April 29, 2012, was a good day for Will Power. Not only did he capture his third straight win of the season in Brazil, he did it from his second pole position of the year. The next race was the Indianapolis 500, where he had all of the momentum and looked ready to finally capture his first championship.
It’s been nearly a year since that special day in Sao Paulo, and Power has not won a single race since. It’s difficult to comprehend, but it leads to the question: What has happened to the once-dominant Penske driver? What happened to going into a race weekend and expecting without doubt to see Power on pole and in victory lane?
There have been 13 races since Power’s last win, and his average finishing position during that span is 11.4 with only three podium finishes. He won four poles during those 13 races, but all of them have come in the last six events.
One thing many people have observed about Power is that when he gets shuffled back in traffic, he seems to struggle with making his way back to the front. If he starts on pole and the race stays green, he’s gone. But if he has to maneuver his way through traffic, that’s where things get tricky.
After a rocky start to this season with a 16th place finish in St Petersburg, he wound up 5th last weekend at Barber. The championship runner-up from the last three seasons is currently sitting 8th in the points heading into Long Beach next weekend.
If Will is finally going to grab that first title, he is going to have to put it together before Indianapolis next month. There is a disturbing trend with Will over the past few years: he starts the season red hot but finishes ice cold.
In 2010, Power won the pole in three of the first four races. He also won two of those races and finished 3rd and 4th in the others. In 2011, he won the pole in each of the first four races. He won two of those races as well, finishing 2nd and 10th in the other two. In 2012, he won the pole in two of the first four races. He won three of those four and finished 7th in the other.
As previously mentioned, those are red hot starts. Now, look at his finishing positions in the final races of the season over the last three years. In 2010, he was 25th; in 2011, he was 19th; and last year, he was 24th in Fontana.
Another thing to consider is the depth of talent within the series. We’ve already seen some impressive runs by rookie Tristan Vautier as well as Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato, Sebastian Saavedra, and Simona de Silvestro. Even Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter have improved on the twisties. This isn’t the same field from a couple of years ago. How many drivers can realistically win a race this season? To me, the number is close to 20. AJ Allmendinger talked about the talent in IndyCar recently and said that it’s unlike anything else he has seen.
Power should feel a sense of urgency soon if he hasn’t already. He’s aware of the nearly year-long drought since he’s been in victory lane, and the schedule doesn’t play into his hands after Sao Paulo. Following the races in Long Beach and Brazil, five of the next six races are on ovals. While he isn’t as bad as everyone perceives him to be on ovals, they are clearly not his strong suit.
There are still 17 rounds to play out during this 2013 season. But the longer this winless drought grows for Power, so too will the added pressure on his shoulders.