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IndyCar Road America

How a patient approach helped Power end a two-year winless streak

Pace, a patient approach and trust in the strategy on the final pit stop was the perfect recipe for Will Power to end a two-year drought on Sunday at Road America.

Power trailed Team Penske team-mates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin with 14 laps to go around the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course.

Both Power and McLaughlin were running the less preferred softer alternate compound coming to the final pit stop of the afternoon, while Newgarden was on the ideal harder primary tires. McLaughlin was the first to dive to pit lane on lap 42 of 55, while Newgarden, who was beginning to come up on back marker Nolan Siegel, waited until the next lap to pit.

And that left the 43-year-old Aussie with an opportunity to maximize any pace left and push on the in-lap before pitting on lap 44. The call, which was made by race strategist Ron Ruzewski, who also serves as the managing director of Team Penske, was executed flawlessly by Power as he jumped both team-mates in the running order and came out of the pits with a healthy advantage of roughly 0.5s over Newgarden.

From there, Power delivered a wave of clean laps en route to a victory of 3.2609s over Newgarden as part of a Penske sweep of the podium – its first since the 2017 season finale at Sonoma (won by Simon Pagenaud, with Newgarden second and Power third).

“All three Team Penske cars were great,” said Ruzewski.

Patiently lurking

“The Chevy was just unbelievable today and our only chance was to over cut these guys and Will was able to take care of the alternate tires better than anybody else. And man, he crushed it on the in-lap. I knew we had a two-second gap (to Siegel), so we had to go for it. We had to take a chance and we did, and it paid off. 

Power recalled his positioning ahead of the final stop, quietly lurking in third and not trying to challenge either of his team-mates on track.

“Yeah, I sat back,” said Power, a two-time IndyCar Series champion.

“I kind of couldn't get Scott without using a lot of push to pass. I sat back. I knew I had a lap of fuel on him. I was making the reds last. My in-lap was super quick. They didn't really go off for me at all. I was kind of babying them. I sat behind there. That was a big in-lap. Gave me enough of a gap on Josef to be able to get up to speed on the cold tires.”

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Some of the improvements in pace shown by Power on Sunday were also lessons from Newgarden’s preferred setup and style of driving.

“Yeah, the car was really good,” Power said.

“I came across something I hadn't been running that Josef runs a certain way, how he runs the car. I started driving like that, just using setup, and it really helped. Yeah, was just easier for me.

“Yeah, so the car was phenomenal. I haven't had a car like that for a long time in a race. It was very fast.”

Back on the top step of the podium

While this win brings a sense of relief for Power, who hadn’t won in 736 days going back to Detroit in 2022, there was a sense it was a matter of time considering his three runner-up results in the previous six points-paying races to start the 2024 campaign. Now, he also has the championship lead with a five-point gap to reigning and two-time IndyCar title contender Alex Palou (236-231).

“We'll keep working for more,” Power said. “Like I said at the beginning of this year, I want multiple wins this year. I think that's what it will take to win the championship. We have the car for it. We have the engine for it.

“You know how this championship goes: very tough group, no bad driver in this field. You have to put it together very well if you want to win.”

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