The morning after in Monterey: Will Power finds second IndyCar title is one to savor


MONTEREY, California – It was the morning after Team Penske’s Will Power had elevated his already legendary racing status by clinching his second NTT IndyCar Series championship.

The Toowoomba, Australia, native was trying to get in a quick breakfast between media obligations in a hotel conference room … when he suddenly realized there was an extra container to open on the counter.

Power’s eyes lit up over the beautiful sight of crispy bacon.

FEMALE INTUITION: Liz Power had a gut feeling about many of her husband’s career-defining moments

Power is normally a man with a strict regimen regarding his diet. The cockpit of an Indy car is very tight, and at 41, Power works extra hard to keep the waistline of a teenager.

But on this morning, he allowed himself to indulge on several extra pieces of bacon as a tasty treat for winning a championship.

All hail the champion of IndyCar, a man who became part of motorsports royalty on Sunday by winning a series championship for the second time in his career.

“It’s very satisfying,” Power said Sunday after clinching his second title in eight years with a third in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. “Very satisfying.”

Once considered a wild man, fatherhood and middle age have brought a calming maturity to Power. It’s the simple things in life that Power loves the most, like holding his 5-year-old son, Beau, in his arms on pit lane.

Green tea is Will Power’s favorite beverage, and he enjoyed it Sunday night when he was celebrating with his team after one of the greatest accomplishments of an IndyCar career that includes the all-time record for pole positions (68) and 41 victories, including the 2018 Indy 500.

Power belongs somewhere in the conversation of the greatest IndyCar drivers ever. He has been highly successful during the era of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti.

Will Power shows off his second IndyCar championship ring (Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment).

Since 2017, one of his fiercest competitors has been his Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden. Power’s longtime race strategist, Team Penske president Tim Cindric, left Power’s pit stand to take over the same duties for Newgarden.

The combination brought instant success as Newgarden won the 2017 IndyCar title in his first season with the team. He won another in 2019.

At Penske, the motto is, “When the team wins, we all win.” But Power recalls seeing Newgarden’s championship celebrations and not being in a joyous mood for his teammate.

“No, I was not happy for him,” Power told NBC Sports. “You’re not really. Honestly, you are really disappointed because you’ve got the same equipment as him. You see a teammate come in and win a couple of championships, it motivates you, and it is disappointing because you are measured off your teammate.

“Just having tough teammates improves you, simply.”

There have been times since when it externally seemed Newgarden was favored, and Power had been moved down the roster.

In his 40s, Power knows his chances at championships are waning. That is why he was so determined and focused to win another before his career was over. And that’s how he devised a strategy of consistency to notch nine podium finishes — offsetting Newgarden’s series-high five victories — in 2022.

“In 2020, I had amazing pace and almost had the ability to win seven times,” Power said. “I was in great position to win. So, I was always there trying to win another championship.

“This year, it all fell together very nicely, very consistent. I finished every lap of every race. I can’t think of a season like that I’ve had in my career, actually.”

Power entered the season finale with Newgarden hot on his tail. Power led Newgarden and Dixon in the championship by just 20 points, but Newgarden had the edge based on his five victories.

Power knew that he would have to contend with Newgarden in Sunday’s race, even after Newgarden’s failure to advance out of the first round of Saturday’s qualifications because a crash in the Corkscrew had him starting 25th.

Power won the pole, breaking a tie with Mario Andretti for the career record.

“It definitely took the pressure off in that first round when Scott Dixon was out, and Josef was out,” Power recalled. “I was pretty focused on getting the job done either way.

“That’s big pressure off. Then it’s all about getting pole position to give yourself the best chance to lead a lap, which makes it even harder on those guys.

Will Power celebrates with his family after winning a second IndyCar championship (Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment).

“That was a critical point where you didn’t want to make a mistake and put yourself in that position.

“It would have been interesting to see how the race would have played out even if Josef had got through in qualifying.

“Who knows? Maybe he gets pole, maybe he doesn’t. But if he is top-six, it makes it an easier race because you are 100 percent queuing off him rather than wondering what to do, and he has the same tires as you do, too. He had a bunch of tires, and that was my worry going into the race.”

Even with Newgarden so deep in the field, Power knew it was just a matter of time before he would be near the front. On Lap 46, Newgarden passed Power for second place.

“At that point, you are thinking you have got to give it everything you have to maintain the position you are in,” said Power, referring to the fact that he was running third and that would clinch the championship regardless of anyone else. “You knew it didn’t matter if he passed you, but if you kept him behind, it would have made your job a lot easier.

“I had to dig deep. I really did. That stint where he pulled 12 seconds on the same tire, the next stint after we changed tires, I was quicker than him. It was very strange to us and very strange to me there was variability in the tires there.”

It was also at that point that Power became Alex Palou’s biggest fan.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion drives for rival Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou had built a lead so large over Newgarden, he was in a different zip code.

In third place, Power was hoping Palou would finish in a different time zone ahead of Newgarden.

The eyes — and ballcap — of a champion (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“Oh, yes, at that point, I was cheering for Alex, big-time,” Power admitted. “Alex was on another level. He was solid. When the team said Palou had a 20-second lead on Josef, I said, ‘This is making it a lot easier on me.’

“As the laps slowly wore down, I thought, ‘OK, this is looking pretty good.’ ”

Newgarden’s secret weapon is Cindric, who may be the best race strategist in the business by seeing the big picture of the race as it unfolds and quickly determining a strategy for success.

In charge of the entire day-to-day racing operation based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Cindric actually is Power’s boss. But on race day, Cindric’s competitive drive is focused on getting Newgarden to victory lane.

