MotorSportsTalk looks through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, following the conclusion of the season in mid-September at Sonoma Raceway.
In 2016, Will Power ended second after a year that featured a false start, then an exciting return to form.
Will Power, No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet
- 2015: 3rd Place, 1 Win, 6 Poles, 3 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 298 Laps Led, 4.1 Avg. Start, 9.4 Avg. Finish
- 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
The 2016 version of Will Power was Will Power 2.0. The previous incarnation from his maiden season in Champ Car in 2006 through three straight title defeats in 2012 and his breakthrough title in 2014 was often a boom-or-bust phenomenon – you never could catch him when he started out front, but his inconsistency and mind often worked against him.
Power conquered the demons in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. The Australian scored that authoritative, dominant win at the 2013 season finale at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway – a track where a year earlier he’d seen that title slip away. And then a year later, he was winning the championship at Fontana to finally reach that pinnacle.
So the end of Power 1.0 fused into Power 2.0 in 2016, but only after a health scare over the winter. With his fitness and health not sufficiently up to scratch, and Power actually worse physically than most people realized, his 2016 campaign started slow and then was set back with that forcing to miss the race at St. Petersburg after qualifying on pole following a misdiagnosed concussion. Power was OK the next few races but it was Detroit when the ‘ol Power 1.0 made a reappearance in a 2.0 style.
He was back to that assassin-up-front style, yet at the same point, he’d also morphed into the fusion of Team Penske’s sage in Rick Mears and his old title adversary, Dario Franchitti, in one fell swoop. Power drove more methodically and let the races come to him – two of his wins at Toronto and Pocono were wins that the 2011 or 2012 Power may not have been able to pull off, but through fine tuning over a race and typically brilliant strategy from Tim Cindric on the box, he did so.
That run of four wins and two seconds in a six-race stretch was a mesmerizing one – and had he not lost the lead to Simon Pagenaud at Mid-Ohio, they would have been tied on points heading into the Texas conclusion. We can only wonder how the title battle would have changed in that scenario.
This was not Power’s best year by a statistical measure but it may have been his best one from a human one. Throughout the year, Power was more serene, at peace with himself, his car and his situation, without the pressures of needing to win that elusive first title and knowing he’d done a sterling job to even get into title contending position in the first place. Pagenaud, and for that matter even Helio Castroneves, outqualified him over the course of the year but Power never let it get him down except for perhaps one or two occasions.
He heads into the winter content, high on life, and excited to become a first-time father with wife Liz. He also remains one of IndyCar’s best and most complete drivers, with 10 full-time seasons now complete.