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.”

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).