The man behind the sculptures: William Behrends’ presence endures for Borg-Warner Trophy, and Giants legends


Being a witness to history is one thing; creating a tribute to history is another.

For sculptor William Behrends of Tryon, N.C., he’s been fortunate enough to do both.

Behrends is in the process of completing his 25th face on the Borg-Warner Trophy this winter; he’s working on the mold of Ryan Hunter-Reay that will be revealed in early December at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Borg-Warner faces, though, stand in stark size contrast to his other key sculptures, which fans and onlookers will see displayed prominently outside AT&T Park in San Francisco starting with tonight’s Game 3 of the 2014 World Series.

Mays statue.

Behrends created four sculptures of Giants legends Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, which all stand around the perimeter of AT&T Park.

While the Borg-Warner faces are less than the size of an egg, the Giants sculptures stand a life-sized 9½ feet tall, on 5-foot high granite pedestals.

Behrends explained the challenges in creating two entirely separate sculptures, given the size and material changes.

“It took me a while to do this – doing the first few years, it took some time to get comfortable,” Behrends told MotorSportsTalk when addressing his integration into doing the faces on the Borg-Warner.

“By 1990, I’d been doing sculpture full-time since the early ‘70s, and a big part of it was portraits. You have to create the anatomy and structure of the head and face. That’s no different in this scale.

“In this scale, the extra challenge is to make it read from a distance. You have to make it such a way, so you can tell who it is from a distance. You have to capture that personality and expression, and that’s something that I’ve gotten better at.

“If you have a life-size portrait and meet it eye level, it’s a different challenge. This, you have to make it right.”

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the year-to-year evolution for the Indianapolis 500 winners is that Behrends works from the same piece of clay, and molds a likeness from that every year.

The image is put in the clay, which eventually leads to a mold, and a positive copy of the image. It’s roughly a three-step process, Behrends said, and there’s no way to define the exact number of hours for each face.

Behrends works on Kanaan’s face.

This year’s shift has been from Tony Kanaan, who won last year, to Hunter-Reay.

“That’s one of the first adjustments I made, so I could carve away a lot of the nose and have more clay elsewhere,” Behrends explained.

“I like both of them for different reasons. What’s distinct about their faces is vastly different.

“RHR has a very strong jaw, and there’s something about his eyes and mouth that’s very distinct. It took a while that first day to get from one to another because they’re so different.”

Kanaan has often joked about his nose size throughout his illustrious 15+ year career and Behrends said that a likeness, not a caricature, is key to the molds.

“Last year, because Tony’s (nose) is so distinctive, a caricature would be easier. But you need a likeness, and that comes pretty quick,” he said. “You try to infuse some character and nuance/expression. That’s about the challenge every year. What makes it live, takes the time. That first part is challenging.”

Luyendyk in ’90, then ’97.

Though Behrends didn’t indicate a favorite face, per se, he did say he was a big fan of Arie Luyendyk’s molds. Luyendyk won the 500 twice – in 1990 and 1997 – and other than a noticeable change in hair between the two wins there wasn’t much in the way of refining that was needed.

For multiple ‘500 winners, Behrends said you still take each driver as a “new winner;” that means he’ll start from scratch even if a driver won back-to-back ‘500s.

While the Borg-Warner face remains an annual project, the statues at AT&T were one-time affairs, but ones with a lasting impact at one of Major League Baseball’s most iconic parks.

Behrends worked in partnership with senior Giants officials Larry Baer and Peter McGowan to cast molds and then begin to immortalize Giants legends Mays, McCovey, Marichal and Cepeda.

For Behrends, who’s still a Giants fan today albeit one living on the East Coast, it provided an incredible opportunity to spend time with them, get to know them, and then put the pieces together.

“Mays was my hero when I was growing up; I was Willie Mays,” Behrends said. “I modeled my stance, pattern and everything. To see him play in Chicago, and have distinct memories of him, then to meet with him, talk baseball with him… you have to pinch yourself.”

The Mays statue sits outside the front ballpark entrance; McCovey’s is, naturally, in McCovey Cove with Marichal’s and Cepeda’s also outside the ballpark.

source: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Getting Marichal’s signature high-leg kick to work as a statue, and be held down firmly, provided one of Behrends’ greatest challenges.

“That’s something Peter wanted was that pose,” he said. “We found a yoga instructor, and he couldn’t do it. Marichal was quite an athlete – just that delivery was quite an athletic feat. That sculpture sits on one leg, so it has to be really strong. It’s the same with the Mays; it weighs a ton, but there’s nothing under the center of gravity. Strong, stainless steel structure. I didn’t see it – but somewhere there’s a picture of 8-10 fans after the last time they won the Series. But it passed the test.”

