until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Why Power’s IndyCar crew was so desperate for another title

by Jack Benyon
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Will Power’s second IndyCar title – eight years after his first, at the age of 41, and following a run of seasons in which he had appeared to be fading – was a remarkable story.

And there’s someone else beyond Power who deserves plenty of credit for it, and can reveal some of the secrets of Power’s and Team Penske’s success – including why it meant more than the average championship win to all those involved.

Power’s race engineer David Faustino – who is also the lead engineer heading up the direction of the Penske IndyCar group – has been with Power since 2007. Yes, you read that correctly, 2022 was their 16th season together!

Faustino engineered Power’s first top-level win – in 2007 for Walker Racing/Team Australia in Las Vegas in Champ Car – and then stuck with Power as the team merged into KV Racing Technology for 2008 and joined Penske with him the following season.

“I don’t think we make change here at Penske just for the sake of it,” Faustino tells The Race in an exclusive interview, discussing what has made their relationship so long lasting.

Will Power Firestone Grand Prix Of Monterey By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M70807 (1)

“My first interview here with Tim [Cindric, Team Penske president], he wanted to know if I was coming here just to deal with Will Power.

“My answer to that was, ‘No, but I would like to, because I think we can offer a good combination for the team’. We got the opportunity to be together.

“There’s good history, continuity and experience. It’s very easy for us to draw back on, ‘Hey, you remember Edmonton, 2011?’ Or, you remember this? Did you remember that? So it’s nice when you can have that history to remember things together, and you don’t have to work as hard at that aspect of it.

“For us, there really hasn’t been much reason to make a change. Obviously, for myself, it’s just great to be able to work with somebody with his calibre and continue that.

“I think maybe there’s even some more personal motivation: I want to make sure he gets what he deserves before his career is over.”

In contrast to how long Power and Faustino have been together, there was a lot of change at Penske in 2022. Josef Newgarden got Eric Leichtle as his engineer, someone who hadn’t been a race engineer in IndyCar before, after Gavin Ward left for Arrow McLaren SP.

Scott McLaughlin also lost his engineer Jonathan Diugiud to the Porsche sportscar programme so, with Penske having slimmed down to three cars as Simon Pagenaud left for Meyer Shank Racing, McLaughlin got Ben Bretzman from Pagenaud’s crew.

Penske’s last two IndyCar seasons

Year Wins Podiums Poles Points positions
2021 3 10 5 2nd, 8th, 9th, 14th
2022 9 13 8 1st, 2nd, 4th

While that change had the potential to cause issues via inexperience, Penske had its best IndyCar season in a long time. Faustino says the biggest reason for that was the gains Chevrolet made with its improved drivability that meshed with Penske’s set-up perfectly.

But the new engineers also brought some fresh perspective. The result was that Penske won more than half the races, despite having one fewer car than its closest rival Chip Ganassi Racing.

“There has been a lot of flux with IndyCar staff, because we were kind of the hub for all of that stuff. So I think, in general, the last couple of years have been tough in that respect,” says Faustino.

“We got Eric Leichtle [pictured below] in to be Josef’s engineer and then we got a couple of performance engineers from other teams, and even internally from our NASCAR programme where things got shook up a little bit and everybody’s been extremely valuable.

Engineer Eric Leichtle Firestone Grand Prix Of St Petersburg By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M51754

“We’ve kind of staffed up a little bit to meet the current demands.

“What we’re finding is the level of competition in IndyCar has grown so much that you just need a bit more staffing.

“Especially when it comes to back-to-back races, tonnes of preparation, simulator testing, all this stuff, you can’t do it anymore with [just] driver, race engineer, data guy.

“You have to have some pretty good staff and we made some commitment this year to get staffed up on a better level.

“The group is just a very strong group. The teamwork here is really strong, each of us wants to win individually, once we get assigned to our cars.

“But, when we’re at the shop, or in the off-season, even individual race prep, we’re not just working on our car, or each person is maybe working on some category for the team where support is needed.

“The team’s doing a really good job in terms of just the personalities working together, drivers working together, engineers working well together. And I think that teamwork has been very, very good this year.

“I’ve been here for a while and seen quite a few groups and this is one of the strongest I think I’ve seen in terms of the teamwork that we’re all in for.”

Will Power Firestone Grand Prix Of Monterey By James Black Largeimagewithoutwatermark M71014

Faustino is right to flag how you have to have the staff to keep up with the competition. McLaren adding Ward and the more recent news that Rahal Letterman Lanigan has signed ex-McLaren F1 engineer Stefano Sordo as its technical director shows the level the opposition is adding.

With more and more work being done each year on the Chevrolet and Honda simulators by teams, some squads are bringing set-ups totally imagined in the simulator and taking advantage of it. That’s just one area where technology is advancing the engineering in IndyCar.

