Power focused on St. Pete in 2017, not missing 2016 race

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Will Power has one goal this year: Don’t set goals.

Instead of formulating specific plans heading into each season and each race, Power applies a laissez faire approach. He first tried it in 2014, and it resulted in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. His only plan heading into this weekend’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is to be fast. Speed will cover the rest.

“I’ve just said it’s going to be what it’s going to be,” Power said. “The year I won the championship, I just did a race-by-race thing. I’ve tried everything, but I think what works is just focusing on each little bit at a time.”

That philosophy led to something remarkable last year. Despite missing the St. Petersburg opener after setting the track record and winning the pole position prior to falling ill before the race, Power rallied back in the second half of the season. He won four races – the second race at Detroit, Road America, Toronto and Pocono -- and nearly caught Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud for the championship in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

What wasn’t a championship season actually seemed like one for Power and the crew of his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet/Dallara.

“Having the pole at St. Pete and having speed all weekend, it felt like we if we had just participated in that race, we would have done well,” said David Faustino, Power’s engineer. “The other thing that made it feel like it could’ve been a championship year was that we feel like we should’ve won Phoenix. We had a mistake in the last pit stop and would’ve come out first. We had four wins, but we really feel like we could’ve had six.”

Instead of dwelling on what didn’t happen, though, Power is preparing for 2017 St. Pete by not thinking about 2016 St. Pete.

“I’m just looking forward to this season,” Power said. “I’m just doing my normal thing heading into it. I haven’t really thought about it too much. It’s been a long time since then, a lot of races since then. I’m just working through the things I need to do in order to be quick there.”

Since the 2010 season, Power has been one of the best the Verizon IndyCar Series has to offer. He’s won 25 races in those seven years, has never finished lower than fourth in the final standings each year and has four runner-up finishes in the championship to go with the 2014 title.

“There was really not much thought about the championship after St. Pete, but then there was when we got closer to it,” Power said. “But after St. Pete, we just went out and focused on each race individually. We just went out at each race trying to see what happens and where you end up. Suddenly, we were there (in the hunt).”

Power credits the one-step-at-a-time approach with the late-season run. Before 2014, especially during a stretch of three consecutive runner-up finishes in the championship to Dario Franchitti (2010-12), Power applied more specific, detailed goals.

“We had those years where we finished second to Dario, and it got to be like, ‘Win the race, win the race, win the race, gotta do this, gotta do that,’” said David Faustino, Power’s engineer. “It adds to the stress level and at some point starts to take away from performance and your mental capacity to just drive as fast as you can. In 2014, that approach started to help him, and I think he’s just trying to stay with that.”

It comes down to one broad, simple objective: Win the championship. The rest will follow.

“The goal is always to win the championship, but setting specific goals is an unnecessary kind of pressure,” Power said. “Letting it happen as it happens is more appropriate. There are some situations where you have to make a decision as to what will happen, but you make that decision then. It can’t be predetermined. If I say, ‘I said before the race that I was going to win, so now I’m going to make this move at this point in the race,’ it doesn’t work like that.”

Sometimes it works better if you don’t plan for it.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend opens with a pair of 45-minute practices Friday, beginning at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. A third practice is scheduled for 10:50 a.m. Saturday, with knockout qualifying beginning at 2:55 p.m. The final warmup practice takes place at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the green flag waving for the 110-lap event on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit at 12:30 p.m.

Every session prior to the race will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The race airs live at noon ET Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg fast facts:

• Race 1 of 17 in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. This is the 14th Indy car race on streets of St. Petersburg, dating to 2003. The race has been held every year since 2005 and has opened the Verizon IndyCar Series season each year since 2011.

• Tickets and event information: gpstpete.com

• Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @INDYCAR, #FirestoneGP, #IndyCar

• TV: The ABC telecast starts at noon ET Sunday. Allen Bestwick is chief announcer, with Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. the analysts. The broadcast will also be streamed live on WatchESPN.

• Radio: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton for the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions plus Indy Lights practice, qualifying and races are on IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

• INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge: Fantasy racing returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series with the INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone. It allows fans to become a team manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race with a stockpile of prizes on the line each week.

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