Q and A with IndyCar ace Will Power
WILL POWER: Yeah, no problems. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Will is second in the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings, heading into this weekend's Edmonton Indy, where he was won two of the last three races and he is the current leader in the Mario Andretti Trophy standings for road and street courses on the strength of his race win streak earlier this season.
Q. The driver you're chasing in the points, Ryan Hunter‑Reay, has won the last three IZOD IndyCar Series races. What do you think it will take for you to stop that streak this weekend?
WILL POWER: What it will take to win, which is, most of the time, good qualifying, a very good strategy, and you know, just really pit stops and not having something unforetold happen, like getting hit or a yellow falling at a not opportunistic time.
Q. You've been in the championship mix the last two seasons. Obviously you talked about being in position to win races. Is that what you have to do down the stretch if you are to clinch your first IZOD IndyCar Series title?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think you've got to be ‑‑ you've got to always be in a position to win every weekend. But, you have to realize that that's not going to happen every weekend and not try to force the issue, which, you know, can only give you a DNF or contact with other cars. Just that good balance is what's going to win championships.
Q. Last year was a new circuit layout, and this year we have the new car and engine package. What kind of race do you expect on that circuit with the new car?
WILL POWER: I think with the push‑to‑pass, yeah, there should be some good racing. You know, you've got three good long straights to pass, so that's more than most tracks. So I should expect a pretty good race.
Q. You mentioned the push‑to‑pass and the long sprints, and going into the passing zones in Turns 1, 5, and then the final turn; do you think the boost that you experienced at Toronto is going to make a little better show this year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it definitely helps your car, there's no question. If you use it, chances are you're going to get by the guy. Although, it's not like Toronto where you can pass on the outside here. Obviously you learn to block, and block always inside the white line now, that potentially could make it a little difficult.
Q. What has Ryan Hunter‑Reay done that always of the sudden he's been able to put together three wins in a row?
WILL POWER: Well, he's been with the team, so he's had a bit of continuity the last three years. And really, he's always been strong. You know, this year, he's definitely been more consistent.
But, you know, in my opinion, he was always, every weekend or every track you went to, you could always count on him to win, and the only difference now is he's putting it all together and he's executing week‑in, week‑out. In my opinion, he's the strongest guy in IndyCar Racing right now. He's strong in both disciplines, oval and road.
Q. How many guys do you see are legitimate title threats? How many people do you see that you are up against right now?
WILL POWER: I see Castroneves and Dixon as the main guys that all can win the championship right now, Hinchcliffe ‑‑ who else is up there? Yeah, those guys that I see as real championship threats.
Q. So what do you have to do to win the championship, and how do you like it better? Do you like being the points leader or do you like chasing better?
WILL POWER: I think I would like to be the points leader. But I mean, to win the championship, is just ‑‑ things have got to go your way.
But, I think week‑in, week‑out, you've got to be knocking on the door. You've got to be up there with a chance to win every weekend, and if you can't do it, you accept what you've got and get the most out of it. You know, don't try to force the issue and have a DNF. That's how I see it; the guy that does that the best is going to win this year.
Q. Your point on Ryan being strong on road courses and street courses; do you still feel like the season is yours to lose?
WILL POWER: I just see that ‑‑ you know, I feel as though I'm definitely a contender, I really do. I feel as though if we get everything right the next four races, or how many do we have to go, five races, we have a legitimate chance of winning this championship.
Now, I think we will if we get it all right, because I feel as though we are one of the quickest out there, and when things go right on the weekend, I think we are always on the podium, or you know we win the race. So that's kind of what we've got to do.
Q. And of course last week in Toronto, it looks like Hinchcliffe pulled back a little bit to save his engine so he doesn't have a grid penalty in Edmonton. Is the engine strategy now becoming for of a factor in the race as we get close to the end and the number of engines run out?
WILL POWER: Well, it does, because, you know, as these manufacturers come out of each iteration of engine, you know, the engine becomes stronger and possibly has a better performance. If you happen to be on the wrong side of the mileage where you're going to be on the ‑‑ not in the latest iteration for quite a few races, you're in trouble.
But, you know, I see ‑‑ also, what I see, if you get an engine penalty at Mid‑Ohio or Sonoma or Baltimore, the tracks, a ten‑grid stop there is way harsher than what you would have a than if you went to Fontana or somewhere like Toronto, or maybe Edmonton. But all those straights, you have to play in; you get a ten‑grid spot penalty at the wrong track, you're in trouble.
