Will Power believes this generation of IndyCar drivers are ‘most competitive ever’

8 Comments

PORTLAND, Oregon – With each victory in the NTT IndyCar Series, Will Power keeps climbing the ranks of the winningest drivers of all-time in the history of IndyCar racing.

His victory in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland was his 37thcareer win, tying him with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, who continues to race for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan.

Two more victories will move the Team Penske driver into a fifth-place tie with the great four-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver Al Unser. Five more wins would tie him with Michael Andretti at 42 victories.

The top three winningest drivers ever are AJ Foyt with 67, Mario Andretti with 52 and Power’s contemporary, Scott Dixon, with 46.

Foyt, Andretti and Unser were all part of what many believe to be IndyCar’s “Greatest Generation” of drivers. That was the period that covered the 1960s and lasted through the early part of the 1990s.

Power is closing in on the top-five in career wins and that would put two drivers from today’s era into the elite category of greatest drivers in IndyCar history.

INDYCAR Photo by Stephen King“You’ve got to look at this generation as one of those generations when you had AJ, Mario and the Unsers,” Power responded to a question from NBC Sports.com. “With Dixon and I’m sure Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden, these guys are going to be around for a long time.

“That’s going to be an era that kids look up to, like ‘Wow, that was a great era of competitive IndyCar racing, probably the most competitive era ever.’

“I’ve been thinking that. You look at the field, the series, the teams now, it’s just so cool to be a part of it right now, and it’s growing, and the continuity of drivers, new teams coming in, it’s fantastic.”

When Power arrived in the United States at the end of the 2005 season, his first test for Walker Racing came at Portland International Raceway – the same road course he conquered on Sunday.

He ran the full season in 2006 and was pretty much known as the “Driver from Australia with the Funny Name.”

Think about it – “Will Power?”

In 2007, he won two Champ Car Series races and finished fourth in the championship. Champ Car folded before the 2008 season and many of its teams joined the old Indy Racing League to create today’s INDYCAR. Walker Racing was unable to make the jump, but Power found a ride at KV Racing Technology. He drove to victory at Long Beach that year.

Rival team owner Roger Penske liked what he saw from the driver from Toowoomba, Australia and with Helio Castroneves’ availability uncertain in 2009 because of a tax evasion trial, Power was offered a fill-in ride with Team Penske. Castroneves was acquitted of all charges, but Penske kept Power on the team in a limited role. He won the race at Edmonton later that year.

He had a full-time ride at Team Penske in 2010 and won five races that season.

Power and Penske were on their way with one of the greatest combinations of driver and team during this decade.

And now, a strong case can be made that Power belongs on the list of greatest drivers of all-time along, joining Dixon from the current generation of racers.

In Power’s case, however, he could have achieved more by now.

“I get very disappointed in my career because of some of the things I’ve let go,” Power said after winning for the second time in the last three races. “I feel like I should have been champion more times (he won the championship in 2014). But it’s something that you look at. After you win the Indianapolis 500, you’re very satisfied with your career and that paves the way, and then the next year you’re like, ‘Man, I need to start winning races, again.’ It’s disappointing.

“Sometimes you can forget that you’ve had a great career.

“But it’s a tough series. It’s tough to win races, so any win you get, you’re just over the moon. But any win I get at the moment and any pole I get, the pole is getting me closer to Mario’s all-time record, and any win I get moves me up the all-time list, and I think you’d be lying if you don’t look at that stuff at times.

“You don’t think about it when you’re driving, but I know Dixon would most definitely look at that stuff, too. He might say he doesn’t.”

To this day, Power has a hard time even imagining himself in the same category as the “Legends of Racing.”

“Because you’re up amongst drivers that you idolized as a child, as a kid, so it’s just kind of surreal that you can put yourself up amongst names like Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Michael Andretti, the Unsers, these names that for me, people that always seemed above me because it’s somebody you idolized as a kid,” Power admitted. “It doesn’t seem right to have your name amongst them, when you really idolized someone, even if you’ve reached the same level as them in your career.

“It still feels like they’re above you, untouchable.”

 

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

GETTY IMAGES
GETTY Images
Leave a comment

Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500