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Will Power takes Milwaukee

Will Power takes Milwaukee

Postby Ron Verash » Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:56 am

Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin reports on the Milwaukee race:


WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Look at Will Power now, exuding confidence. He looks like a champion in the making. Sunday's race at the Milwaukee Mile wasn't IndyCar's season coronation - two races remain - but Power's dominant from-the-pole drive was championship quality. Power was patient, he was fast, smart and drove to the fuel mileage Team Penske needed of him late in the race. He led 228 of the 250 laps, cruising to a 2.79-second victory. That's what a champion does.

Now it's time to see if Power can do what Power hasn't done before, and that's close this thing out. He failed three other times, losing twice to Dario Franchitti (2010-11), once to Ryan Hunter-Reay ('12). Power looks ready, worthy. "Do I?" he said. "Yeah, I've been in this situation before. The difference is, I don't have a (track) weakness anymore. In past years the ovals have kind of been my (downfall). Last year ovals were very strong for me, this year even stronger. I have the whole package (now); it's just a matter of executing on weekends. There's no doubt in my mind I can do it."

Power had a pair of tense laps with second-place-starting Tony Kanaan on Sunday, but that was it. He relinquished the lead only a couple of times, both around mid-race pit stops, once because the team waited too long to pit as Kanaan capitalized with fresher tires. The final fuel stint raised questions, too. Could Power hold off a charging Juan Montoya and complete 61 laps with the given fuel? No problem on either front, although Montoya stressed that the lapped car of rookie Jack Hawksworth unnecessarily held him up. That's true, but Montoya said he probably couldn't have passed his teammate, who is looking like an oval specialist.

Calling Power, a road racing ace by trade, a master of the ovals seems odd, but it fits of late. Not only did he win the split-distance race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011, he gained a ton of confidence by winning last year's season-ending 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, where this year's title will be decided. Sunday's win was Power's first on an oval this season, but it was penalties at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas and Pocono Raceway that kept him from winning those. Even with those midseason missteps, Power has a 39-point lead over Castroneves heading to Sonoma Raceway, a permanent road course. Castroneves finished 11th Sunday and wasn't the only title challenger to struggle on the tight, flat mile oval.

Simon Pagenaud finished seventh and is 92 points out of the lead. Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had won the two previous races here, had a mechanical failure and finished 21st of 22. That all but taking him out of the title hunt; he's 108 points behind. Montoya did what he could to stay relevant by finishing second, but he has 114 points to make up in two weeks. That's a lot.

The way Power's driving, it won't matter what Montoya and probably the others do. "This is the first year I can say I'm a better driver, I can really say I am a better all-around driver without the massive intensity," Power said. "You drive with little emotion, like a computer (dots) it comes with age." Power said the one thing he's learned about ovals is when the car's "bad," as he put it, "you're not a bad driver. You learn to work with the car."

The last thing to learn is how to handle the victory celebration. Sunday, Kanaan and Montoya smashed him with cream puffs, so much so that Power had to go to the medical center to have his ears cleaned. He'll be on guard next time. He's learning, mastering.

************************************************



Bruce Martin has more in the “The National Speed Sport News”:




Will Power dominated Sunday's Verizon IndyCar Series ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at The Milwaukee Mile. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Will Power dominated Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at The Milwaukee Mile. (Al Steinberg Photo)

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Prior to Sunday’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers the only type of race course that Will Power had yet to conquer was a short oval – a track one-mile or less in length. He had established himself as IndyCar’s “King of the Road” by dominating the street and road courses from 2009 to 2012 and scored his first oval victory at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012 following that with a convincing win on a superspeedway at California’s Auto Club Speedway in last year’s season-finale.

But a victory on a short oval had eluded the driver from Toowoomba, Australia and that may have been the final ingredient necessary to win a championship. That is why Power’s decisive victory in Sunday’s race at The Milwaukee Mile was so important. It crossed off the only type of track Power had never won and it gave him a 39-point lead over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves with just two races remaining.

“It feels great,” Power said. “I really love winning on ovals. It’s become my favorite tracks. This year every oval we have gone to we’ve been good. At Texas I had so much fun and should have won that race except for a bloody drive-through. At Pocono I felt we should have won that race as well but had another drive-through. The same with Indianapolis. I really enjoy the ovals. They are great fun.”

