CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Will Power returned to Fontana last December, yearning to know why he had crashed in the IndyCar season finale. He hopped into a street car and drove around Auto Club Speedway to the exact spot that cost him the championship.
“I got out and looked at the track because when it happened, it almost felt like something broke, there was no warning there,” Power said. “But I got out. I looked at the seams. I ran around. I drove around with my engineers. I don’t know. I just crashed.”
It’s the soul-searching that wears on Power because there are no easy answers to the hard questions.
He doesn’t know why IndyCar’s most dominant driver the last three seasons came up empty each time in the championship race. He doesn’t know why fluke things always seem to happen to him to derail days that should be effortless.
And he doesn’t know why everyone seems to think he’s plagued by a streak of crazy bad luck.
“The worst luck ever? I’m trying to understand why people say that about me,” Power said this week.
Maybe because it was on full display in the IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg two weeks ago when Power clearly had the most dominant car in the field — so good that rival team owner David Letterman jokingly grumbled on live television that Power needed to get off the gas a little to turn it into a real race. But in one of those bizarre moments that only seems to happen to Power, he was run over from behind under caution by JR Hildebrand, who said he was distracted by his knobs in his cockpit while getting ready for a restart.
When Hildebrand later went to apologize for ruining Power’s race, he was surprised to find Power wasn’t angry after finishing 16th.
“I don’t even get angry anymore. It happened and I’m just like, ‘Surprise, surprise, I just got run over, let’s go check the damage,”’ Power said. “There’s just nothing you can do it about it, man. I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that every road and street course I am usually the quickest car and I qualify either on pole, first or second. So when something happens to me, it is magnified.”
Last year’s victory at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama started a streak of three straight wins for the Australian.
But when the series shifted to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 and kicked into the oval portion of the schedule, Power’s troubles began. He was involved in a crash with Mike Conway midway through the 500 — the first of several slips on ovals last season. He was penalized for blocking Tony Kanaan at Texas, wrecked at Iowa, and infamously lost the championship when he inexplicably wrecked in the finale.
Power figures his struggles on ovals last season stemmed from the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas. He was part of the 15-car accident that killed Dan Wheldon, and Power suffered a broken vertebra.
“I remember looking forward to doing the ovals last year, but I think what happened in Vegas the year before, I could tell everyone was on edge going into that Indy race,” Power said. “Whether that played a part, I don’t know. To me, I think when you feel tentative on an oval, I think you put yourself in a bad situation. Like with me, some of the things that happened to me, maybe it was me being a little standoffish.”