Never before has Will Power been this close to finally securing an IndyCar championship.
The 33-year-old Australian heads into this weekend’s 500-mile season finale in California with a healthy 51-point lead in the series and knows a sixth-place finish or better will land him the title.
It’s the fourth time Power has led the championship going into the final race of a campaign after the 2011 finale was cancelled due to the tragic death of British driver Dan Wheldon mid-race.
While those past three attempts have ended in heartbreak, in none of those battles was he this far ahead nor as strong as he has made himself on the American-style oval circuits.
Power himself says he’s just taking a simple keep-it-clean approach after crashes in the 2010 and 2012 finales to cost himself any chance of becoming the first Australian to win an IndyCar title.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to be there at the end to have a shot,” Power said.
“Make sure you’re there at the end and that you have a competitive car. They’re the two things that will really help me win the championship.”
The Toowoomba product could already have held an even greater lead going into this weekend’s race, dominating the early stages of the Grand Prix of Sonoma last Sunday (Monday AM AEST) before a costly spin midway through the race left him to battle to a 10th-place finish.
Power says that unforced error was a wake-up call if any was needed that nothing is assured until he crosses the finish line under lights at the two-mile D-shaped Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
The Team Penske driver actually claimed his first full-length oval race win at the venue in 2013 but says that victory won’t count for much going into Saturday evening’s (Sunday midday AEST) race.
“Obviously it was definitely a great finish to the year last year, but it’s a different field, and actually things just get tougher and tougher all the time in this series,” he said.
“Winning last year definitely doesn’t make me feel comfortable going in. I know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a very good race to win the championship, so I’m just, like I said, focusing on the things I can control.
“Just aim for a top 5 finish, absolutely.”