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Will Power‘s had a dubious start to the 2015 IndyCar season. Outshined by his team mate JPM at St. Pete, James Hinchcliffe – deemed not good enough at Andretti Autosport – in a swamp and most recently Scott Dixon and eighteen others out west, Power’s undoubtedly feeling the pressure of Penske perfection. After all, this is the IndyCar Series Champion we’re talking about, not some talentless ride buyer or legacy with a name. Power’s an Aussie racing icon for goodness sake, though like the iconic Sydney Opera House his best days may be behind him.
Now in his eleventh year in big league racing, Power turned thirty four in March. That isn’t particularly old for racing, even in the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar. His team mate Helio Castro Neves turns forty in May and TCGR‘s Tony Kanaan will be forty one in December. They’re but two recent examples of longevity in IndyCar racing. Legendary iron man AJ Foyt started an incredible thirty five consecutive Indy 500s during the sport’s heyday. Regardless of age, Power’s been in a Great Australian Bight sized slump lately – a decline that could definitively demonstrate he’s no Helio, much less AJ.
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The prodigious Power has twenty four wins and forty six podium finishes in his 142 race career, equaling a gaudy 17% winning percentage. That’s the highest average in the series. By comparison, Helio has twenty nine wins and a 9% average, while Target’s Scott Dixon is the active driver with the most wins – thirty six – and a 14% average. They’ve both raced longer than Power, Helio by seven years and Dixon by four.
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A closer look at Power’s career statistics is telling. The 2014 IndyCar Champion won three races each of the last three years. Surprisingly, this represents a marked drop off in productivity for Power, as he won an impressive six races in 2011 and five in 2010. So far this season – already nearing the quarter mark – he’s managed only a single podium in the opener at St. Pete. People forget that in last season’s Fontana finale Power started on the back row and finished ninth, though the effort was enough to clinch the title over Helio.
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So what’s the source of this perplexing pressure on Power? It begins with his own Team Penske, which now runs four full time entries – each with the best cars and a solid shot at winning every race. In the past Power had only one equally equipped Penske competitor to worry about, occasionally two. This season he has three to contend with every weekend. His team mates include winners like Juan Montoya and new member Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, who’s repeatedly clashed with the Aussie on track in previous years. Don’t doubt that Power’s painfully aware of their profound presence at Penske.
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Add to the intra-team rivalries those battles with drivers from other teams, which are numerous. Ryan Hunter-Reay tops the list, along with drivers James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden who are both younger than Will. Remember, not only does Power’s car carry the number one this year, but also the series’ title sponsor. Only when all those factors are considered does one begin to fully appreciate the unrelenting pressure upon the slumping Aussie to perform. Will he manage more victories going forward, or will the pressure of Penske perfection permanently prevail upon Power?
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