Race Weekend Central

Will Power’s 2020 IndyCar Season Off To Challenging Start, But Not Lost

Will Power‘s start to the 2020 IndyCar season has been less than ideal. If it’s not a problem in the pits, it’s a crash on track that puts him out of contention for what had been shaping up to be a solid race. It begs the question: what on earth has been going on with Will Power? How can he turn this season around?

Power ran in mid-pack for all of the IndyCar season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing 13th. Then despite leading much of the GMR Grand Prix, he stalled on pit road and ultimately came home 20th.

The first part of the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America saw Power claim a podium, but his second place was the direct result of a poor pit stop that cost him a win. Perhaps he carried some irritation into the start of the second REV Group Grand Prix race, Power crashed into several cars on the lead lap, then spun himself. He scraped together an 11th place finish, and his frustration was palpable.

But nothing represents Will Power’s season better than the recent Iowa IndyCar 250s doubleheader. An unsecured wheel nut on Friday (July 17) saw Power’s wheel assembly fall off and ricochet into his aeroscreen. He retired in 21st place before he managed to come back on Saturday (July 18) to get another second place behind teammate Josef Newgarden.

And despite the podium, in his post-race interview after that second event, Power was still frustrated. 

“I would love to have had the win, of course, but it’s seeming as if you do a good job in the series, you just get screwed, so I’m glad, for once, we actually get a good result out of this,” he said. “Maybe if I just try less and be a much worse driver, I’ll do way better. That’s what it seems like.”

In Saturday’s press conference, he added, “I just want to have normal races, where strange, abnormal things don’t happen. Just straight-up normal races, and be able to use the pace that I have. That would be awesome. That would be just so good.”

So how does Will Power make a so far turbulent season good? What would get the reigning Indy 500 winner and 2014 IndyCar champion back on target?

Power’s bad luck this season seems to be a combination of those aforementioned abnormalities and his own responses to them. In that same press conference, Power followed up his comments with a complaint about the “disgraceful” pit closure rules that cost him his shot at the GMR Grand Prix victory—more than a month earlier. He’s holding onto his frustrations from weeks past, letting them simmer until they reach a boiling point.

Yet it’s not as if his emotional response doesn’t have merit.

Many of the things that have happened to the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet—a mistyped gear ratio at Road America, for example—are peculiar quirks that don’t normally happen to a professional race team, let alone the elite Penske organization.

When added to unlucky caution flags, pit stop trouble, and Power’s own mistakes, those little annoyances have become huge, festering frustrations. And they seem to be taking a mental toll on Power.

All sports are inherently emotional, and mastering those emotions is crucial to good performance. Missteps and frustrations are a part of racing, but the drivers who are able to take those frustrations in stride and recover from them are the ones who consistently take home wins after a streak of difficult races. Will Power seems to have given into his irritation and let it dictate his results.

He’ll need to air his grievances before the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 9. It might benefit Power to look at the second half of the 2020 IndyCar season as a clean slate and attack the upcoming races as if he were starting over. Holding onto his negativity isn’t going to help him.

That being said, Team Penske has some work to do, too. Drivers and their crews have to work together so that both parties will benefit, and not just technically. If Power is prone to having an emotional response to a team error, then the team needs to make doubly sure that everything is in order so that he doesn’t have anything to get upset about. If there continue to be technical mistakes, Power will continue to feel the pressure, and that then creates a vicious cycle that would be hard to get out of.

It’s best to set aside these first six races and treat August as a new beginning.

The current three-week break in IndyCar action is a crucial period for every member of the No. 12 team. It’s the perfect time for this normally highly competitive group to reset, recharge and refocus on the second half of the season. Despite everything that’s gone wrong for Power so far, he’s not out of the hunt for his second Astor Cup.

Will Power is currently tied for fifth in the overall championship standings, which means that a formidable charge in August—including valuable double points when he defends his Indy 500 title—could put the No. 12 driver into the middle of the title mix. There’s still plenty of time for Power to save a so far disheartening season and return to being the competitive driver that he normally is.

The 2020 IndyCar season continues Sunday, Aug. 9 with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH. TV information is TBA.

About the author

Elizabeth Blackstock is lead IndyCar writer for Frontstretch, a freelance journalist, and a novelist. She earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently pursuing a dual MFA/MA degree at Arcadia University. She is in love with her car, a 2013 Mazda 2.

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