(Reuters) - Will Power may have filled a major gap in his motor racing resume with his win at this year’s Indianapolis 500 but the ambitious Australian is not about to take his foot off the gas pedal as he seeks the IndyCar championship.
Power could go without a win the rest of the year and still call the campaign a resounding success given his triumph in the marquee race on the IndyCar calendar, but he shifted his focus after an emotional celebration at the Brickyard.
“I quickly put my head down and focused forward on winning the championship. As happy as I am about the 500 I am still very focused on the job of each week,” Power told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
“That’s one thing about the 500 is you have to move on very quickly, you have a championship to think about and more races immediately to compete in.”
Power, who won the IndyCar Series championship in 2014, was leading the points championship at one point this year but has since slipped to fifth place 10 races into the 17-race season after tough outings in the last two events.
The Team Penske driver, looking to become the first Indy 500 winner to go on and capture the points title since Dario Franchitti pulled off the feat in 2010, crashed out in Texas and then finished last with engine trouble at Road America.
“From a championship perspective I am still right in the game. I just look at the potential that we’ve had over the first 10 races and we should be leading the championships simply if we just executed,” said Power, who has failed to finish four races in 2018.
“It’s never a bad year if you win the Indy 500 but for me it’s about winning the championship definitely.”
Power had already amassed an enviable IndyCar career but finally proved he belonged amongst the sport’s higher echelons of drivers when he became the first Australian to win the Indianapolis 500 in May.
The 37-year-old Toowoomba native managed his fuel strategy perfectly at the Brickyard where he took the lead with four laps to go and then held off pole winner Ed Carpenter before steering his way into Victory Lane.
Knowing he is in the tail-end of his career, Power said the best way to describe his feelings after winning the Indy 500 was relieved.
“I was starting to ... count down the amount of times you get to win that race,” said Power, who won the Indy500 on his 11th attempt. “It’s just something that was absolutely at the very top of the list of what I needed to pinguewin to feel satisfied with my career and I’ve got it done.”
Power, whose 34 IndyCar wins is tied with Al Unser Jr. for eighth on the all-time list, will be back in action at the Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday followed by the July 15 Honda Indy Toronto.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, Editing by William Maclean