Contract Year Won’t Distract Drivers

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay are beginning contract years in the NTT Indycar Series. Simon Pagenaud may be in a contract year, but he side-stepped the question last week. All three drivers plan to keep driving the way they always have and not worry about 2022. The consensus is that there is always pressure to perform, regardless of their contract status.

Ryan Hunter-Reay Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Hunter-Reay had a frustrating year in 2020. It began with a car that wouldn’t fire on the grid at the opening race in Texas. The Andretti Autosport driver did manage a 10th place finish in the season standings, however. Hunter-Reay usually finds a way into the top 10 despite problems during a race. Last year was a bit more of a struggle than most years.

Looking ahead to 2021 Hunter-Reay said, “Yeah, definitely I’m looking forward to that kind of makeup,what feels like a makeup season almost. Hopefully we can do that, barring any variants of COVID that might derail that.”

As for extra pressure coming from a one year deal, Hunter-Reay said that he approaches every race as if it could be his last in the car.

“My whole career has been that way. It’s been, Hey, here is your opportunity. Get in the car, we’ll let you know if you’re going to be in the car the next race. That’s how it always has been for me. That’s why I’ve always had that grab-it-by-the-neck mentality. Even when I had a three-year deal, if I had a bad weekend, it was the end of the year. I have to make sure I’m performing next weekend, otherwise somebody with a big smile is getting ready to jump into my seat. It’s just part of my mentality, part of my makeup. No, that’s how I’ve been operating for 20 years, man. Right at home for me.”

Hunter-Reay has stiff competition from his own team. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta should be fighting for the championship and possibly a win at the Indianapolis 500.

Power Hopes for Better Start

Will Power feels the need to have a better start to the season. 2019 and 2020 both began with a series of issues that hampered his run for the title. He has still managed to win twice in each of the past two years and add to his career pole mark. He is inching closer to Mario Andretti’s career pole total. Power goes into 2021 with same attitude he does every year.

“…same effort that I put in because I had put so much effort in every time. I so badly want to win. Yep, same fire, internal fire burning. Just do as I do, do obviously my best.”

Any extra pressure seems to come from the poor starts of the last two years.

“It actually does feel a little bit that way, youknow, considering we’ve started the last four seasons in a really bad way. It certainly isn’t speed that’s the issue. It’s our bad days are just too bad. Our bad days are DNFs and multiple laps down. They’re not like a 10th place or a seventh place, and that’s our problem. The speed is certainly not. Winning is certainly not. Consistently,whether it’s mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me, you just — we have to have a solid beginning to the season.”

Like Hunter-Reay, Power will compete with Team Penske teammates-Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud for points and podiums.

Pagenaud Looks for Better Qualifying, Race Results

Simon Pagenaud Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Simon Pagenaud had a frustrating season in 2020. Poor qualifying forced him to play catch up during races. he did get a victory in Iowa race 1 after starting last, and his eighth place final standing seems like a decent year. It was not good enough for Pagenaud. What went wrong?

“…a combination of things that didn’t work out the way I wanted. Obviously the car change made a big difference. The lack of testing made a big impact on my season.”

Team Penske has been able to test this pre-season and that should make a big difference in Pagenaud’s year. As for pressure to keep his job in 2022?

“…my personal opinion is just go out there and do the best you can, race hard and be in the moment. The contracts will take care of themselves when they do.It’s too early to tell anyway. But yeah, I always race as hard as I can. My motto is having no regrets ever, so I work hard, and I want to have no regrets. So if I have no regrets, there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue.”

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