Power charged for another run at series title

By Dave Lewandowski

Will Power has ruminated on 11.375 — his average finish on oval racetracks during the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season — since October, which is way too long to ponder the possibilities of what if.

In an otherwise stellar 17-race campaign, oval races were his Achilles’ heel in the championship chase in which he wound up five points shy. Of course, a plan to improve results and contend for the title again has been in the kiln – also since the October finale.

“Going into the ovals last year I just didn’t feel I knew what to expect,” said Power, who completed his first full season with Team Penske and second in the IZOD IndyCar Series. “I didn’t have the experience. This year, I know exactly what to expect. I’m working on building what I did last year, and I know I’ll be quick and be challenging for wins this year.

“We were strong on the road and street courses last year so put that all together, add a similar approach to how I approached last year and that’s going to be my season. You can’t get too relaxed about it; you have to keep working at it because everyone else is.”

Power, who has made only 20 oval starts, closed strong on the 1.5-milers, averaging a starting position of 2.75 and a pair of top-10 finishes in the four races. He entered the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 12-point lead over Dario Franchitti in the championship and started third. But contact on Lap 144 (his only DNF of the season) ended his title aspirations.

It was five weeks earlier, however, at Chicagoland Speedway (the 14th of 17 rounds) that Power points to as the biggest missed opportunity. The Aussie was coming off a victory – his fifth of the season – at Infineon Raceway, mounted a 59-point margin over Franchitti and started third (only the race at Kansas did he start out of the top five) in the 200-lap race on the high-banked oval. An issue fueling the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car on the final pit stop knocked Power, who led Laps 158-172, out of contention for the victory.

“It’s the one race where we lost the biggest chunk of points (Franchitti won and Power finished 16th, a difference of 36 points) where we could have potentially won or been right there,” he said. “But that happens during the season.”

Road and street courses have been another story. Power has won six of the 19 road/street course events he’s competed, and 13 of his 17 top-five finishes have been on non-ovals. Over the past two seasons, his average finish on non-ovals (13 events) is 2.5. He’ll attempt to successfully defend his title in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg next week on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit, where he started from the pole (one of his series-record eight).

“I love all street courses, but St. Pete is definitely one of my favorite tracks,” said Power, who’s averaged 4.3 (starting position) and 5.0 (finish) in three IZOD IndyCar Series races on the scenic but treacherous track that incorporates a runway of Albert Whitted Airport. “Last year I had a really good car and felt good there. I expect the same this year.”

Power was second overall on the time chart in five sessions totaling nine hours that constituted the Open Test this week on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park natural-terrain course – the lone full-field prep for the season. Beforehand and following the two-day meet, he forecast another tight championship battle.
“It’s interesting in that you try to come back every year and try to find some new detail or some speed, and I think that is what’s making the series so competitive because we’re going back to the same tracks and all the drivers are finding those details,” said Power, who will compete in his 40th IZOD IndyCar Series race next weekend. “It’s going to be tight. This year, I believe will be INDYCAR’s most competitive season in history because we’ve had the car for so long, you’ve got a lot of continuity of drivers and there’s not much more you can find development-wise.
“When you set a bar – and the road course bar was high last year – you saw how close qualifying can be and everyone will come back even stronger. You can’t relax. You have to be on your game every time.”

source http://www.indycar.com/

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