As Behrends reflects, he isn’t slowing down any – he just appreciates the opportunity every year.

“It’s a tremendous challenge – one you take seriously because you’re their biographer,” he says. “Even after they’re gone, you’ll see that imagery. I take it very seriously. I take it the best I can.”

IndyCar Power Rankings: Alex Palou still first as Newgarden, Ferrucci make Indy 500 jumps

NBC IndyCar power rankings
Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images Network

The biggest race of the NTT IndyCar Series season (and in the world) is over, and NBC Sports’ power rankings look very similar to the finishing results in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Pole-sitter Alex Palou entered the Indy 500 at the top and remains there after his impressive rebound to a fourth after a midway crash in the pits. Top two Indianapolis 500 finishers Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson also improved multiple spots in the power rankings just as they gained ground during the course of the 500-mile race on the 2.5-mile oval. Though Alexander Rossi dropped a position, he still shined at the Brickyard with a fifth place finish.

Santino Ferrucci, the other driver in the top five at Indy, made his first appearance in the 2023 power rankings this year and now will be tasked with keeping his A.J. Foyt Racing team toward the front as the IndyCar circuit makes its debut on a new layout..

Heading into the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of downtown, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through six of 17 races this year (with previous ranking in parenthesis):

  1. Alex Palou (1): Three consecutive top 10 finishes at the Indy 500, and yet the 2021 IndyCar champion still seems slightly snake-bitten at the Brickyard. A few different circumstances and a dash of experience, and Palou could have three Indy 500 wins. But he at least has the points lead.
  2. Marcus Ericsson (4): Some want to say the Indy 500 runner-up’s unhappiness with IndyCar race control was sour grapes, but the Swede had a legitimate gripe about the consistency of red flag protocols. Still a magnificent May for Ericsson, especially while the questions swirl about his future.
  3. Josef Newgarden (7): Strategist Tim Cindric and team did a fantastic job catapulting Newgarden from 17th into contention, and the two-time series champion did the rest. Particularly on a late three-wide pass for the lead, it can’t be overstated how brilliant the Team Penske driver was in his finest hour.
  4. Alexander Rossi (3): He winds up being the best Arrow McLaren finisher in a mostly disappointing Indy 500 for a team that seemed poised to become dominant. With a third in the GMR GP and a fifth in the Indy 500, this easily was Rossi’s best May since his second place in 2019.
  5. Pato O’Ward (2): Unlike last year, the Arrow McLaren star sent it this time against Ericsson and came out on the wrong side (and with lingering bitterness toward his Chip Ganassi Racing rival). The lead mostly was the wrong place to be at Indy, but O’Ward managed to be in first for a race-high 39 laps.
  6. Scott Dixon (5): He overcame brutal handling issues from a wicked set of tires during his first stint, and then the team struggled with a clutch problem while posting a typical Dixon-esque finish on “a very tough day.” The six-time champion hopes things are cleaner the rest of the season after the first three months.
  7. Santino Ferrucci (NR): Pound for pound, he and A.J. Foyt Racing had the best two weeks at Indianapolis. Ferrucci said Wednesday he still believes he had “by far the best car at the end” and if not for the timing of the final yellow and red, he would have won the Indy 500. Now the goal is maintaining into Detroit.
  8. Colton Herta (NR): He was the best in a mostly forgettable month for Andretti Autosport and now is facing a pivotal weekend. Andretti has reigned on street courses so far this season, and few have been better on new circuits than Herta. A major chance for his first victory since last year’s big-money extension.
  9. Scott McLaughlin (6): Ran in the top 10 at Indy after a strong opening stint but then lost positions while getting caught out on several restarts. A penalty for unintentionally rear-ending Simon Pagenaud in O’Ward’s crash then sent him to the rear, but McLaughlin still rallied for 14th. Detroit will be a fresh start.
  10. Rinus VeeKay (10): Crashing into Palou in the pits was less than ideal. But a front row start and 10th-place finish in the Indy 500 still were 2023 highlights for VeeKay in what’s been the toughest season of his career. The Ed Carpenter Racing cars have been slow on road and street courses, so Detroit is another test.

Falling out: Will Power (8), Felix Rosenqvist (9), Romain Grosjean (10)


PRESEASON: Josef Newgarden is a favorite to win third championship

RACE 1: Pato O’Ward to first; Newgarden drops out after St. Pete

RACE 2: O’Ward stays firmly on top of standings after Texas

RACE 3: Marcus Ericsson leads powerhouses at the top

RACE 4: Grosjean, Palou flex in bids for first victory

RACE 5: Alex Palou carrying all the momentum into Indy 500