For the third year in a row, Will Power has come out of the gates firing. The previous two years, the fast Australian had at least two races prior to the Indianapolis 500, allowing him to take an early lead in the points standings. This year, Power has found a way to up his game, taking three of the first four races (and three in a row at that) to lead the series as it heads to Indianapolis.
What’s frightening for the rest of the field is that Power has had to work uncharacteristically hard in these first four races. In St. Petersburg, he held an early lead from the Pole, but strategy relegated him deeper in the back and he had to battle his way back through just to end up seventh. In Barber Motorsports Park, he was caught out during qualifying when Ryan Hunter-Reay’s spin red-flagged Q2 before Power could put himself in the Firestone Fast Six. And, in Long Beach, the well documented engine changes for all the Chevrolet teams meant he had to start 12th after qualifying second.
Yet, at Barber and Long Beach, Power and his Verizon Penske team managed to use clever strategy, superior fuel-saving, and some good, aggressive driving to claim victory from near-impossible circumstances. Frankly, Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 was the first “normal” race for them; Power was quickest much of the weekend, started on Pole, led the most laps, and controlled the entire race on his way to victory. Even when Scott Dixon led during the second half of the race, Power remained the “leader” effectively, given that Dixon was never going to be able make it to the end without stopping once more.
To put it simply, Power seems unstoppable at the moment. He’s on near perfect form, his team consistently plays the correct strategy, and they’ve yet to make that critical mistake that has kept them winning a title the prior two seasons.
Yet, that is exactly where this could change. Yes, Power’s point-lead is about one full-race over Helio Castroneves, but one mistake could wipe out that lead. And, it doesn’t have to come from Power or his team. Remember, he had the fastest car last year at Kentucky before Ana Beatriz punched a hole in his sidepod as she exited the pits.
Yes, Power and Team Penske may be on top of their game like they’ve never been before, at least during their time together. But, should Lady Luck intervene at any point, everything could change. For now, though, Power is on the driver’s seat for the 2012 championship.