Power keeps season winning streak alive after changing the way he thinks

0 Comments

LONG POND, Pennsylvania – It was midway through the season and with each passing race, Team Penske driver Will Power was falling farther back in the NTT IndyCar Series championship standings. It was shaping up to be one of the most disappointing seasons of his career and his first winless season since he was a Champ Car Series rookie in 2006.

When he became mired in fifth place and was well over 150 points out of the championship, the Team Penske driver from Toowoomba, Australia knew he had to shift his focus to winning again and forget about the championship.

That’s exactly what he did in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

“I just let go,” Power said. “I just let go and said it’s not going to happen for me this year.  Just whatever. I still did my homework.  We definitely had the car today, great strategy, great stops.  I feel like I worked harder for it this year than any other year and it just didn’t work for me.”

By letting go, Power was able to race with a clear mind at Pocono.

Despite the calamity of another massive crash at the start of the race for the season year in a row at the triangle-shaped speedway in Pennsylvania, Power’s No. 12 Chevrolet was at its best when it mattered the most.

With a severe storm on the horizon, it became obvious the race would not make the full 200-lap, 500-mile distance. So, teams changed their strategy and for Power, he was comfortably in the lead by 5.4688 seconds over second-place finisher Scott Dixon when the race was Red Flagged for lightning after 128 laps.

Once it began to rain, the race was called official and Power kept his streak alive of 13 straight seasons with at least one victory.

“It’s a big relief,” Power said. “It’s just one of those years that hasn’t flowed very well for me. I’ve been quick, I’ve been there. A few errors on my part, things not falling our way.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to finally win a race this season.The guys working on the car, they’ve worked their asses off this year. I’ve just had bad runs.”

It was Power’s third win at Pocono in the last four years. It was also the 36th career victory for the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion and winner of the 102nd Indianapolis 500 in 2018.

Power’s strategy had him make five pit stops to race to big leads while drivers in positions 2-7 were playing the fuel savings game with only four pit stops.

“I was very determined today, especially knowing I had the car to do it,” Power explained. “I sat back and saved fuel a lot. When I got shuffled back second or third stop with the yellow, we were able to move forward pretty quickly and get back to these guys.

“I got the car right. The car was very fast, as well. When my spotter said, the rain is coming, I just turned the fuel up and I went as fast as I could. Yeah, it was good, good day.

“As soon as the race started, I knew we had a good car. I knew we had a good car going in. We just made some adjustments, kind of had a lot of push. Obviously back in traffic there, I ended up trimming out a little bit at the end there.

“All the right moves.”

Power was in front for 31 laps. That was half of teammate Simon Pagenaud, who kept his No. 22 Chevrolet in front for 64 laps.

“Will was definitely extremely strong today,” Dixon said after finishing second. “It was good to see him get another victory this season. Had we gone back out, even with headlights on, I think Will was going to take the race.”

In the middle of July, Power was in the midst of a miserable season. He has been able to turn that around with a top-five finish at Mid-Ohio at the end of July and a win at Pocono in August.

It’s far too late to challenge for the championship because there are only three races left. But there are certainly three more chances for Power to “get it right” and get a win.

“It turns around eventually,” Power said. “If you keep performing and doing the work, eventually it turns around for you. You can’t have bad luck all the time. It’s not all bad luck, believe me. There’s always a reason. It’s rarely bad luck, honestly. Always put it down to something that wasn’t done right.

“This sport has become so tough these days; you can’t leave anything on the table in any way. If you do, you’re simply not going to win.”

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
0 Comments

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”