Will Power’s determined efforts to keep his cool have never been more difficult than in races where the Australian started more than expected, or when conditions conspired against him.
At both Barber Motorsports Park and Road America, the Australian seemed set for a Fast Six slot when he noticed plenty of replacement tires for Firestone and his Q1 laps left him only 19th and 15th on the grid, respectively.
Then there were the humble mesh holes in mid-Ohio, when he was sent out of the lane in front of a competitor and penalized for blocking the lap of Helio Castroneves, and in Toronto, when Kyle Kirkwood made a turn and crashed in front of him, a red flag.
However, Power strategist at Team Penske, Team Principal Ron Rosowski, says Power’s on-screen behavior of constantly belittling their plights wasn’t just for show.
“In particular, Will will be quieter than he appears, and probably quieter than I’ve seen on TV,” veteran Penske told Autosport on the eve of the final triathlon that begins at the Gateway Oval this weekend.
Well, he lost a little bit after qualifying in Toronto, which is understandable – there was nothing to do about that red flag during the hot lap, and P1 could easily have been in his group on that lap.
“But that was probably the only time I saw him get angry. Oh, and maybe mid-Ohio when he was penalized for two fast laps for holding up Helio. [Castroneves]. That was us.
“But he’s pissed because he’s still human, he still has so much passion and he’s still so fast, and he wants to show that. The thing is, he’s calming down quickly now because he knows how massive the competition for this series is.
Bauer rebounded well when setbacks hit, as he did in mid-Ohio where he finished third after losing twice to a foul in the playoffs.
Photo by: Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images
“He knows he needs everything to be okay – the team, the car, himself – to succeed in this series. He knows he’s still at his peak, and his speed is still great.
“The Indy course mogul is on the road, his Iowa poles… they show he’s out there. And his racing skills are probably better than they’ve ever been, in part due to his mental approach. When qualifying didn’t go well, he delved deeper into Race day.
Power currently leads the championship with one win and nine more times in the top four, leaving him just six points ahead of Scott Dixon. But Rozhevsky, who has watched Power finish second in the championship on four occasions, said he did not have to limit his driver on race days and focus on collecting points.
“I’ve always reminded people that you can win five or six races and not win a championship, especially when we were up against Dario. [Franchitti, four-time champion],” He said.
“But 10 or 11 years ago, when Will was fighting Dario, there were fewer players and drivers who were a threat. [for the title] in the final round.
“These days the field, in terms of drivers and teams, is so good and so close, and the ‘big’ points are distributed among so many people that if you finish in the top five every week, you will go to win the championship by an overwhelming majority.
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“It’s the kind of consistency we’re aiming for. Will’s average finish so far is 6.4, and if it was 5.0, he would have made a lot of progress by now. So are there places we wish we could leave him and not focus on the big picture? I don’t I think so.
“There were more places where I thought it was a win to get the top three or the top four after a bad qualifying session. Detroit was very satisfying, of course, because we won. Mid-Ohio was very satisfying, given that we screwed up in the playoffs, so it was great.” Seeing him climb from the back to third.
Power has been regularly on the podium this year, collecting the best qualifiers to take the points lead in the last three races.
Photography: Michael L. Levitt / Sports Images
“Indy Road [second race]…that the catwalk wasn’t just a rabbit out of a hat. We qualified in the second row, so we had reasonably fast cars, but he got into the chaos of the first turn, then got away with a wild maneuver from another driver who sent Will near the back…Going back from that to third was almost all working together – The strategy, driver and pit crew are fantastic, as it has been all year.
“Road America – well, there was a missed opportunity, no doubt, and we were hit by another car. In Toronto, we had a much better car than 15th place represented. Indy was what it was, and in Nashville we at least had a podium car until it paralyzed.” By someone hit us in the back.
“So I think what held us back was mostly circumstances, as opposed to not doing that because we were thinking about the implications for the championship.”
Ruzewski was keen to emphasize the interaction and effort put in by all three branches of the IndyCar team, with Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin vying for the 2022 title with three rounds.
“The work ethic between our drivers and their engineers cannot be underestimated,” he said.
“At that level you have to put in the work. He put Scotty into action – and that’s clear from his progress this year – Joseph has always done that and Will has always done that too…and maybe he’s doing it on a new level now.”
“Dave [Faustino, Power’s race engineer] and ben [Bretzman, McLaughlin’s race engineer, formerly Simon Pagenaud’s race engineer] We’ve been here for a while and are doing really well together, Eric [Leichtle, Newgarden’s engineer since Gavin Ward departed for Arrow McLaren SP last year] It is well installed.
“The combined efforts of these guys and the whole team are paying off this year, so I hope we can take full advantage of that and get the championship.”
Bauer’s only win so far came on the streets of Detroit
Photography: Michael L. Levitt / Sports Images