McLaughlin, Power mull risk vs reward in team battle

Will Power found satisfaction, a second place and a climb to within a single point of the NTT IndyCar Series championship lead at Barber Motorsports Park — just not the win that he’s been coveting, which went instead to Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who he tailed most of the way, on the same three-stopping strategy, after they had qualified 1-2.

“Yeah, very pleased with the podium. Actually made a little mistake there in the race, went off. It’s very rare for me. I was very disappointed in myself,” said Power. “We had such a gap that [when] I came back on — I couldn’t believe it — I only lost one [place].”

Multiple cautions in the rough-and-tumble race softened that blow, though, and Power actually briefly managed to get ahead of McLaughlin on a restart when they were both were forced back into the pack on strategy, only for the No. 3 to quickly return the favor on the No. 12.

“I think we raced each other as hard as we normally do,” McLaughlin said. “We were smart about it. I think we had big picture [in mind].

“I knew the pass with Will, that battle with Will when we were 20th or something, that was important for being positioned right if it all came our way — like it did in the end. It was effectively for the race win, you could say.”

“It was aggressive. It was combative, actually,” Power said of the mid-pack tussle. “The thing is, when you’ve been running at the front in very clean air and hard, you get back there with all that dirty air, how much the car moves around, yeah, you kind of are not ready for it when it first restarts. You got to get used to the car being very much on top of the road again.

“You’re also thinking in your head, like, Scott and I kind of racing potentially for the win, but we’re in the pack. The risk versus reward, you’re kind of trying to decide.”

“We always race fairly. It’s hard,” McLaughlin mused. “He probably cut me a little bit of slack. He still tried pretty hard. Yeah, I always enjoy racing Will. A lot of transparency there between the two of us — even the start of the race, for us to get through [Turns 1-2]. Ultimately, him being in second was great for me. It’s just working together, which is really nice.”

Power acknowledged the circumstances of racing a teammate, especially in the aftermath of the push-to-pass controversy that had engulfed Team Penske last week, weighed on him.

“I think I wasn’t aggressive enough,” he admitted. “I should have worked harder to keep Scott behind. I didn’t block him. With everything that’s happened this week, I just didn’t want to bloody have two Penske cars off in Turn 1. I just kind of let it go.

“Yeah, I was happy for the team to get that [win], though. I’ve been around long enough where you actually are happy for the team. You’re not so selfish. When you’re young like him, you just got to go.”

Story originally appeared on Racer