Column: IndyCar’s quirkiest driver surges into points lead after Detroit win

Will Power IndyCar Detroit Auto Racing
Posted at 3:53 AM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 03:53:51-04

DETROIT (AP) — Will Power is one of four rowdy Australian brothers who all chose wildly different career paths. One is an accountant, another is a break dancer and the youngest is a well-recognized comedian.

As for Power himself? He’s a famous racecar driver. And yes, his name really is Will Power.

But after an Indianapolis 500 win, a championship and the infamous double-bird incident, one should already be familiar with IndyCar’s quirkiest driver.

Power on Sunday cycled back to the top of the IndyCar standings by scoring his first win of the season at the final Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle. The race is moving next year from the island that has hosted the event since 1992 back to the downtown course that once hosted Formula One.

It was an important victory for Power, who had the race won a year ago until a flukey late sequence. It was the 100th victory for Chevrolet since its 2012 return to IndyCar and came in Detroit, in the shadow of General Motors’ headquarters. Detroit is also team owner Roger Penske’s longtime residence and the Penske group is the race promoter.

But the victory also stood for so much more personally for Power, who at 41 is quietly stringing together one of the best starts of his career. In his 17th full season, Power had not finished lower than fourth this year before Team Penske slogged through the Indianapolis 500 and he wound up 15th.

He rebounded, though, with Sunday’s victory and now all three Team Penske drivers have won this season. Power sees the start to this season as a shift in his mindset — he’s a deep thinker who can shift conversations from conspiracy theories (involving aliens and the like) to the meaning of life or his dissatisfaction with IndyCar race control without missing a beat — and perfecting “that sort of mental place you need to be in.”

“It looks like a big change, but it’s not a big change. I’ve had years of this. I’m so experienced at it, so I know it so well,” Power said. “I understand the game so well. I’m just executing as you should at my experience level. You’re getting everything right, like all the details.”

In Detroit, Power was once again able to win in front of the baby brother he had not seen in over three years. He’s closest to Damien, the comedian who is two years his junior, but pandemic restrictions has kept Power from his family in Australia.

Damien Power surprised the racing superstar — with a huge assist from Power’s wife, Liz, — by showing up unexpectedly at the Indy 500 and staying through the race in Detroit. The two are close, and the brothers both sound and look very much alike, and Damien deadpanned his reaction to the Detroit win in a live television interview immediately after Power took the checkered flag.

“What they don’t know is that I get into the car late at night and I make a few adjustments,” Damien Power told NBC Sports. “I change the oil and I pump up the tires. He always goes on about tire pressure and I’m like, ‘The higher the better.’ And I pumped them up, so everytime they win, I don’t know why they don’t listen to me more. I get in there and alter the car and it seems to be working.”

Power was thrilled to have his brother on hand for the celebration and pointedly explained that Damien “works as hard at his craft” of being a comedian as he does as a professional athlete. And he was thrilled to take his third career celebratory dip in the Belle Isle fountain with his No. 12 crew, his 5-year-old son, Beau, and finally Damien, who did a face-first swan dive-style flop into the shallow water.

“If you’re gonna do it, go all the way, I always say,” said Damien.

Will Power now agrees with that theory.

On Monday, he led a caravan of Corvettes from Belle Isle to downtown Detroit to ceremoniously pass the flag to the new race site. Then it was off to the airport, where he and his brother parted ways: Damien headed back to Australia, Will off to the remaining 10 races on the IndyCar schedule and a run at a second title.

He’s content. Still a little crazy, but content with who he is and where he’ll land in the IndyCar record books.

“I’d say there’s freedom in not caring -- not having to add to anything you’ve done. That’s the feeling I have. I could stop now and be satisfied with what I’ve done,” he said. “I could stop now and it would be OK. But I’m still performing at a really high level, probably better than I ever have. So just enjoying that. Trying to extract the most out of it is the enjoying part of it.”