“I was absolutely concerned about that,” Power said. “Tim is one of the best strategists on pit lane. That’s tough. He’s pretty smart. He knows the game well.

“Tim is in a tough position because on one hand, he has to do the best for Josef. On the other hand, he wants the team to win the championship, so he doesn’t want us to take each other out.

“To me, he has a tough role.”

Since Cindric left to join Newgarden, Power’s race strategists had been as Jon Bouslog (2018) and team owner Roger Penske (2019).

When Penske bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar, he gave up his duties on the pit stand to avoid conflict of interest, so Power’s race strategist became Team Penske managing director Ron Ruzewski, a brilliant engineer and team executive who works closely with Cindric and IndyCar team manager Kyle Moyer (who calls the strategy for second-year driver Scott McLaughlin).

Ruzewski told that as a championship heats up, the strategy meetings get interesting. Especially when the other two strategists ask, “What are you going to do?” Even at Team Penske, there is a certain amount of gamesmanship at an operation where the team comes first.

Will Power IndyCar championship
Will Power celebrates with Penske executive Ron Ruzewski, his strategist since the 2020 season (James Black/Penske Entertainment).

“That’s interesting,” Power said. “I didn’t even know when they have meetings they ask, ‘What are you guys going to do?’

“I think it’s fair to say you are going to hold some stuff back, because it is a competition, and you are racing your teammates for championships and race wins. It makes it interesting. It’s good, healthy competition.

“It’s usually pretty obvious what someone might do based on their position, where they qualified and what tire they are going to start the race on.”

Power’s secret weapon is longtime engineer David Faustino, who has worked with Power his entire IndyCar career with the exception of 2006 and 2009.

“I’ve been lucky with Dave,” Power said. “We hit it off straightaway in 2007. He has the same attitude as me. He’s very determined to win and works extremely hard.

“He’s been at three different teams as me. It’s a great combination over these 16 years.”

Power’s second championship is also the second IndyCar title for Faustino, but the first time the car that Ruzewski has been directly involved with winning a championship.

“I was very happy to have Ron,” Power said. “He’s pretty calm on the radio. Pretty easygoing and I think he works well with Dave. I’m really happy to get a championship for both of those guys and happy for Ron to get his first as a strategist.”

Earlier in his career, it was win or else for Power, who was determined to get a championship by winning the most races.

Will Power IndyCar championship
Will Power takes a selfie with his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team. Some crew members have worked with him since he joined Team Penske (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“Up until really recently, I was much more disappointed with fourth places,” the driver said. “If I didn’t get the win, it would get to me. Now, it’s a much different approach. Settling for second, settling for fifth place.

“A lot of things play into that. The way seasons start that put you in a hole and the more risks you take with strategy. It wasn’t me overdriving in any way. If you look at the history, it was a lot of mistakes that were out of my control.”

In the early days of Power, he was very high-strung. The highs were really high, and the lows were really low.

“We always reflect on every season with my engineer,” Power said. “Our bad days were just too bad. DNFs and 20th place finishes instead of an 11th or seventh, something that was not terrible.”

This year, he changed his focus to what he calls “the long game.” He was always mindful of the big picture of the season and realized if he had a third-place car that day, take third place rather than risk crashing it by going for the victory.

“I feel like I’ve almost always had a car that was capable of winning,” Power said. “It was other circumstances like strategy. My mentality, if I get shuffled back, with a fast car, maybe there was some frustration with that, and you might make a little mistake.

“If you go back and look at the years we’ve had, it’s not just a straight-up I’m taking big risks or making mistakes, it’s the combination of a lot of different things.

Will Power IndyCar championship
Though no longer Will Power’s strategist, Roger Penske still owns the team that won its second championship (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment).

“I was always thinking of winning another championship after that first one in 2014. I would turn up to every season very determined to win a championship. I’ve been working on that since 2014. I had some issues in 2016 and 2017 with health. That was a problem. Those years I was just trying to survive. I wasn’t even going for a championship; I was trying to finish races.

“But after 2018, I got a lot better.”

Power also felt confident that he had the support of the man whose name is on the building at Penske.

“He has texted me after every race this year and encouraged me,” Power said of Penske. “I really feel like he wanted me to win this one based on his messages and chatting with him. He was extremely happy for the team and extremely happy to see me with the championship.”

Sunday night was a chance to relax with his crew. Power enjoyed his green tea while the team had a few drinks.

“We had some nice chats and conversation,” Power said. “That was the celebration. We’ll do something more when we get back to North Carolina.

“It was a good night.”

Later on Monday, Power was off with IndyCar officials and Team Penske IndyCar publicist David Hovis for a champion’s media tour in Los Angeles.

The week of celebration wraps up Saturday night at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and the annual “Victory Lap” celebration, a small, invitation-only event that honors the champion.

Deep down, Power dreams of returning to Australia to see his family. Because of COVID-19 protocols, Power has not seen his family in three years.

“I’m trying to get David Hovis to get me out of an appearance so I can go back to Australia after the Victory Lap celebration,” Power said.

Power has become a multi-time champion. The next goal is to become a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

“It’s definitely on my mind after the last three years,” Power said. “It is definitely a race we need to get right next year.”

Now that the season is over, take a chance and reflect on Power’s impressive career and consider these numbers — 41 victories, the all-time pole winner with 68, an Indianapolis 500 victory, and now multiple championships.

There aren’t many drivers in the history of IndyCar that have a collection that impressive.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate to have driven for that team and have those numbers,” Power said. “I had in my mind I didn’t want to be a one-time champion because there are a lot of them.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
Align Media

Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury