By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Coming off one of his worst points finishes last season, Will Power and his No. 12 Team Penske team came into the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season with a new gameplan.
If his third-place finish in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are any indication, it appears to be working.
Starting the day from the front row alongside teammate and eventual winner Scott McLaughlin, and as one of a handful of drivers starting the race on the primary black tires, Power faded to fourth early on before the alternate reds ahead of him started to give up, allowing him to move back to second before the lone caution of the day flew.
Though pit strategy would drop him and the other leaders on a two-stop strategy back to just inside the top-15, Power would join the others back in the top-three just prior to their second pit stop of the day.
Staying out a couple of laps later than McLaughlin and Alex Palou, Power ascended to the lead for one lap before ducking onto pit road for his final stop on lap 66.
Following his pit stop, Power marched back up the leaderboard to reclaim third-place on lap 80, where he would remain for the rest of the race, finishing 2.467 seconds in arears of the winner.
“I’m really, really happy to start out this way,” Power said. “When I think about the day, just a really, really solid day for us. Got that yellow and then made the reds last in that middle stint.
“To finish on the podium, I was really, really happy with that. I didn’t expect — I expected us to be maybe in the top 10 after all of that. Great result. Happy with my performance. I couldn’t have done any more, and also with the team, we did everything that we could in the situation that we had. Really nice day and a great start to the season.”
Power added that his finish in St. Pete is a result of all the hard work his team put in over the offseason to get themselves back in form for this season.
“We had one of our worst seasons last year and a very disappointing Indy 500. There’s been a lot of reflection and development to try and understand what that was and definitely have turned up with better cars. There’s no question. Definitely different philosophy and right in the window, and it’s showing on the track.”
Though he wasn’t within striking distance of the leaders in the closing laps to take advantage of the situation, both McLaughlin and Palou had their hands full battling cars on the tail end of the lead lap, making for a tense battle between the two all the way to the checkered flag.
In true Will Power fashion, he couldn’t help himself when making remarks on how the end of the race played out, poking fun at the sanctioning body for its lack of rules concerning backmarkers racing the leaders in the closing laps.
“We keep telling INDYCAR, and they just keep making — oh, no, they don’t. Sorry, I forgot,” Power said with a laugh. “I’ve been on this for 10 years. When every driver in the driver meeting says we need a blue flag rule, why isn’t there one?
“I’m happy with my result but I’m unhappy with the lack of things that get done.”
After a playful back and forth with runner-up finisher and defending series champion Palou, Power added that he was happy with his result, but with age, he has become less hesitant when it comes to speaking his mind on certain things.
“You’ve got to get into it, man,” Power said. “You’ve got to say how you feel. When you get to my age, you’ll just say how you feel. You won’t be scared…I feel great, but I just like to point out the problems that could be fixed so easily within the series with just a little change.
“I’m really happy with the race. I actually am more relaxed. I just find myself more relaxed the older I’ve got. I never really swear on the radio or get mad in the car. I am very sarcastic in these press conferences for fun because my brother is a comedian and we’ve spent our whole life doing this, like just saying things sarcastically just in the family. I hope no one takes it too badly.
“But they really should do something about the blue flags.”