By Josh Farmer, Contributing Journalist
INDIANAPOLIS—A win in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil completes Will Power’s bucket list, but he’s not done yet.
Three years after finishing second at Indy to Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015, Power soldiered through a 500-mile race filled with restarts, cautions and an eight-lap shoot with a threesome of cars trying to stretch their fuel mileage.
Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey blasted to the lead while Power tried to fight off pole-sitter Ed Carpenter, who led a race-high 65 laps.
“I knew that I had to get a run on these guys, at least get one of them in the first turn, which I didn’t,” he said. “I got Oriol I think a lap later or something. I didn’t want Carpenter to have a shot at me. He was very quick. If he had gotten by, I think it would have been game over potentially.”
The door opened on Lap 196 as Wilson and Harvey ducked onto pit road and the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet took the lead.
“It’s like the gates opened,” Power said. “It was amazing.”
That positive mindset also shows the maturation of the 37-year-old Aussie since arriving on the scene in 2006 driving for Walker Racing. When he finished second in the championship from 2010-12 after dominating each of those seasons, his emotions seemed always to get the best of him.
The 34-time Indy car race winner admitted that before he could win the Indy 500, he had to make some changes to the man in the mirror.
“You just got to minimize the amount of negative people you hang around, negative stuff you read, and be in general positive,” he said.
“Winning a race definitely makes you and the whole team be more positive. We had that in 2015 when I won, then I finished second here. I’ve slowly changed to be a more positive person. It’s hard when you’re very negative.”
While he had the positive attitude in 2015, the absence of an Indy 500 win still lingered over his head. But as everything happened, his focus determined his success.
“It’s run through my head the last year more than ever because I’ve won so many races and poles, led more laps than anyone. I just hadn’t done it here,” he said. “I’ve been thinking, Am I going to finish my career without a 500 win?
“This month was one of the best months I’ve had, very relaxed, in tune with my engineer, just working really well. It just came together. You got to have a lot of determination.”
The monumental win is Power’s 31st for team owner Roger Penske, which makes him the winningest driver in the organizations’ 51-year history in Indy car racing. Penske was delighted in the fact that his driver completed his journey with the win.
“This closes the book for what he wanted to accomplish in IndyCar: win a championship, now is tied for winning the most races as an Indy driver for the team, and the Indy 500 is something that he wanted to do from the very beginning,” said Penske. “He’s had some ups and downs. Championships slipped away from him, two or three almost in a row.
“He’s in a different world right now, which is important.”
With the Indy 500 monkey off his back, Power is in a prime spot to claim even more wins and championships. More importantly, he’s in position to solidify his place in the sport’s history as one of the very best.
“Absolutely, it was the last box to tick, to be considered as a very successful driver,” he said. “I’m not done. Like, I still have plenty of time left to win more 500s and championships and races.”