Q. Did the two‑week break between races help with the level of frustration that's built up in recent weeks? Does that allow you to clean the slate and come into Edmonton with a fresher view of what's still ahead for you?
WILL POWER: Most definitely, for me, any time off, it definitely helps me to get back into the routine of fitness and just to rest up. Week‑after‑week, it gets real tiring, especially if the results aren't there. Yeah, I feel I'm rested, ready to go. More ready than ever, actually.
Q. A few years ago when you won your first race in 2009, you were just on a part‑time ride with Penske and things are certainly different now, but talk about since then and what's changed, and obviously this is a track you come to with a certain level of comfort, so that's got to be good for you heading into this weekend.
WILL POWER: Wow, what's changed since then. Getting a full‑time ride is the biggest deal. Just having continuity on the team and really having a home is what's changed the most with me.
Yeah, going to Edmonton, I've always enjoyed that track. Obviously it's a different layout now, but you know, still for me, it's a great city, good fun, good fun racing; and nothing better than when you win at a track, you always enjoy going back the next year.
Q. They have changed cars this year, and Penske and Ganassi teams have been ahead of everybody with the old car for the last several years. How much of a factor was it changing to the new car that allowed the Andretti Team and Hunter‑Reay to get caught up seemingly everywhere they go?
WILL POWER: To me, they are just a stronger team than they have been, just with their driver lineup, with Hunter‑Reay, Marco and Hinchcliffe, three real strong drivers, and I think that's why they are doing so well. Obviously they are a strong team.
And on another front, you can't change much in this bloody car. So really, it does come down to what you can learn from your teammates. So having good teammates is bigger than ever now, because you can't ‑‑ you can change less than ever. So pretty much everyone runs a very similar setup. There's no real advantage to be found there.
Q. You sound like you're not a big fan of the car.
WILL POWER: The fact that you can't change much? Well, I would say if I was a small team, I would probably think it was not a bad idea. But being on a team with three cars and resources, you obviously would be pushing for what's best, and what's best would be if we could do more development.
Q. We were talking to Randy at the last race in Toronto and he was talking about a third race in Canada. What cities would you be interested in going to in Canada for a race?
WILL POWER: Hmmm, I think Montréal for sure. You've got Vancouver. I think they are two destinations that have been very successful in the past that I think IndyCar should go to. Yeah, they are two nice cities.
Q. Where does Edmonton rank among the drivers and the paddock as a place to go and race? Is it in the middle or the top or the bottom? Where would you kind of rate it?
WILL POWER: Well, it used to be ‑‑ the old track was like the toughest driving track, just corner after corn after corner, high speeds and bumpy and as tough as you get as a driver. So everyone enjoyed that track, just driving.
The new circuit, I think it creates good racing. So you know, anywhere that you can pass, it's like Toronto, we all love Toronto. But if you would just drive around that track just by yourself, you probably couldn't think much of it. But as an actual racetrack, to race on it, it's one of the best for the single fact that it's great racing, and that's what the new Edmonton track has got.
Q. And the city, as well, the whole atmosphere in the city itself?
WILL POWER: Well, I think the fans are pretty passionate there. I like the city personally though I can't speak for anyone else. I enjoy going there. It's a nice place.
Q. Question for you on fuel mileage, since it was something that you got caught out with on inopportune timing on yellow in the last race. What can you and your team do to prepare for if there is going to be another yellow that would bring some guys that are off‑sequence to the front? And what do you think can be done to prevent guys that are getting good fuel mileage, such as yourself, to where you don't get penalized in the future?
WILL POWER: Well, they have done something, which is, if the track is not blocked or a car is not in a dangerous position when they crash or on track, the pits will remain open under yellow.
Unfortunately where (Graham) Rahal crashed, you know, Race Control saw that as, I guess, a dangerous position, so they closed the pits to prevent people from racing back to the pits to get their stops done in order to get out in front of the guys who already have pitted.
So, the only extra thing they can do is, at all times, leave the pit open, which means that the drivers have to take some responsibility, which we are all professional, and if there's waving yellow as the spot where the car has crashed, to be cautious, even though you are trying to get back to the pits to get your pit stop in and out before you get passed. I think that's the next step.
