Power salvages sixth from worst-case scenario
Monday 17th April, 2023 - 11:08am
Will Power has salvaged a result of sixth from the Long Beach IndyCar race despite a Caution falling at the worst possible time during the first stint.
The two-time champion failed to advance from Round 1 of Qualifying on the Streets of Long Beach and took the initial green flag in 13th position, on the primary tyres.
With said ‘blacks’ the preferred compound, that should have afforded him an advantage over eight of the dozen who started in front of him as the first stint wore on, given they had opted to begin the 85-lapper on the green-walled alternate rubber.
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However, when Scott Dixon ended up in the tyre wall after a hip-check from Pato O’Ward, the Caution which was called on Lap 20 got them out of gaol and set up two, 30-plus lap stints to make it to the chequered flag.
Power emerged an effective 10th ahead of the subsequent restart but was on the ‘greens’ which he could only dispose of at the end of Lap 54.
He popped out eighth after that second pit stop cycle before gaining positions when Team Penske team-mate Josef Newgarden began to struggle and then Pato O’Ward crashed out of sixth on the penultimate lap.
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“It was good fuel save and tyre conservation there,” said the Queenslander on how he climbed from 13th to sixth, the best finish for a Chevrolet-powered driver.
“We said in the strategy meeting, if we get a yellow around Lap 20, that’s sort of worse for us, starting on black tyres.
“But, I was very conscious on the restart and everything not to slip the tyre and just try to look after it best I could and get the number and that’s what we did, and drive as hard as I could.
“It was like doing qualifying laps every lap but you’re lifting early obviously to conserve the fuel.”
On the juggling act, he added, “It’s right in my wheelhouse; I’ve been doing it for so many years.
“It’s a very big part of IndyCar racing, saving fuel, so I’m pretty happy when I hear the whole field’s got to get this number because usually we can go a bit quicker and get the number at the same time.”
Power is now tied with his other team-mate, Scott McLaughlin, for ninth in the series standings at 42 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson.
In some ways, his start to the 2023 season is a stark contrast to that of his victorious 2022 campaign, when he finished third in the season opener before two fourth-places in the opening three races.
This time around, he was classified seventh at St Petersburg after a penalty for contact with Colton Herta and 16th at Texas where an already uncompetitive showing became worse when a loose wheel caused a pit lane spin.
However, the 42-year-old is maintaining the same calm demeanour which surprised the paddock in 2022 but proved the formula for success.
It is success which has also helped Power land a new, multi-year contract taking him to at least the end of the 2025 season with Penske in a deal quietly signed in recent teams.
“You can’t even think about who’s ahead of you or why; just what you’re doing in the moment and just extract the most out of it and make good decisions,” he explained.
“It’s as simple as that, and [I am] lucky to have Verizon re-sign with me and Penske re-sign me and got a very, very good group of people around me so I’m very fortunate.
“I have a lot of fun doing this, it’s fantastic.”
The IndyCar field now moves on to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a two-day Open Test this Thursday and Friday (local time), in preparation for next month’s ‘500’.
Competition resumes at Barber Motorsports Park on the weekend of April 28-30, with every IndyCar race streamed live, ad-free, and on-demand on Stan Sport.
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