Is this Will Power's year?

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When the IZOD IndyCar series announced in the off-season that it was abandoning several of its traditional oval races — read Homestead, Kansas and Chicago — there was nobody happier than Will Power.

The Australian had owned the road and street course races on the 2010 IndyCar calendar, including a win at the Honda Indy Toronto and a second place finish at the Edmonton Indy.

But in the end his series-leading five wins in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dallara Honda turning left and right were not enough.

Power’s dreadful luck on the ovals killed his chances at a first IndyCar championship.

While he was winning at Toronto, Sao Paulo, St. Petersburg, Watkins Glen and Infineon, Power was way up the track on the ovals with a 12th at Kansas, a 14th at Texas, and 16th at Chicago and an utterly pathetic 25th at Homestead.

Yet even with those kinds of oval disasters, he was still on top of the championship hunt with a 12-point cushion over eventual champion Dario Franchitti when the final event of the season went green at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval.

All Franchitti had to do was wait for Power to make a mistake and on Lap 135 the No. 12 Penske car brushed the wall, effectively taking him out of the race.

The 30-year-old Australian isn’t about to make those same mistakes again in 2011.

“First off, the experience I gained last year on ovals, no matter the results, will really help me this season,” Power said in an interview inside his Penske Racing compound on Friday.

“I never thought I’d say this but I am actually looking forward to getting to Indianapolis for the first oval race of the year.”

He claims that it was more bad luck than anything else that kept him from being close on the ovals in 2010.

“We probably should have won at Chicagoland, and would have if we didn’t have the re-fueling problem on pit lane,” Power said.

He said that what he learned in 2010 is key to him getting the results that will take him on a championship run.

Power said that people forget that the oval tracks where he fared poorly last year were all new territory for him.

In 2009 he ran only a limited schedule in IndyCar and before that he was in the Champ Car World Series with only sporadic stops on ovals.

“I really know what to expect on ovals now,” Power said. “It was all a bit of a mystery to me last year.

“Experience-wise, I’ll be in way better shape.

“The biggest thing that I learned from last year is running in traffic. It’s really just experience.”

The experience Power is talking about has also taken him from being what essentially was a third man on a two-man Penske team in 2009, to clearly the No. 1 driver on the IndyCar squad this season.

Although Power is careful not to be guided into talking up his own status.

“There is no No. 1 on this team,” he said. “I think any one of myself, Helio (Castroneves) or Ryan (Briscoe) can contend for the championship this year.”

Power does, however, admit that being on the Penske team is a huge advantage for any driver, let alone one on the cusp of a driving title.

In that 2009 season when Power was still recuperating from an on-track crash at Infineon Raceway the year before, he could have taken a full time job with most any other team but chose to stay with Penske in a part-time role.

It was a move he has never regretted.

“With Penske you know as a driver you will be getting the best equipment, the best engineers and the best chance to win week in and week out,” he said.

“It certainly gives you the confidence to know that from the moment you get to the race track you are among the top cars that weekend.”

And, Power said, if he finds himself on top of the championship points pole at the final race this season, he hopes that the lessons he has learned since then will pay off in an IndyCar crown.


Videos

Photos