Will Power feels that there is less pressure on him in his first month of May as an Indianapolis 500 winner.
The boy from Toowoomba last year because the first Australian to win one of the world’s biggest motor races at his 11th attempt, having missed out by a tenth of a second in 2015.
Power admits that even though he had already won the IndyCar Series and is second on the all-time list for pole positions, he knew he needed to add an Indianapolis 500 trophy to be considered among the sport’s all-time greats.
As a result, the Team Penske driver is now ‘more calm’ ahead of the 103rd running of IndyCar’s flagship race.
“To win this race takes tremendous effort and for Roger Penske to have won seventeen Indy 500s is amazing,” noted Power.
“It’s a tough race to win and it took me 11 years.
“You don’t have that thing looming over your head of ‘Maybe I won’t win this race in my career.’
“Winning it last year was such a weight off my shoulders and a very proud moment for me to be the first Australian to win the race.
“I would say that definitely has made me a little more calm, but as far as the desire to win (goes), it’s stronger than ever.”
His #12 Chevrolet machine lined up on the outside of the front row and led 59 of 200 laps on the way to his 2018 win.
“It’s been an interesting month with the most competitive field in history,” he said.
“When you look at McLaren not making it and a two-time World Champion (Fernando Alonso) not making it in the field, it just shows where IndyCar is at right now.
“You can’t leave anything on the table and our guys worked so hard in the offseason to give us cars that not only make it into the field, but into the top nine shootout for pole. That takes a lot of hours of work.
“We’re still chasing the set-up, but I think we’ve made some good changes so I really look forward to running in traffic and seeing where we’re at.
“There’s a new tyre this year that did exactly what IndyCar and Firestone said it would do and our set-up is totally different.
“It makes the front more stuck and we’ve been struggling with oversteer all month.”
Power was 10th fastest in the final Carb Day practice, running 54 laps with a best speed of 224.240mph (360.879km/h).
With a difference between the fastest qualifier and the slowest just 2.748mph (4.422km/h), this year’s is the tightest Indianapolis 500 field in its 108-year history.
Power expects race day to be similarly competitive.
“I think it’s going to be a tight, tough race and there are really no bad cars or drivers in the field,” he said.
“I don’t think the leader will ever get away, especially if it stays overcast and cooler.
“You’ve got to make sure your car is good in a line of cars because with fuel and strategy and everything, you won’t always be running at the front.
“You’ve got to be comfortable back in the pack to have any chance of moving forward.”
Having experienced formal celebrations for last year’s win, including a recent visit to the White House, which have continued long into 2019, Power hopes to be able to do it all again for another 12 months.
“I just went to the White House, which is pretty cool for a boy from Toowoomba,” he remarked.
“It was amazing to meet Vice-President Mike Pence and get the full tour there with its amazing history.
“We also went to the Australian ambassador’s house and had last year’s Indy 500 car sitting on the lawn there.
“The race becomes much more special when you win it.
“You really understand the significance and the history of it, and how hard it is to win.
“Now I know how it feels to win and all the fantastic stuff that goes with that – the media tour, getting your face sculpted for the Borg-Warner Trophy and receiving the ‘Baby Borg,’ and when they unveil your picture on the ticket.
“It did not feel like work and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it.
“It’s just all fantastic and really enjoyable, so you want to do it again.”