Power sees “faster version of Dixon” Palou as big threat in 2023

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By Lenny Sundahl

The defense of Will Power’s second IndyCar title begins this weekend at St. Petersburg, and on Wednesday the Team Penske driver spoke to Pit Debrief and other media outlets about what it’ll take to become the first driver since Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2011 to repeat as champion.

photo: Indycar.com

Power’s second championship was chalked up in large part to consistency: he won just one race all season, but had 12 top-5s in 17 races. For Power and Penske, consistency is “always the goal. It wasn’t just last year that I was trying to be consistent, it just played out that way very well with that sort of approach.”

With Team Penske, Power–and his teammates, 2017 and 2019 champion Josef Newgarden and third-year driver Scott McLaughlin–enters the season with an unchanged roster that has worked together through the offseason to get to this point.

“You learn a lot from your teammates, so that matters, and the engineers as well. So yeah, it’s good to have that kind of continuity.”

He highlighted ovals as a particular point they were working on improving, but that with respect to most of the schedule “it was pretty even last year and[…] I expect to be reasonably even, hopefully even this year or[…] even hopefully we’ve got the upper hand.”

Power anticipates a battle between the same five drivers that came into Laguna Seca with a title shot, singling out his own teammates as well as Ganassi drivers and past champions Scott Dixon and Alex Palou.

“I want to say Palou is probably going to be the other toughest guy. Dixon’s always there, but I feel like Palou’s a faster version of Dixon because he’s extremely fast and consistent.”

Photo: Penske Entertainment | James Black

He also singled out Andretti drivers Colton Herta and new addition Kyle Kirkwood as potential championship threats.

photo: Indycar.com

A big help in Power’s eyes is the end of the double-points bonus for the Indy 500, a race that, despite a win for Power in 2018, he has notably struggled at in the past. “It really was such a hit if you had a bad day there because you had 33 cars… you got more than 30 cars taking points away–double points–away from you.”

The change means not only less of a push to make up for any possible lost ground at the 500, but a potentially more aggressive approach in May as well, and overall a more even strategy of attacking the season.

“But every season has its flow; sometimes you have to be more than just be consistent. Sometimes you have to win some races to get out there.”

photo: Indycar.com

The champion will look to start winning those races and set that initial flow with a strong result at the tight street track in Florida.

“The track layout, actually, doesn’t race as well as some other tracks, but as far as, like, getting speed out of it, I really enjoy it.”

Power has two wins and 11 top-10 finishes in 14 races at the now-traditional Indycar season opener, and stressed the importance of getting out front early at this track and on the calendar.

“[If] you start off well, you get that points buffer, and then you have a couple of bad ones, it allows you to come back.”

Of the last ten season openers, only once–Scott Dixon in 2015–did the eventual season champion finish outside the top 10 in that race, with three of the last four champions winning the first race of the season.