At ‘absolute peak of my speed,’ Will Power planning to race IndyCar well into his 40s

IndyCar Will Power
Chris Graythen/Getty Image

As he nears the end of his 13th consecutive season of racing in the NTT IndyCar Series, Will Power has no finish line in sight for his career.

At 39, the Team Penske driver believes he is at the “absolute peak of my speed” and actually still is improving.

“I feel like I could be this quick until 45, honestly,” Power told NBC Sports this week. “I don’t even know, maybe you can be this fast until 50. It’s just a number when people talk about it. I think what happens to people as they get older, they lose desire. So as long as you’ve got the desire, you’re going to keep the speed, keep the motivation.”

For the Australian who has won in every season dating to 2008, the numbers have been trending in the right direction recently. He has podium finishes in three of the past five races (including victories at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP) heading into the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

And a lot of other personal performance metrics also show no dropoff for Power, who believes his physical conditioning melds with his razor-sharp reflexes and ever-growing experience to maximize his ability.

“You have a lot of references for that,” he said. “Things like running, you have all of your history for your fitness level, because you know all the numbers you were doing in your 20s. As far as on the rowing machine, 5K runs. And it’s only improved. And you also have numbers on the hand-eye (coordination) that you do for training as well. And I’ve lost none of that, and I’ve just gained race experience.

“The speed is absolutely still there, and I feel all the numbers are as good as they’ve ever been, honestly.”

The erosion of a driver’s results because of age has been scrutinized for years in racing. The Motorsports Analytics website has identified 39 as the prime age for a NASCAR driver before the inevitable career decline amidst the diminishment of skills.

INDYCAR FINALE: 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Oct. 25, St. Petersburg, Florida

Power, who will turn 40 on March 1 (six days before the 2021 IndyCar season begins at St. Pete),  said he “would totally agree” with the theory.

“I think it’s a good age,” he said. “I actually always think about the NASCAR drivers who are in their 40s and still absolutely kicking ass. I feel like those guys go until they’re 45 and still are as strong as ever.”

Power’s march into IndyCar history also has continued unabated. His 39th career victory tied him with Al Unser for fifth on the series’ all time list (three behind Michael Andretti). And with 61 career pole positions, he seems destined to break Mario Andretti’s mark of 67, especially given that Power has lost no appetite for learning.

The No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet driver said he still studies how to optimize his braking and racing lines so that when “I tap out on something, I can keep working on something else.

“It’s a different condition at every track, every corner, every weekend,” he said. “It’s never the same. You’re constantly having to adapt. The more of those situations you’ve been in, the better you are at reacting to them. You just get better at all those things. They become second nature, become subconscious. You can’t become stagnant.”

Will Power won from the pole position Oct. 3 in the Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

Power recently found another way to stay fresh, co-founding the Will Power Kart company that sells chassis to help young drivers compete on the entry-level grassroots motorsport.

After a 1-2 championship finish at an Indiana go-kart track last week, Power practiced (but didn’t race) one of the WPK chassis this week in a regional event at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina, that is popular with the NASCAR industry.

Go-karts appeal to Power because they mitigate the impact of aerodynamics, financing and rule-bending.

“You can just turn up yourself with the kart in the back of your trailer, run it yourself completely and win races,” Power said. “It’s just really, really pure. Anyone can do it. It’s relatively cheap. It’s pure racing. It just purely comes down to the driver.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”