For Will Power, IndyCar’s off-season provides time for reflection

Chris Owens/IndyCar
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Though IndyCar’s lengthy off-season may feel like an eternity to some fans, for drivers the time away from the track presents an opportunity to reflect on another year gone by and to catch up on tasks that would have been difficult to complete during the thick of the racing calendar.

For Team Penske’s Will Power, his off-season is much busier than many fans may realize. Even though drivers like himself may be out of the public eye over the next few months, that does not necessarily mean they aren’t at work, and more often than not, their agenda changes from day to day.

“There’s plenty of different stuff that you do,” Power told NBC Sports. “It’s not a set routine until you get fully into training [later in the off-season] and get up every day to go to the gym.

“You could be doing some PR stuff, obviously we have a test at Indy [an IndyCar aeroscreen test at IMS in October]. I have a wedding to go to, then I’ll go to Australia for three weeks to do some stuff down there and obviously see the family.

“Then I’ll come back. I think I’m going to do a go kart race in Vegas in November, and I have a 21st birthday party for a young kid, so there’s various things. On top of that, you start preparing for the next season as you get into December.”

Still, even though drivers like Power keep busy during the off-season, they still do have some opportunities to just rest and reflect on the previous season, and Power says that whether or not these reflection sessions are positive or negative can all depend on a driver’s performance over the course of the previous season. 

“If you have a bad season you definitely reflect on why and what could have been better,” Power said. “That even starts before the end of the season, reflecting on why we struggled.”

There will likely be plenty for Power to reflect on this off-season. Though it appeared that he would be a title contender early on in the season when he scored two poles in the first two races, the first three quarters of 2019 season turned out to be very disappointing for the Aussie.

In IndyCar’s inaugural visit to the Circuit of the Americas in March, Power appeared to be on-track to his first victory of 2019, as he led the race’s first 45 laps from the pole.

However, a mechanical issue would end Power’s afternoon, and he finished the race dead last. Over the next 11 races, Power would finish on the podium only twice.

“It was such a pity that not winning that COTA race really started a trend of just bad results,” Power said. “That should of been a win for us, and obviously the gearbox blew up and it went yellow, so we were done no matter what happened there.”

However, the tides began to turn for Power as the season began to close. He scored his first victory of the year in the rain-shortened 500-miler at Pocono Raceway, and then followed up with a second victory two weeks later at Portland – the 37th of his career.

Power would the end 2019 season with a second-place finish in the season finale at Laguna Seca and with a respectable fifth-place finish in the overall point standings. Not bad at all for a driver who almost looked as if he was going to go winless for the first time since 2006

“I was just happy to get a couple of wins,” Power said. “I was thinking ‘man, I don’t want to go winless this season,’ so I was really happy to get those two wins.

“Obviously we had a very bad start to the year, and man this was just a nice way to go out.”

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”