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 

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field


Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2