Will Power's championship hopes might rest on successful weekend in Detroit

Robert Laberge

Will Power is off to the worst start of his IndyCar career, meaning that he needs a win in one of two races this weekend in Detroit if he hopes to return to contention.

If Will Power expects to become a championship contender this season, it has to start this weekend on the streets of Detroit at Belle Isle.

Entering the 2013 IndyCar season, Power was a popular championship pick. And coming off three seasons where he led the paddock in victories and was the championship runner-up each time, Power seemed to be a pretty competent bet.

But through five races this season, nothing has gone right, leaving Power remarkably 14th in the championship rankings, 79 points behind leader Marco Andretti.

Power has had fast cars, judging from his pole position at St. Petersburg and a 6.8 average starting position this season. But getting the job done once the green flag drops has been a different matter entirely with Power averaging a 16.8 finish through five races -- by far the worst start of his career.

But Power, long known as a mistake-prone driver, hasn't been the culprit this season. He's been run over from behind by JR Hildebrand under caution at St. Petersburg, caught fire from the middle of the pack in Sao Paulo and forced to pit from the top-10 due to a fuel pump issue at Indianapolis.

The most dominant driver in IndyCar over the past five seasons has just been riddled with the worst luck imaginable and it leaves him on the edge of contention, with 14 races still left to be completed.

And if things are going to turn around for Power, it has to start this weekend with two street course races in Detroit. Power once thrived on these types of tracks, picking up 17 of his 18-career wins on road and street courses.

The Aussie is more than capable of going out there and sweeping the weekend, and with both races paying full championship points, doing so would place him right back in the title hunt. But it has to start with qualifying.

While Power's 6.8 average starting spot is impressive, it's not the 3.9 he averaged from 2010-2012.

Power is at his best on road and streets when he gets out in clear air and knocks off near-qualifying laps during the race. Most of Power's misfortune has come at the hands of starting away from the front row, like at Barber, when he was unable to compromise track position heading into the first few corners.

The Team Penske ace is not accustomed to running in the middle of pack and this season has made that vulnerability painfully obvious.

If Power can begin to qualify on the front row with any consistency, the wins will come and the championship will come down to catching some breaks from current leaders Andretti, Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves.

Ryan Hunter-Reay faced a 57-point deficit out of the lead and rallied to win four of the last 10 races to steal the championship from Power in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway.

Power currently finds himself 79 points out but with the assumed ability to win up to seven of the final 14 races (the number of road and street courses), the championship isn't as far away as it might seem.

So while climbing over 13 other drivers is certainly a tall task, it won't matter later in the season if Power can't pick off five or six of by Sunday afternoon -- and that should be his primary goal entering the Duel in Detroit this weekend.

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