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.”
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.”