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The Inside Line: Making a Power-ful statement this season
By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's safe to say Team Penske driver Will Power has earned the title of IndyCar's "Mr. April" this year.
Power won all three IndyCar races during the month of April -- in Birmingham, Ala., Long Beach, Calif., and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now the 31-year-old Australian is preparing for not only the lone race in May, but the biggest event of the year as well, the Indianapolis 500.
When the series kicked off its season last month in St. Petersburg, Fla., Power started on the pole but his early race pit strategy backfired there, as he spend most of the 100-lap event deep in the field. He ended up finishing seventh, while his teammate, Helio Castroneves, won the race.
Power has been flawless since then.
Despite starting ninth, Power took the checkered flag at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham for the second year in a row on April 1. He failed to advance into the Fast Six (final round) in qualifying after his time in Q2 was erased due to a caution that came out in the closing minutes. But Power capitalized on tire strategy during the 90-lap race there. He took the lead for the first time with 22 laps remaining and then held off Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon for the victory.
Power overcame adversity once again to win the April 15 race in Long Beach. He qualified second to teammate Ryan Briscoe, but was one of the 11 Chevrolet drivers who received a 10-grid position penalty due to an engine change. Power made his way through the field after starting 12th and then grabbed the lead with 15 laps to go. He finished less than one second ahead of rookie Simon Pagenaud.
On Sunday, Power turned in his best performance of the season in Brazil. He started on the pole and led 63 of 75 laps, giving up the top spot briefly when he pitted for the second and final time. Power held off Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay after two late-race restarts. He crossed the finish line 0.9 seconds in front of Hunter-Reay.
"I was driving and giving it everything, absolutely everything I had to keep Ryan behind," Power said after winning the Sao Paulo Indy 300 for the third year in a row. "I knew I had to pull some sort of gap, because if you keep him at tow, he would most definitely be able to pass me. It just happened to fall into a two-stop strategy for Ryan and myself."
Power made history for Penske, as his win in the South American country marked the first time in 44 years of racing that a team opened the season with four consecutive race wins. A Penske driver also has claimed the pole for each one of those events.
Last week, Power was voted as the first quarter "Driver of the Year" in 2012. Power narrowly edged NHRA's Robert Hight in the vote from a panel of 21 broadcasters and journalists. Greg Biffle, the current points leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, placed third.
Power has now won nine of his last 19 IndyCar races and eight of the last 12 on road/street circuit.
Only one of Power's 18 career IndyCar victories have come on ovals. He won the second race in the doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway last June.
Just five of the 16 races on this year's IndyCar schedule will be contested on ovals, beginning with the Indy 500 on May 27.
Ovals have indeed been Power's Achilles' heal.
"When I look at the last two seasons, the first one of the last two is definitely a weakness on ovals," he said. "But I would say last year that wasn't the case. It was just bad results were really bad. We won more races than anyone."
Power has finished second to champion Dario Franchitti in points the past two years. Right now, Power had accumulated 180 points this season, which is 45 more than his closest competitor, Castroneves. Franchitti presently sits 10th in the rankings, a distant 98 points out of the lead.
"I'll just keep the head down, try to enjoy it, enjoy my race," Power said. "You need a bit of luck, good strategy, no mistakes, and that's how you win races."
This year's Indy 500 will mark the 40th anniversary of team owner Roger Penske's first win in the prestigious 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Penske has earned 15 race wins and 16 pole victories -- both records -- in the Indy 500.
Power's best finish in four Indy 500 starts is fifth, which came in 2009. He finished 14th in last year's race.
If Power can win at Indy four weeks from now, it sure would boost his confidence on the ovals as well as add more momentum to his IndyCar title hopes.
04/30 16:37:43 ET
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