Latest ‘Ask A Pro’ is the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion Will Power. Check out his answers here.
2014 IndyCar Series Champion
Following a supremely consistent season, Australian Will Power captured his first IndyCar Series title. The 33-year old took three victories and four pole positions in 2014 to finish the season on top for Team Penske.
Power began his career racing in his native country before a switch to Europe enabled him to hone his skills against some of the toughest young competitors in the world. He moved to the United States in 2006 and quickly became a winning driver in the Champ Car World Series.
Power joined his current squad Team Penske in IndyCar, initially filling in for Helio Castroneves at the beginning of the 2009 season. He scored his first win for the famed outfit on the streets of Edmonton that year, before his season was cut short by injury following a practice crash at Sonoma. He recovered from two fractured vertebrae and has now claimed 21 wins and 30 pole positions in the series, finishing as vice champion on three occasions before he claimed his maiden title this year.
Aside from racing, the Aussie has a great passion for fitness. Known for his intensity and dry sense of humour, Power also enjoys listening to music and playing the drums.
Will Power answers your questions!
What is your favourite road course, oval and street course in the whole world?
My favourite road course from this year was the new Indianapolis road course. It’s a really nice, smooth, and technical track. It’s really great for racing with the long straights. My favourite oval would have to be Milwaukee. It’s flat and there’s no banking. It’s very difficult to work it out and get the set up right there. It’s a lot about the driver and I love that. My favourite street course? The first year that they resurfaced the street race that we had in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was probably the best street course that I’ve been on. It had really nice long straights and smooth track, it was awesome.
Hey Will, I am 17 and I’ve been racing karts for three years and achieved decent success. Should I make the move to Skip Barber next year or continue to race karts in order to help my career in racing?
I think you most definitely should race Skip Barber next year. The sooner you get into cars the sooner you start to understand what you’re going to drive in the future if you’re going to be a professional race car driver, so I would most definitely move into Skip Barber.
Will, when you first moved abroad to further your racing career, did you ever feel homesick and if so, how did you get past this?
I know what you mean. It can be tough living away from your family. I always had a girlfriend with me when I was living abroad which made things definitely easier. I think that’s just apart of racing overseas. It’s a part of the sacrifice that you make if you want to be a professional race car driver. Just focus on your job and keep busy and if your doing well I’m sure the homesickness will go away.
Do you think in this day and age, a young driver should focus more on finding and maintaining sponsors or improving their driving skills to get them higher up the racing ladder?
I think you constantly need to be looking at how to be a better driver. I think at the end of the day, racing is all about winning and being the best driver. It can be a tough balance there because you need sponsorship to do it, but sponsors and teams love winning drivers so I would be focused very hard on being a better driver.
Are you a fan of racing in the wet? I attended this year’s Indy Road Course Race and at times I wondered if you racers could see?
Yes, it’s definitely hard to see with the spray, but the closer you are to the front the better that is. I love racing in the wet because it’s always challenging and it’s the great equalizer. I really enjoy it.
I’m 14-years old and have been racing karts nationally for a long time. I have the speed and talent to race at the next level but I’m not a ‘headline driver’. Do teams only look at your race records or do they take into account other things like how you market yourself?
I think they definitely look at your race records if you’ve won national championships or the world karting title, that’s a big deal. At that level it honestly comes down to being able to find a budget to keep going and that’s the tough part about racing. I think at your age, the sooner you get into cars the better.
Hello Will. Congratulations on your IndyCar title. I would like to race in Europe after I finish karting, possibly Formula Renault 2.0. Do you think it is best to start in Skip Barber and then move to Europe or just to go straight to Europe from karts?
Thanks Eddy. If you have the budget I would go straight to Europe because Europe is where it’s at as far as open wheel racing goes in the junior series. As soon as you get over there and in amongst the series you’re going to get better.
Hi Will. I think you have a very cool name. Do you think that has helped or hindered you throughout your career?
Thanks Steve. I’m not sure. I don’t think either really.
If you could choose one current F1 driver to join the IndyCar series, who would it be and why?
I would have to say the series champion, so Lewis Hamilton. The reason why would be to show how competitive IndyCar truly is.
What is the most difficult racetrack for you?
I would have to say that Iowa has been a tough one for me in the past. I really enjoyed it this year, but I’ve never really had a super strong result there. It’s a very high speed, short oval, so with the banking it’s quite difficult to get it right.
Hey Will. What would you say is your least strongest area of driving that you are looking to improve?
This year I would say that I was very equal on all of the disciplines. What I think I wasn’t the strongest on this year was the qualifying on the street courses. That definitely will be my focus for next year to work on. I got better towards the end, like in Toronto, but my qualifying on a couple of the street courses wasn’t good enough for me and I plan to work on that for next year.
Congratulations on the title Will. My son races go-karts on dirt track oval and has been for the last seven years. He’s outgrowing the kart and about 5’8″ tall. What is the height before fitting a seat becomes difficult? Who does one contact for transition to open wheels such as the F2000 Series to determine driver skill up front so investments go to the right areas if traits are fruitful. Sponsors are leaving with the older grassroots generation so money is tight and will stay that way. Thanks for your time.
Thank you Joel. I think you start by getting the contact of the team manager or owner of the teams. Then you start talking to them about testing a car and see how the fit is. As far as fitting in the seat, Justin Wilson is the tallest driver in the series at 6’3”. I know that it’s a tight fit for him, but he still fits and is able to drive. I don’t know for certain about the USF2000 and Indy Lights car, but I would say about 6’2” – 6’3” would be about the limit. Good luck to you and your son.
Your a huge inspiration for me and I just want to ask, what’s your best advice for someone trying to make it starting in Australia? What’s the best way to get overseas?
Thanks Jacob. It is a tough situation. It is very hard to get someone to back you, but I think in whatever series that you are running in Australia you have to win and be running at the front all of the time. Then you start meeting and get contacts of people that are willing to back young drivers wanting to race overseas. That’s kind of how I did it. I had a couple of backers that were interested in open-wheel racing and were willing to fund me in some of the junior categories in England and Europe. I started out racing go-karts and then did a year or so of dirt track stuff. I then did quite a bit of Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula Holden, which were the open-wheel series in Australia at the time.
Hey Will, I’m a huge fan and was thrilled when you won the championship and I’ll be cheering for you in 2015. What is it that you and Scott Dixon can do that no one else can when you need to make mileage? It’s amazing. How is that possible?
It just comes down to experience. I don’t want to give much away, but it’s something that I had to work on a lot in Champ Car and using the right techniques. It just comes through a lot of practice and getting the technique down.
Will, if there isn’t a way you can overtake the car in front of you in a race, do you follow and wait for the driver to make a mistake, suffer a mechanical problem or drive on the edge?
Well, in IndyCar if you can’t pass, we’ll just sit there and save fuel and tires, while keeping within a couple of seconds of them so that you can jump them during a pit stop. Otherwise, if you see them struggle in front of you with a bit of tire degradation, then you’ll put a little more pressure on them, which will cause he/she to use his/her tires up a bit more and generally makes them more prone to making a mistake. Then you have a better chance of passing him/her. Every situation in racing is different. That’s the one key thing to remember. You’ve got to be versatile with the fact the conditions and situations are constantly changing and never the same in racing.
Do you wish IndyCar had the DRS system like Formula One?
Yes, I do, because the tracks that we race at generally don’t have very long straights on the street and road courses so it would be very beneficial for IndyCar to have a type of system to help promote passing. I think some sort of DRS or maybe a bigger push-to-pass where you can’t use it if someone is one second behind would be good.
Will, with the new schedule and IndyCar looking for a few more venues, do you think this will help or hurt the smaller teams looking for sponsorships or maybe a 2nd or 3rd car to their teams?
I don’t really think it matters the amount of races that we have. I think around 20 races is a pretty good number. I think the most important thing is the television package and getting people to watch. I believe that’s what will increase sponsorship and will help all teams and the series.
Hi Will, I am 14 years old and have been racing karts in Australia since I was seven. I want to race Indy cars in America like you. How expensive is it to start In USF2000 and how hard is it as an Aussie to get sponsorship to race in America?
I’m not sure what the exact budget of USF200 is, but I’m going to say it’s around the $300,000 USD mark. I think it’s difficult when you’re trying to raise sponsorship to race over seas. It’s really hard to find any companies that might put money in, but there are programs around such as the Australian Motorsport Foundation that helped me out. That’s a great program that can help and guide you and even maybe help put you in contact with some people that might be interested in helping a young guy race overseas. Good luck!
Would you like an elimination playoff format like NASCAR’s, or do you prefer a basic season-long point system?
That’s hard to say. I think that in recent years, IndyCar’s championship has come down to the final race anyway, which has made it pretty interesting. I have to say though, having watched NASCAR’s finale, it was pretty intriguing. I don’t think anyone had an idea who was going to win until the very end. It’s definitely something to think about. Obviously, as a driver you like the more normal system, which rewards consistency and rewards the best driver.
What is the biggest difference mentally between racing on a tight street circuit like Toronto and a wide, fast oval like Fontana?
I think there’s a lot more activity on a tight street course and obviously you’re constantly shifting up and down, braking, getting off the brake, using kerbs, so you have a lot of continuous focus and thought. You also have the continuous focus and thought on ovals, but it’s a different feel. It’s all slow motion and really feeling the car and understanding what in-cockpit changes you will do during the run and so on.
As an aspiring racer who races at an indoor karting facility, I’m constantly looking to improve my lap times, so if I want to achieve that where do I start?
You always start with understanding what is the quickest time around there and who set the quickest time. Then you should race against faster guys so that you can start to see and understand where you need to go faster, what lines are better/worse and how to close up on people, using a different line and understand where you lose time. Then you’ll start to work it out and start working on the details.
Hi Will. I have a situational driving question for you. In a situation where you are feeling pressure from the car behind you, and you are coming up on lapped traffic, and that lapped car is in a battle of their own for position, what are you expecting from the driver(s) being lapped? Do you expect them to give up their own battle to let you pass when they see a blue flag? Or let them battle on and you execute a safe pass even though you know the car behind you is trying to take advantage of the lapped traffic? Good luck next season defending your title.
I think it’s up to the series to enforce the blue flag rule in those types of situations and the drivers to abide by it. It can become very frustrating when you are leading a race and you’re coming around to lap people and they’re making it difficult for you to pass. If that doesn’t happen, and they keep racing, you just have to be smart and keep a gap and keep getting good exits so that the guy behind you doesn’t get a run on you. Then you have to understand where you are going to pass and the best and safest way to pass the lapped cars.
How often do you use the GoPro motorplex in Mooresville as a training tool during the off-season?
Usually in the off-season, if I’m home, and there is someone out there running, I’ll go out and run a little bit. It’s more for fun rather than training to be able to run around with your friends. I really enjoy karting and kart racing, which unfortunately I don’t get to do much of these days, but it’s good intense, pure racing.
How do you stay focused throughout the course of a race? Do you practice often or have certain techniques you use to prepare?
I think you just become very focused as soon as the race starts. You just get in the zone. It’s not something I really practice. I believe it just comes down to years of racing and understanding the sort of focus that you need to run mistake free and always strive to be at that top level.
With today’s drivers starting younger and younger, is it now impossible to become a good driver if you only begin racing consistently after the age of 21?
It’s not impossible to become a good driver if you start after the age of 21. It’s all about learning and understanding what it takes to be fast. Obviously, when you start as a kid you gain a lot of experience through the years of karting and the junior categories, but I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible. I think within five years you could become a pretty good driver if you’re doing it consistently.