When Will Power was chasing the IndyCar Series championship in 2014, the Honda Indy Toronto played a pivotal role in completing his quest.
Power entered the event in a bit of a slump having lost the points lead to Penske teammate Helio Castroneves but still sat in second place and was determined to return to the top of the table.
Toronto was a doubleheader at the time and the turning point came in the second race with Power finishing on the podium in third while Castroneves, who started on pole position and led for most of the race, slipped to a 12th-place finish. Castroneves’s slide continued through the remainder of the season while Power maintained his resurgence en route to the title.
Facing a similar situation this season, Power will be looking for another spark when the series returns to Toronto this weekend as he currently sits in fifth place with only six races remaining on the schedule.
“I had kind of a downturn swing, two bad races, lost the lead in the championship and I thought to myself in the second race in Toronto, it was when it was a doubleheader, I had to finish ahead of the guy I’m racing, which was Castroneves,” Power said. “I was very aggressive in doing so and that was the switch. After that, he had a bad run and I just kept finishing ahead of him. Basically, that’s what I need to happen this year.”
First thing’s first though and that’s managing to finish a single lap around the Exhibition Place street course. Although Power has won three times in Toronto, he was gone in (less than) 60 seconds last year after a collision with Scott Dixon down the Lake Shore Boulevard straightaway heading into the treacherous third turn knocked him out of the race.
That seems to be how it goes in Toronto as it is a battle of attrition through the narrow, unforgiving concrete confines.
“It’s always a track you go into thinking you’ve got to survive this track,” Power said. “There’s always a lot of mayhem, great racing and it’s about just surviving all of that carnage. Last year I didn’t even make it to the first lap, so I definitely want to improve upon that.”
Power’s season has seen more ups and downs than a roller coaster with four DNFs juxtaposed with the biggest race win of his career at the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 37-year-old Australian said finally winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
“I have to say had I won it like in 2009 in my first attempt [with Penske] — I was kind of sitting there in second and had a shot at it — I don’t think I would have appreciated it like this,” Power said. “It has grown on me so much that you start to wonder will it happen? That’s why I was so excited when I did.”
Winning the Indy 500 was unlike anything else in Power’s career including his IndyCar Series championship in 2014.
“Obviously, the 500 is an abnormal race because you’re there for the whole month but it just feels like you’ve won more than a championship,” he said. “The amount of attention it gets and the size of it, it’s just like in one race you feel like you’ve won a championship or two. It’s just such an amazing event. The championship at the end of the year is a pretty big accomplishment because it’s such a tough series, so many different disciplines you’ve got to win on. You can’t compare anything to the 500, honestly.”
Power expects another great crowd on hand for Sunday’s race in Toronto, especially with a couple local drivers, James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, expected to be in the mix. Although Wickens is an IndyCar rookie, the 29-year-old from Guelph, Ont., is not your typical freshman with a wealth of experience racing overseas in Europe and has Power convinced he’s the real deal.
“He’s come in and done a fantastic job first year out that’s to say,” Power said. “Obviously, he’s very experienced and has raced at a high level for a number of years. Still, he’s a guy that I can see that will be a championship winner at some point in his career. He’s a threat for a win every weekend.”