Author: Chris Estrada

Power a champion at long last. Photo: Getty Images

Happy Birthday to reigning IndyCar champion Will Power

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A day after one of IndyCar’s greatest champions, Mario Andretti, celebrated his birthday, IndyCar’s current champion, Will Power, is doing the same this Sunday.

The pride of Toowoomba, Australia is now 34 years old and also less than a month away from starting his title defense after finally breaking through last Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway in California.

Perseverance is the word that comes to mind to describe Power’s career so far. He was one of many drivers with uncertain futures following the North American open-wheel merger of 2008, but while his Champ Car team did not make the jump to IndyCar (Indy Racing League), Power himself did.

Despite having to get used to new equipment and tracks, Power did enough in 2008 (including a win in Champ Car’s finale at Long Beach) to earn an opportunity from Team Penske the next year to fill-in for Helio Castroneves while the latter dealt with federal tax evasion charges.

Power finished sixth in the 2009 opener at St. Petersburg in Castroneves’ No. 3 car. Castroneves came back for the next race in Long Beach after being acquitted, but Power was not pushed aside. He would make six starts for Penske that season, and rewarded Roger Penske’s faith in him with a win in Edmonton.

His 2009 campaign ended prematurely with a nasty practice crash at Sonoma that fractured two vertebrae and concussed him. But that did not keep Penske from awarding him a full-time program from 2010 onward.

You probably know the rest of the story from here. Power endured three consecutive championship near-misses from 2010-2012, but established himself as part of IndyCar’s core group of drivers. And in 2014, Power at last achieved his dream of becoming a champion, earning three wins and seven podiums along the way.

This year, Power takes the champion’s No. 1 with him into a season where his biggest competition could come from his own team. In addition to the aforementioned Castroneves, there’s a resurgent Juan Pablo Montoya and now, a stellar newcomer to the Penske stable in Simon Pagenaud.

But Power is ready for the challenge, wherever and whoever it comes from.

“[The championship was] something I worked really hard for the last 15 years,” Power said recently at IndyCar Media Day. “To finally get it, get the monkey off the back, yeah, it’s given me more motivation this year. I don’t have to worry about that. I know I can do it.”

We wish Power a Happy Birthday today.

James Courtney wins season-opening V8 Supercars feature in Adelaide; ex-NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose 12th

V8 Supercars Clipsal 500 - Race 3
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Following sprint race wins from defending series champion Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney scored the feature win earlier this morning at the V8 Supercars’ season-opening event in Adelaide, Australia.

Courtney repelled a hard charge from Shane van Gisbergen in the final laps to win by three-quarters of a second. Courtney’s teammate, Garth Tander, rounded out the feature podium.

Thanks to his feature win and runner-up finish behind Coulthard in Race 2, Courtney took an early lead in the Supercars championship over Coulthard by a 17-point margin. Reigning V8 king Whincup leaves Adelaide fifth in the standings (42 points behind Courtney) after a win, a 21st in Race 2, and then a fourth in the feature.

As for ex-NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose, he finished 12th in the feature after cracking the Top-10 on the grid. He finished 16th in each of the preceding two races in Adelaide.

Ambrose steadily made up ground throughout the 250km feature, but a fuel strategy did not work out as well as he and his DJR Team Penske squad had hoped.

“We really did have a Top 10 car today, but our fuel strategy did not work as we put in more than we needed to and it tumbled us down the order a bit too far,” said Ambrose, who returns to V8 racing this season after a nine-year run in NASCAR. “The qualifying this morning was a big lift to me and the team. The DJR Team Penske boys were working hard and I felt the car was a better race car today, for sure.”

The V8s return to action in an non-points event during the March 13-15 Australian Grand Prix weekend at Albert Park in Melbourne. The next championship event is March 27-29 in Ambrose’s home state of Tasmania.

F1: NBCSN’s Will Buxton recaps Day 1 of Barcelona test (VIDEO)

F1 Testing In Barcelona - Day One
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NBCSN Formula One insider Will Buxton is on the ground at Circuit de Catalunya for the second F1 preseason test of 2015. Here’s his recap of Day 1 of the four-day session in Barcelona, featuring interviews with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams tester Susie Wolff (who was involved in a crash today with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr).