A day after one of IndyCar’s greatest champions, Mario Andretti, celebrated his birthday, IndyCar’s current champion, Will Power, is doing the same this Sunday.
The pride of Toowoomba, Australia is now 34 years old and also less than a month away from starting his title defense after finally breaking through last Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway in California.
Perseverance is the word that comes to mind to describe Power’s career so far. He was one of many drivers with uncertain futures following the North American open-wheel merger of 2008, but while his Champ Car team did not make the jump to IndyCar (Indy Racing League), Power himself did.
Despite having to get used to new equipment and tracks, Power did enough in 2008 (including a win in Champ Car’s finale at Long Beach) to earn an opportunity from Team Penske the next year to fill-in for Helio Castroneves while the latter dealt with federal tax evasion charges.
Power finished sixth in the 2009 opener at St. Petersburg in Castroneves’ No. 3 car. Castroneves came back for the next race in Long Beach after being acquitted, but Power was not pushed aside. He would make six starts for Penske that season, and rewarded Roger Penske’s faith in him with a win in Edmonton.
His 2009 campaign ended prematurely with a nasty practice crash at Sonoma that fractured two vertebrae and concussed him. But that did not keep Penske from awarding him a full-time program from 2010 onward.
You probably know the rest of the story from here. Power endured three consecutive championship near-misses from 2010-2012, but established himself as part of IndyCar’s core group of drivers. And in 2014, Power at last achieved his dream of becoming a champion, earning three wins and seven podiums along the way.
This year, Power takes the champion’s No. 1 with him into a season where his biggest competition could come from his own team. In addition to the aforementioned Castroneves, there’s a resurgent Juan Pablo Montoya and now, a stellar newcomer to the Penske stable in Simon Pagenaud.
But Power is ready for the challenge, wherever and whoever it comes from.
“[The championship was] something I worked really hard for the last 15 years,” Power said recently at IndyCar Media Day. “To finally get it, get the monkey off the back, yeah, it’s given me more motivation this year. I don’t have to worry about that. I know I can do it.”
We wish Power a Happy Birthday today.