Considering how often he’s won in his career and how dramatic some of those wins have been, Team Penske pilot Will Power would be excused if he ever got a bit cocky about his abilities.
After all, it isn’t really bragging if you can back it up and with 17 career triumphs under his belt, the Australian has proven that he can definitely back it up.
So after overcoming what appeared to be a crippling 10-spot penalty on the starting grid to win at Long Beach for the first time since Champ Car’s last hurrah in 2008, it’s easy to find this particular post-race statement from Power to be a bit shocking.
“I go into every season thinking that there's no way I can win another race,” the soft-spoken Power said. “I don't know why I feel like that, but I do, and that's always my I guess I have an insecurity or something or I don't believe in myself enough. Yeah, that's always my feeling.”
It’s easy to take this comment from Power in several ways. Let’s start with the obvious one: Complete and total incredulity.
Power has been in the title fight for the last two years, and with the continued problems of Dario Franchitti, he finds himself as the early favorite for the 2012 championship. As he showed on Sunday, he is just plain magic on street courses. And while his drive to victory at Long Beach was impressive, so too was his charge from ninth to the win earlier this month at another tight and tricky circuit at Barber Motorsports Park.
These last two events have made everyone believe that Power can do just about anything in a race car. Yet Power himself doesn’t and never has believed that?
No. No, no, no, that’s not right at all, some say. That’s not how a champion is supposed to act, some say. That’s absolute bunk, some say.
Cue the second reaction: He’s messing with our heads.
While Chevrolet’s surge to place six of its drivers in the top 7 after their engine penalties must be demoralizing to a certain degree for Honda, it must have been more demoralizing for the field as a whole to see Power stealthily move up for a second straight race and then continue his reign as king of the streets.
Even with the Honda-powered Simon Pagenaud barreling toward him at an ungodly rate, Power insisted he was ready for him after a long day of fuel-saving.
“I wasn't worried because I knew I could at least run under a second from him,” Power said. “I could probably equal his lap time if I pushed really hard. We had saved enough fuel to run really hard for the last two laps if we had to.
“You know, I think it was at six to go, I had a six second gap, so I was very aware all the time. I knew how fast he was. I thought it was about a second a lap quicker, and I knew that we'd saved fuel, so on the last two laps, we could push if it came to him being right on me.”
All the more reason to believe that he and his Team Penske squad have the bases covered and that this “insecurity” he supposedly has is just a mind game he’s playing – and winning – against his rivals. Right?
Well, how about a third theory: Power’s revealing a truth about himself.
If that’s indeed the case, then it shows how complex he actually is. Most of the time, he’s an easygoing person and that’s the image he has. The majority of the headlines he’s garnered in his INDYCAR career have been strictly about his racing exploits.
But as he proved following last year’s ill-fated restart at New Hampshire – when he emphatically fired two middle fingers toward INDYCAR Race Control in front of a nationally televised audience – he’s certainly capable of high emotion as well.
Power’s belief that he goes into every year thinking he can never win another race can seem a little counter-intuitive. But if he keeps being the guest of honor in Victory Lane on a regular basis, who are we to argue? Maybe it’s better to just let him think what he needs to think.
It’s sure worked out so far. Not just for Power, but for us onlookers as well who get to marvel at his skills every time he hits the track.
Chris Estrada maintains IndyRacingRevolution.com and has covered sports at all levels for multiple print and digital outlets. He has written for INDYCAR Nation since 2011 and can be reached via e-mail (email@example.com) and on Twitter (@estradawriting).