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Indy 500 start “impossible” to plan for, says Power

Power and his Team Penske-Chevrolet teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin will roll off 11th, 14th and 26th on Sunday, which means all are starting from the middle of their respective rows on the 11-rows-of-three grid.

Power will have feisty former winner Takuma Sato to his left and Indy 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson to his right, while in the row immediately ahead is another rookie, Romain Grosjean, who has had a few near-misses with the wall over the last 10 days.

But Power says it’s pointless to come up with a game plan for that first rush down to Turn 1 at the drop of the green.

“You never know how it’s going to play out,” he said. “You’ve just got to be smart for anything and make the right decisions in each situation.

“Everyone knows it’s the first lap of a 500-mile race, but yeah, at times that doesn’t matter. But you’ve got to understand the scope of the whole thing and make the smart decision.

“It’s impossible to predict how a start may go, so you can’t even think about what you might do. You’ve just got to make that decision on the fly.”

Drivers often say that the start and restarts are the best opportunity to make passes because of the nature of the draft in IndyCar’s current aero package, but Power said he’s not too concerned in that regard.

“If it’s a really hot day it might be quite tough to get by,” he said. “Ever since they coated the track, because it’s so dark, the track temps can spike really quickly and that affects the track temp quite a lot.

“But then people make more mistakes and you get more opportunities to get runs…

“Ideally you want to be in the top five for the second half of the race and then cycle through to be in the top two in the last 10 laps. If you’re not there, you’re in a bit of trouble. But you never know how things play out in this game. It could be a fuel race, it could be anything, so you’ve just got to be prepped for it all.”

Power predicted that NASCAR legend and fellow fourth-row starter Johnson would be taking a similar approach to his own.

“I think Jimmie would have the experience of understanding if he’s got the car for it or not, or of getting the car in the window over the long day, a 500-mile race,” Power observed. “But I feel like recently this race almost felt like a sprint race over 500 miles. You don’t actually settle in.

“I’ve started way back there [32nd last year], maybe it’s a different game at the front. You’re having to make gains every single pit cycle, every single stint, so for me it’s just been hammering all day, trying to make runs on people. It’s never been just a chilled deal.

“So in his position, he’s going to have to be doing a similar thing. He starts 12th, he’s got to be trying to make gains every stint.”

Although some drivers tend to trot out the line about “the track chooses the winner”, Power says there’s more in a driver’s and team’s control than that.

“It’s a different game every year, it’s never going to be the same, those things don’t line up for you,” he said. “At the end of the day, when it’s your day, it’s your day – but you will be presented with obstacles to execute on that day, and you need to execute them.

“That’s on you: it’s not just your day. You need to make it happen.”

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

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