ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Will Power got out of his broken-down car at the Road America garage and turned down a drink.
He might not have been in his No. 12 Chevrolet long enough to break much of a sweat.
Just another frustrating finish for Power in what has been an uneven IndyCar season for the 2014 series champion.
He won the Indy 500 in late May, the second of two straight victories. A month later, Power finished last at Road America after being forced out of his car following two laps because of mechanical issues. It was the Australian’s second straight early exit from a race, and fourth of the season.
“It is unbelievable the amount of DNFs I have had this season,” Power said Sunday after the 222-mile road course race won by Penske teammate Josef Newgarden .
“I have never had this many in my career in such a short period of time,” Power said. “Yep, that’s racing. Goes one way and then the other.”
Life was good after Power’s win in the 500 lifted him atop the driver standings. It erased the disappointment of two “did-not-finishes” over the season’s first four weeks. Power followed the 500 by finishing seventh and second, respectively, in the twin races at Belle Isle.
The next two races brought problems.
Power was running in the top 10 on lap 205 at Texas on June 9 when he made contact with rookie Zachary Claman De Melo, who was high on the outside coming out of turn 4 when Power slid up heading toward the frontstretch.
The race at Road America began with optimism for Power as he started on the front row next to pole sitter Newgarden.
It was the ninth time in 10 races that Power was starting third or higher, with the exception a sixth-place start in the first race at Belle Isle. His only start on the pole came in the Indy Grand Prix, which he won.
“Obviously this year I’ve had plenty of front-row starts, missing out by hundredths of seconds, so I’ve got to change something,” Power said Saturday after qualifying. “What do you do to find a hundredth? Or five-hundredths?”
By Sunday, Power had other issues. He noticed problems with his car during the last warmup lap before the green flag.
“Literally from as soon as I started warming it up, there was something amiss,” Power said.
The team said it initially thought it was a boost issue on the first lap, and owner Roger Penske asked his driver to power cycle the car to solve the problem. Power was called in after the second lap so the team could take a closer look.
They took the car into the paddock, thinking the problem was a blown header. But when Power returned to the track on lap 14, the car misfired. Back to the paddock came Power, this time for good.
Newgarden dominated on his way to victory , leading all but two of the 55 laps. Unlike Power, Newgarden had a nearly perfect afternoon. The third Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud, started a disappointing 14th, but finished in seventh.
Power hopes to reverse course at the next race in two weeks at Iowa. He has dropped from first place in the standings after Belle Isle to fifth.
The last time the Indy 500 winner went on to win the IndyCar points title was in 2010, when Dario Franchitti did it. Juan Pablo Montoya nearly pulled it off in 2015 but lost the season title on a tiebreaker to Scott Dixon.
“As quickly as it is down, it can swing the other way quickly in a good way,” Power said. “When I think about it, we came into the month of May … fifth in points and left as the leader, so it can change.”
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