But back to Faustino and Power, one of the key reasons for Power’s success here – totally the opposite to Newgarden winning five races – is that one race win and consistency was enough for him to prevail.

A huge talking point has been Power’s tweaked mental approach where he has managed to worry less about results and more about what he can control in the car, off the back of what he believes was a string of seasons where things outside of his control derailed his form or his title chances, or both.

So, what does Faustino make of this approach, as the person working with him closest for the longest?

“I think I kind of saw the same old Will in terms of qualifying,” says Faustino.

“Always wants to be on pole and I think, being so close to the pole record, he was definitely – I’ll call it stressed – about qualifying as good as he can and trying to pick up poles.

“To me, that was not really a different Will than I’ve seen before. Elevating over the last couple years, just because he wanted to hit that milestone.

Dave Faustino After Will Power Suffers Mechanical Problems Largeimagewithoutwatermark M9333

“But certainly from the race outcome perspective, I think in the past, if we didn’t win, we were pretty upset, and if we had a chance to win and didn’t win, he would be a bit more upset.

“He has said it, but certainly we’ve all seen it, where just the way he feels about top five or podium finishes this year was better and I think he carried positivity from those top fives and podiums, as long as we could be consistent with them.

“He didn’t stress as much about absolute wins and I think a lot of that comes from a mindset of knowing where the series is at in terms of the level of competition.

“You’re in a series where we have so many potential winners. So, chances are, you’re not going to have one driver run away with it.

“You kind of have to wait for that to develop during the season. At some point there, you could see that Josef was actually capable of that, with five wins. He put himself in the category of years past where the level of competition wasn’t as fierce. So it’s pretty amazing for him to do that.

“But usually, in these situations, you have to start the season with that mindset of: there’s a lot of potential winners here, you’ve just got to be consistent.

“Until you see who the players are, and that often takes you into the halfway, two-thirds mark of the season, unless someone really runs away with it right at the beginning of the year, but no one did this year at the beginning.

“So I think that that’s where it starts. He certainly had a shift in that mindset. It was good, because he was positive about results that weren’t wins and it keeps everybody going.”

Will Power Firestone Grand Prix Of Monterey By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M70893

Whether it’s cycling together or discussing car set-ups at seemingly inopportune times like Power’s wedding day or on the podium just after winning this year’s championship, no one can argue with this team’s commitment.

Faustino may have been there all along but there’s people who started on Power’s car near the beginning of his Penske tenure, have moved to other cars and series, and are now back.

It was clear as the championship came down to the wire that Power had a lucid realisation that it’s not only him who has lost championships over the years, his crew has too, and he’s at a stage in his career where he doesn’t worry too much about how his career is judged by others, but that another title would help soothe old wounds.

Prior to 2022, he was just a one-time champion and a four-time series runner-up, with the consecutive narrow defeats across 2010-12 particularly painful. In all those years Power topped the pole position charts, and in the first two he also won the most races.

“I think a lot of us in the team felt the same way about him,” Faustino adds.

“We’ve finished second in so many championships in our early career here at Penske where we’d win five or six races a year and still not deliver on championships.

“He was the quickest guy in the series for so long. We had so many poles, so many good starts, and not delivering on as many championships as I feel like his potential is, the potential was for more championships, I think a lot of us felt the same way about him.

“We were trying to do our best to get him another championship, because of the calibre of driver he is.

Will Power And Felix Rosenqvist Firestone Grand Prix Of Monterey By James Black Largeimagewithoutwatermark M70988

“It certainly was nice for him to say that about us and the crew because there are some guys in our crew that have been with him almost as long as I have, or guys that have sort of cycled around here at Penske and wound up back on his car.

“So, myself and Robbie Atkinson, the data engineer on our car, have been with Will the entire time and then a couple of mechanics have definitely been around the block.

“But I really feel like we were thinking along the same way for him as well, from our perspective.”

Power told The Race at the end of the season that he can see himself racing in IndyCar for four more years, maximum, so there’s still chance to match his great rival Scott Dixon’s title tally if he gets his skates on! But you get the feeling Power has moved past comparing his career to others and he’s at peace with however his time in IndyCar ends.

That being said, this second title was one that Faustino desperately wanted for Power, and vice-versa. There was certainly some extra motivation there for when it came down to the wire.

Faustino may credit Chevrolet for being behind the upgrade that unlocked Penske’s performances this year but, as the engineer overseeing the group, he can take great praise in being a huge part of a team that – in a series we constantly label one of, if not the, most competitive in elite motorsport – won half the races.

It feels like this title will be rated more highly by the wider fanbase and paddock in years to come. So too should the achievements of Power and Faustino.

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