Getty Images

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Will Power

Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Fifth-placed Will Power had an up-and-down year with three wins, his usual outstanding pace, but too much inconsistency to add a second title to his 2014 crown.

Will Power, No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2016: 2nd Place, 4 Wins, 2 Poles, 7 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 139 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 7.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 5th Place, 3 Wins, 6 Poles, 7 Podiums, 9 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 443 Laps Led, 4.4 Avg. Start, 9.2 Avg. Finish

Will Power went through a rather weird, boom-or-bust type 2017 season that featured a lot of the blended elements of Power’s career.

It can now be said Power has matured into one of the series’ best drivers on ovals; he dominated Texas from the front and then rallied at Pocono from a lap down thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances. He remained an outright speed demon with six poles – three more than anyone else – as IndyCar’s pure fastest driver. He led the most laps in the field with 443, one more than Helio Castroneves. And he also had enough poor results to doom his title campaign, with five finishes of 18th or worse. Combined, the top four drivers in points had only four (Josef Newgarden two, Scott Dixon one, Castroneves one, Simon Pagenaud zero).

The poor results counterbalanced his good ones, as besides the wins, Power was a regular podium or top-five finisher in the races he did make it home with no issues. That just happened too infrequently throughout the course of his campaign, and finishing 19th, 13th and 14th out of the gate with mechanical gremlins at St. Petersburg, contact from Charlie Kimball in Long Beach and a gut-wrenching puncture in Barber left him 14th in the standings, 67 points behind then-leader Sebastien Bourdais, after just three races. The Barber loss was the most galling as it cost a sure win. Power ended the year 70 points behind eventual champion Josef Newgarden, and there was no heroic comeback to close the gap down as there was last year.

Alas, even more laid back than normal, Power was particularly calm throughout the year; he never seemed to get too high or low depending on the weekend. He was typically frustrated with himself when things didn’t go right, but more relieved or chilled than exuberant on the days when they did. Pocono saw him almost in shock when he won, as he may have wondered how exactly he and the No. 12 team pulled it off.

It took a bit of time for Power to mesh with new strategist Jon “Myron” Bouslog, who’d replaced Tim Cindric this year on the box. The two did mesh though as the year progressed, Bouslog having been the architect of the winning Pocono strategy, to ensure Power remained a force at this level. Weirdly though, he never was higher than fourth in points at any stage this season, and he hasn’t led the championship at any point since winning his first and thus far only title in 2014.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne