Power Talks of Return to Winning Ways in Visit to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Will Power’s lunch of steak and vegetables was the satisfying end to a morning of barnstorming media appearances.

The track for the opening race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season was ceremoniously under construction and the sunshine was warm.

Everything was in order until he noticed what might have been butter in his zucchini. Dairy allergy.

St. Pete was still testing him, apparently.

Power is accustomed to busy days around the 1.8-mile harbor side temporary street course, site of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Successful days at that, having claimed two of Team Penske’s record eight wins in 14 past St. Pete Indy car races dating to 2003.

But some have been a bit too eventful for Power, including a pit-lane penalty and mechanical problem last season. There was also the inner-ear infection that produced concussion-like symptoms following a 2016 practice crash which cost him a start and undid early any chance for Power to challenge for the win despite capturing the pole position in qualifying.

Dining at a street-side café Tuesday on Beach Drive, a few blocks from where the course is taking shape for the 2018 season opener March 9-11, Power was very much anticipating the start of his season. And he was hoping for his fortunes to re-establish the order that had made him the yearly bellwether of the circuit.

“The first race is always very interesting because everyone is wondering where they stack up in the field, (after) you had six months off,” said Power, who won three races but finished fifth in the championship last season. “This year more so because we have a new body kit.

“The anticipation is for the first session, and then you know, in a way, how the year is going to go. If you’re right there, OK, you have a shot.”

In that way, St. Petersburg has validated Power for his tenure with the most successful team in Indy car history. His ascension as a perennial championship contender began here with a Team Penske debut in 2009 when he replaced Helio Castroneves as the three-time Indianapolis 500 was pursuing eventual acquittal for federal income tax evasion charges.

Power’s sixth-place finish in the race spurred team owner Roger Penske to field him five more times after Castroneves returned that season. Power rewarded his boss with a win at Edmonton that season, and was in turn rewarded with a full-time ride beginning in 2010 that continues to this day.

Power won the first of a race-record seven poles at St. Petersburg in 2010 and captured his first of two wins at the track in leading 50 of 100 laps. He led 74 laps to win again in 2014 and begin his championship campaign. He finished second to then-teammate Juan Pablo Montoya despite leading 75 laps in 2015.

Looking to reverse his bad-luck trend of the past two years, Power will drive the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet in this year’s St. Pete race weekend. Practice begins on March 9, with qualifying the following day and the race airing live at 12:30 p.m. ET March 11 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.


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