Q. When you're driving, you pretty much go for the jugular and go for the checkered flag, but I guess you can make an argument that the best way to stay in contention and win the overall championship is to cruise a bit and back off a little bit. What do you think about that, and can you even do that and can your driving style match with that kind of strategy?
WILL POWER: Well, yeah, that's exactly what a championship champion is, is someone who can balance that very well. It's understanding when to push and when not to push. Often I feel as though I've been so conservative ‑‑ when you win a race from the front, it's generally a day of no mistakes and kind of an easy day and you're not really pushing ridiculously hard.
It's winning a race from back in the pack is when you have to have the calculated risk and understand when a move can be pulled off and when to push and when not to push. Yeah, it will be that balance; the guy who gets that balance the best, that's how you win a championship.
Q. Where are you in the engine cycle in terms of your mileage and how many more races do you have to go with the current engine and how good a spec is that engine, that Chevrolet that you have?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's a good spec. I think there's another one out, but yeah, I've got a few races to go at the moment. Obviously we don't know what's going to happen with reliability and so on, but as it stands, I'm not bad on mileage.
Definitely can finish out the season provided I don't have any reliability problems, I'll definitely have no problems finishing out the season under the quota of engines that you're allotted during the year.
Q. And does finishing the season with a 50‑mile race force you into some strategies to make sure you have a good spec and good mileage left for the last race?
WILL POWER: Well, basically, finishing a 500‑mile race means that qualifying really doesn't mean anything. So you can easily, easily take a ten‑grid spot penalty there and it would not be an issue.
Yeah, if you happen to want to put a fresh engine in there, that probably would say is what the majority of teams will probably do anyway, because it's just not going to matter.
Q. And position doesn't mean anything in 500 miles.
WILL POWER: No, not a lot. Like Indy, if you start 10th, you're in good shape.
Q. When go through the bulk of the oval portion of the schedule and you were still the points leader, did you still feel pretty good about your chances then?
WILL POWER: I felt ‑‑ I was surprised I was still leading actually, considering the bad run that we had had. But it's been such mixed up results, not Hunter‑Reay, but let's say from second on, it wasn't filled up with guys that I was competing with in the championship, so I didn't take a big hit in the points.
Yeah, I still understand what I've got to do to win the championship. It's still all about executing on the weekend and being mistake‑free in the pits, on the track, strategy‑wise, everything. It's got to come together for you. It doesn't matter, if you're thinking, oh, shoot, this is going to be easy for me because it's road courses; where in fact, it becomes very, very tough on road courses to win just because of the competitive nature of this year.
You know, you see, there's no one dominant, there's no one getting all the polls. There's no one really winning all the road course races. It's really mixed up.
Q. Are you feeling any differently, like there's five to go and the pressure is on you or is your approach the same as it's always been?
WILL POWER: You know, I'm just ‑‑ in fact, it's kind of given me a real kick in the ass. I'm really back to being focused and ready and positive and it's kind of good to feel this way at this time of the season.
Kind of like last year; after last year, I was just kind of pissed off with what happened and all that, and then just got on with the job and we went along and had a bunch of really good races. Feeling good, feeling fit and ready to go.
Q. Just to follow up on that, there's been the highly‑publicized sort of gestures you've exchanged with Viso, Pagenaud, and I think you've always been a racer that wears your heart on your sleeve, but is there a higher level of frustration this year compared with different years on the circuit?
WILL POWER: No. I just think ‑‑ I mean, at Toronto, I got bloody ‑‑ I mean, what Pagenaud did was pretty ‑‑ pretty bad. I mean, actually, I didn't ‑‑ actually I didn't go the wrong way. I didn't do anything. He came up and he hit me and that was that. And he came over to tell me that he was letting me go, and I told him to piss off, because don't come down lying to me; I knew exactly what he was doing.
And Dario actually had a front row seat of all that and he couldn't believe his eyes, what he was seeing. You know, so that incident was what it was. Surprised me that Pagenaud is like that, but he is.
And you know, with Viso, I felt bad for Viso. He got out on points, he was ahead. And I just put my hands up, I didn't flip him off.
THE MODERATOR: We'll thank Will for his time and wish him the best this weekend in Edmonton.
WILL POWER: Thank you.
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