Power narrowly missed out on pole yesterday, started his Team Penske-Chevrolet on Firestone primaries today and stayed within 3.5sec of the alternate-tired polesitter, Pato O’Ward in the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet.
After O’Ward switched to the harder rubber and Power to the softer compound, the Penske driver swiftly closed in and snatched the lead at Turn 12.
Power then controlled the race to the checkered flag, surviving two late restarts to score his first win of the year, and Team Penske’s second.
“Oh man, it’s a big relief,” he said afterward. “I think it’s great for the team, especially the guys on my car.
“They’ve been working hard. They’ve been flawless this year. They’ve really done the job, and I haven’t. If we’d had that sort of performance in the pits and prep last year, we probably would have won a lot more races.
“Yeah, very happy for those guys, and just happy to be in Victory Lane, man. You always start to wonder when is the next one coming. It always comes down to doing your homework, working hard and putting it together, staying focused…
“It’s just great when you get in that zone where you’re just seeing the tenths grow behind you –because you have it on your dash, you can see – and you just start getting a little nitpicky, like little tiny details, and slowly pulling away.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s right in my zone, right in my wheelhouse, when I’m like that. That was another day like that for me.
“Yeah, love it. It’s my life. I just love competing, but winning is absolutely what makes me happy. I’m very moody when I haven’t won for a while; just ask my wife.”
Asked why he felt it had taken until the 12th race of the season to nail a win – although he was cruelly robbed in Detroit – Power said he looked inwardly. While last year he scored five pole positions, he has yet to earn an NTT Pole Award in 2021, and that too left him puzzled.
“It was such a weird slump for me because normally when I’m not winning it’s not because of lack of pace. But there have been times this year where, yeah, it’s been a struggle to get the pace, get the car right. I start digging a lot deeper and trying to understand what is going on – “Why am I not fast?” I couldn’t just lose it all in a year!
“So yeah, you just start going back to your old ways of doing stuff when you were super quick, and yeah, you can’t leave anything on the table.
“Yep, weird slump. I have to say it’s the first sort of slump I’ve had as far as performance has gone in my career, where… Hmm, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a lack of pace: it was doing mistakes in qualifying, which is very unusual for me. I’d usually really put [a flying lap] together.
“Last year I put it together the best I ever had, like zero mistakes and was so good at just getting it done. This year I’ve been on laps that will get me through each round and then I’ll make a little mistake or something will go wrong, I’ll get traffic. All that is so important to control, and I wasn’t [controlling it].”
Asked whether it was a mental recalibration that was required, Power replied: “It’s a bit of mental prep… Like, last week [at Nashville] when you have three laps to do your lap, and on a street course it can go yellow pretty easy, that’s exactly what happened. I was on a lap and I aborted it, and next lap I started which would have got me through, Josef went in the wall and went yellow.
“I should know that. I should know that you cannot ever be out of that top six. Every lap you’ve got to ‘update’ yourself into the top six, and it’s just about being on the game, on the ball. You should know that. It cost me a potential chance to be in the Fast Six.
“I came in here and it’s like, ‘Every lap counts’.”
Power’s fifth win on the IMS road course was his 40th career victory, breaking a tie with the legendary Al Unser for fifth in the all-time Indy car winners list. He is now two wins behind Michael Andretti on the win list, and is still chasing Mario Andretti for the all-time pole-winner record, lying five adrift.
“You look at the stats for sure when you’re up there, and you’re aware,” he said. “I’m aware how far I am off Mario for all-time poles and I’m aware where I sit now in the all-time win list. I know that Michael Andretti is on 42, and Mario Andretti I think I can catch on poles, which can be very tough these days. But man, I was very close to getting another one yesterday.
“Two heroes of mine and two absolute legends of the sport, and it just blows my mind that I have a name close to them in the record books. Crazy.
“That was some serious name-dropping, but my name is there! It’s crazy. Who would have thought?”
Power’s latest triumph means the 2014 series champion has also scored at least one win in each of the last 15 seasons in Champ Car/IndyCar.