What makes the IndyCar Series championship unique is the champion has to excel on street courses, permanent road courses, short ovals, intermediate ovals and superspeedways. “I think you have to attack every track, no matter what it is and know you have a chance to win,” Power said. “That is how you become a champion. I am very determined to have that happen this year. I’ve been in this situation before. The difference is I don’t have a weakness any more. In past year’s the ovals have been a detriment but last year I was strong on the ovals and this year even stronger. I have the whole package. Now, it’s about executing on the race weekend. There is no doubt in your mind you can do it. I know I can do it. I have to be very focused and get the job done. I have the confidence to do that, for sure.”

It was also a “Power-ful” performance by the driver who led four times for 229 laps in the 250-lap contest to score his third Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season. It was the 24th IndyCar win of his career tying him with Bobby Rahal and Ralph DePalma for 16th on the all-time list. He defeated teammate Juan Montoya by 2.794 seconds and gives him tremendous confidence heading into the home stretch of the championship battle.

“It’s a race I had in my mind all year that I wanted to win,” Power said. “Last year I had a very strong car and wasn’t in the championship hunt. I had Helio Castroneves in front of me so I didn’t want to make a move so today was a perfect day. I was very determined to have a very good race car here and that is what we got.”

Power started on the pole and only gave up the lead during pit stops. The race was slowed by just one caution period from 131 to 139 after Carlos Munoz hit the wall. Except for an instance in the race where he was challenged by eventual third-place finisher Tony Kanaan and later with Montoya, Power’s Dallara-Chevrolet was the class of the field. “It was a good battle there for a few laps with T.K., going side-by-side,” Power recalled. “Once you get to traffic, you’ve got to be able to get through it, which was difficult today. Definitely at the end my car was good through traffic. Juan was closing. I pushed hard to get through a couple of guys and get a gap, which I was able to do. I wasn’t quite as good in traffic. Yeah, they were serious threats, for sure. We just made the right calls with not pitting, confident in the tires. Even though they were only 10 laps old, I felt we could hold off T.K. on old tires. It was just one of those days where you start the race, kind of like Texas, you start the race on pole, you wonder how good the car is going to be. It keeps unwinding all the way to the end. You realize you got a really good car. A day like that. Obviously in Texas we didn’t finish it off, but here we did.” Power drove to victory at an average speed of 145.243 mph.

Montoya’s second-place finish was his fourth podium of the year but he wasn’t happy, criticizing several drivers for impeding his progress including rookie Jack Hawksworth, without calling him by name. “I’m really pissed off, disappointed,” Montoya said. “I felt we had such a good car yesterday, we made some changes today, it wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. I think everybody was with a green racetrack. I think we over adjusted at the beginning of the race to try to compensate for the setup. At the end had a little too much understeer on the car. But it’s OK. I’m kind of frustrating with the traffic. Really got to come up with a formula. It’s understandable at the beginning of the race that you want to stay on the lead lap. When you have 20, 30 laps to go, you’re just in the way. You’re about to hit the wall every lap, it’s kind of embarrassing. But that’s what they did. I was pretty mad.”



Will Power (12) leads the field during Sunday's Verizon IndyCar Series event at The Milwaukee Mile. (Dave Heithaus Photo)
Will Power (12) leads the field during Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series event at The Milwaukee Mile. (Dave Heithaus Photo )

Kanaan’s third-place finish was his fourth podium in the last five races. He, too, was not happy with traffic. “Like Juan said, a little frustrating,” Kanaan said. “I don’t think towards the end we had the car to beat Will. I think we could have been a lot closer if we didn’t get the interference from traffic. I think when you’re two or three laps down, there is no point of you holding people up for position. I just don’t understand that. But it is what it is. I know who these guys were. What goes around comes around. Hopefully I won’t be in that position to hold anybody up, two laps down. But it’s really frustrating. I understand if you’re fighting to keep yourself on the lead lap because you haven’t got a lap down. But you’re like two, three laps down, 30 laps to go, why you want to get in the middle of first, second and third place to affect the race, which nothing is going to change for you? It was really frustrating. They’re trying to prove a point in the end, which in the end there’s no point to prove. It is what it is. I think Will had a great car. Congratulations to him. For us, we’ll go home sad. Second loser, third loser, here we go.”
Ron Verash
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Michana Vintage Racers
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