on it. He pushes you hard and he never gives up. Very happy to get that third win here, and third in a row.”
Hunter-Reay had three opportunities on double-file restarts to challenge Power for the lead. But he never was able to edge ahead and make a pass, and once the Verizon Team Penske car was out front on a clear track, it was there to stay.
“Will is very strong here,” Hunter-Reay remarked. “The downforce package and the grip that he had coming out of the corners, we couldn't top that. It was just so strong out of the corners, especially in turn four and turn ten where you set up the passing. I was catching him on a couple of the laps. But there was no real chance to make a go at it.
“They’re very strong in qualifying,” RHR continued. “In the Firestone Fast Six, even on new tires, we couldn’t match the pace he set on old tires. So he’s got something clicking there very well and I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that they’ve won as many as they’ve won this season. Three out of four is astonishing and certainly tough to beat.”
Brazil was certainly a race where the best place to be was out in front. No fewer than fifteen of the 26 starters were involved in some form of contact during the 75-lap race. And although the Hondas, with their newly legalized larger turbocharger inlets, were more closely matched in terms of power at Brazil, the superior fuel mileage of the Chevrolets allowed Power and Hunter-Reay to comfortably run a two-stop strategy.
Sato, who finished third after starting 25th due to an engine change, was the first home among those who made three (or more) pit stops.
“It just happened to fall into a two?stop strategy for Ryan and myself,” Power noted. “That was the right strategy, and we both had to save fuel but maintained a pretty good lap time. Just a solid day when you look at it…very solid, no mistakes.
“We need to make it four in a row at the most important race next.”
After coming second to Franchitti in the IndyCar Series championship the Power said he has a more relaxed approach to his racing this year. The death of friend and competitor Dan Wheldon during an IndyCar Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October also contributed to Power’s change of mindset.
“After Vegas last year, it really changed my outlook on things,” Power said. “I try to just enjoy each race, and just have fun with it rather than be so intense about it.
“We’ve had some great starts to the season the last two years and fell short both times. So I’m going to keep my head down and just try to enjoy my racing.”
Eighteen wins into his IndyCar career, the notion that a refreshed and relaxed Power could tap even deeper into his remarkable potential isn’t lost on his competitors.
“If it weren't for Will Power, I’d have a quite a few more wins on my resume, for sure, so I’m not happy about it,” said Hunter-Reay. “But we need to beat him. That’s the bottom line and we’re trying our best.
“They’ve got something working right now, and they’re taking advantage of it.”