He thinks for a moment, looks up to the sky to reflect on the weight of the question, and then finally admits, “I’ve got a picture of the Borg-Warner trophy that sits on my bedside table at night when I go to sleep. That’s how much it means to me.”
Will Power entered the Champ Car World Series full-time in 2006 with Team Australia after driving two races in 2005 with that team. His first oval in Champ Car was at the Milwaukee Mile in June 2006. He started fifth and finished 11th after retiring late in the race with a mechanical problem. He would not see another oval track until March 2008.
In 2008, the IRL/Champ Car unification brought together American open-wheel racing under one sanctioning body for the first time since 1996. The drivers of both series were used to separate disciplines. Many of the Champ Car drivers had never driven on an oval or had much prior oval experience. In contrast, the IRL series saw a mix of ovals both big and small, as well as road courses that same year.
“When I first joined the IndyCar Series, a lot of other drivers, ovals were all they had done, and I hadn’t,” says Power.
His learning curve with a new team, a new car, and a new series was steep. He placed last in his first two oval events in 2008. However, Power’s first taste of oval success came in the 2008 Indianapolis 500, where he finished the race in 13th position on the lead lap.
Since joining Team Penske full-time in 2010, it has been no secret that Power needed to improve on ovals to win championships. After runner-up finishes in the championship between 2010 and 2012, Power finally broke through with a title in 2014.
Ever since, Power has come into the Month of May looking to be the first driver to ever win the Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. He has won the Grand Prix three times since its inception in 2014. Yet outside of a runner-up finish to then-teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015, Power’s results on the Indianapolis road course have not carried over to the oval.
Yet Power still has confidence in his ability to win the 500.
“Winning the 500 is the last box I need to tick in my IndyCar career,” he says.
Sunday will be Power’s 11th 500. He has had a lot of time to get acquainted with ovals and feels he’s ready to drink the milk.
“It just comes down to experience. For me, now, I can get on an oval and understand how the car should feel,” says Power. “I’m at the point where I prefer to race on an oval.”