Team Penske’s Will Power has had his
share of disappointments at the Indy
500, but isn’t as readily associated
with them as a Marco Andretti or
JR Hildebrand might be. That could be
because Power’s near-misses lacked
the visceral drama of some of his
counterparts – there’s a reason that a
win got away, but no exclamation mark.
His most recent near-win came in
2015, when the final laps distilled
down to a thrilling intra-Penske battle
between he and Juan Pablo Montoya.
That scrap was ultimately settled in
Montoya’s favor, but Power says that
for him, the quality of the fight helped
compensate for finishing second.
“That was such a crazy battle, and
I was so in the moment, that I forgot
that I was in the Indy 500,” he says.
“I was just trying to put myself in the
best position to win that fight. It was
just a fantastic race. It sucked to not
be the winner at the end, but man…
when I think of the battles I’ve had,
that’s one of my best ever on an oval.”
That’s not to say that some
near-misses don’t still smart.
“In 2010 I had a mega car, but we
had two bad pit stops that put us to
the back every time,” he says. “That
was such a missed opportunity. Or ’09
– I made it up to second and then we
dropped a wheelnut in the pit stop.
“Indy gets such a buildup that
you’d do anything to win it. But once
it’s done, I’d probably forget about it
until the end of the year if people
weren’t asking me about it...”
Power finished on the wrong side of his
fearsome scrap with Montoya in 2015, but
still counts the fight among his favorites.
“The way everything happened
in 2011, I had to deal with it all
immediately,” he says. “There was no
hiding from it. I was asked about it a
million times, and I had to be at peace
with it, just to not go bananas.
“I still have people walking up and
asking if I go to sleep at night thinking
about Turn 4. And to me that seems
like such a crazy thing to ask.
“For one, I’d be going insane if I was
going to sleep every night thinking about
that. But I really don’t. It just doesn’t
bother me. It’s something that I have
very much moved on from.
“I’m in a different place. The series is
in a different place. The things that are
required to win the race are different now.
I’ve been very head-down over the last
few years working on figuring that stuff
out so I could get into the best possible
position to get back out there and
execute. And that, to me, is only what
it’s about at this point.”
Realistically, is there any other way
that Hildebrand, or Andretti – or even
someone like Carlos Munoz, who was
literally in tears after falling just short of
reeling Alexander Rossi in last year – can
keep their relationship with the “500” in
perspective? It’s often said that the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway chooses the
winner, and on that basis, the most any
driver can do to control their fate is do
whatever they can to put themselves in a
position where they’re not relying on a
stroke of luck to get the job done.
“So many people have told
me Indy owes me something
that it’s made me realize it
doesn’t owe me s**t”
(TOP) A last-corner
crash denied rookie
JR Hildebrand a
shock Indy 500 win
in 2011. (ABOVE)
Now with Ed Carpenter
Racing, he’s focused
entirely on the
future, not the past.
Marco Andretti led a race-high 59 laps
and set fastest lap in 2012 (ABOVE),
but he hit the wall on lap 187 and was
ultimately classified 24th. That’s Indy...
SO NEAR, YET SO FAR...
Do that often enough, and maybe
– maybe – the Brickyard will answer the
call, just as it did for Kanaan in 2013.
“I always prepared myself for maybe
not ever winning there,” he said. “I
trained myself not to feel too beaten up
about whatever happened the next day.
I always loved this place, regardless of
what my result was. I was humble and
just grateful to be part of the Indy 500.
“I call the Speedway a ‘she,’ because to
me, it’s a girl. And in 2013, she gave me
back the respect I’d given her.”