Wilson seeks bounce back, first 2014 podium at Fontana finale

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Perhaps one of the more surprising stat lines in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season is that Justin Wilson ranks 16th in points, with no podium finishes and only one top-five finish. This despite most of the paddock acknowledging Wilson is among the top five or six drivers in the series.

So Wilson has a bit of unfinished business this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as he returns to the site where he broke his pelvis a year ago.

He entered this race fourth in points one year ago and the year-on-year drop has been stupefying to say the least. While both he and new engineer Michael Cannon are highly regarded, for whatever reason the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda team has either missed the setup or missed the luck.

As Wilson told me in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago, “It’s been a long, tough season so far. We just have to keep doing the same thing, the right thing, and we believe we’re on the right track. Hopefully it’ll work out.

“There’s been races where you’ve needed pure speed and others where you need luck. Unfortunately we’ve been fast on the races you need luck, and slow on the ones where we need pure speed!”

For Fontana, more of a driver’s track now given the way the track has evolved with the bumps and the need to pace yourself over 500 miles, it’s still a very challenging track. Wilson explained it in his pre-race release:

“It’s a very tough track, because you are right on the edge at 220 miles an hour,” he said. “There is a lot to deal with, with the speeds and the surface. The (pavement) seams can really catch you out. Even getting a bit of a side draft can make a big difference, like it did to me last year.”

Given his talent, it would be a welcome return if Wilson, who’s gotten so much better on ovals the last few years, could end the 2014 season on a high note.

Will Power shows Flavor Flav what time it is in IndyCar: ‘This is the highlight of the weekend’

Will Power Flavor Flav
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – When Flavor Flav unexpectedly showed up in Team Penske’s pits for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix weekend, Will Power knew what time it was.

So the defending NTT IndyCar Series champion dropped it on the man who made oversized clocks as fashion accessories famous.

And he used the kind of wordplay that was the pride of Public Enemy (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rap group led by Chuck D with Flavor Flav as loyal sidekick).

“I said to Flavor Flav, ‘You know, people today are going to have to ‘Fight the Power,’ ” Power said with a broad smirk, referencing one of Public Enemy’s most memorable and strident anthems. “And it was true! They had to ‘Fight the Power.’ ”

With a second place in Detroit, the No. 12 Dallara-Chevy driver earned his best finish since last September and impressed a musical hero who apparently attended his first IndyCar race this weekend and promptly fell in love with the sport.

After being interviewed by NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee during the Peacock qualifying broadcast Saturday, Flavor Flav made the rounds. He met with Roger Penske in Team Penske’s at-track headquarters and also ran into Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (who was at the track Saturday).

“I have a great picture of Roger Penske, the governor and Flavor Flav,” Detroit Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker said. “It’s a great one. I’ll cherish that one for a long time. It’s pretty precious.”

With the Detroit GP holding nightly free concerts in Hart Plaza inside the race course, Flav made an impromptu appearance to freestyle at Big Boi’s show Friday before also showing up during Steve Aoki’s Saturday night set.

He then rode with Power and his wife, Liz, in a pickup truck around the 1.645-mile street course during driver introductions Sunday morning.

Flav was wearing a red No. 12 Will Power shirt that the defending series champion believes was purchased at a track merchandise trailer.

“That is the highlight of the weekend,” he said. “Flavor Flav was wearing my shirt, man.”

It was a dream come true for the two-time IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner. Power, 42, grew up listening to Public Enemy with his buddies in Toowoomba, Australia, and they went nuts when he posted photos with Flavor Flav to his personal Facebook page.

“My friends are like, ‘Dude, you should just quit racing now. You have made it to the top,’ ” Power said. “We all listened to Public Enemy, and they would never believe that I actually would be hanging out with Flavor Flav. That is nuts. I’ll have to go Vegas to hang out with him. Maybe we’ll do a rap together.”

“Yeeaaah, boy!” third-place finisher Felix Rosenqvist, who apparently gave “It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back” a few spins while growing up in Sweden, chimed in during the postrace news conference.

The only disappointment for Power was coming up 1.1843 seconds short of beating Alex Palou.

Flav had promised to celebrate on the podium if Power had won the race.

“He is the most positive dude you will ever meet,” Power said. “Pretty cool experience. Pretty cool to put it on your personal Facebook.

“All your friends that you went to school with, they’re like, ‘Man this dude is big-time, he’s hanging out with Flavor Flav. ‘I sat next to Ice-T at dinner. I have also had dinner with Slash from Guns N’ Roses. I wish I got videos of those ones as well so I could put it on the personal Facebook

“No one cares about race cars or that I won the Indy 500. It’s like, ‘You had dinner with Slash? You know Flavor Flav?’ Yeah!”

Power already has in mind some future musical guests he’d like to meet, starting with another of Detroit’s own.

“I’m more of a ’90s rap guy, but if I met Eminem, that would also be epic,” Power said. “Ice Cube’s the one, man. If I could meet Ice Cube or Snoop Dogg in Long Beach. Why doesn’t someone bring them to Long Beach? Maybe they should have an Ice Cube day. That would be dope.”