Associated Press

As Will Power prepares to return, it’s worth noting his “Sheer Force”

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Will Power will be back in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet this weekend at the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, following a successful test last week at Barber Motorsports Park after the lingering effects of his inner ear infection sidelined him from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener.

This is only the second time Power has missed a race due to injury in his now 11-year IndyCar career, dating to his series debut in Champ Car in 2005 (Sonoma 2009, he suffered a back injury after accident in practice).

It should be no surprise that Power will be keen to recover and get back on track in Phoenix – it’s pretty much been the story of his career up to this point.

y648Over the weekend I had a read of David Malsher’s “The Sheer Force of Will Power,” published by HarperCollins Australia: a biography of the 2014 series champion as chronicled by the Motorsport.com U.S. editor, and my former colleague when we both worked at RACER Magazine.

To call it a tour de force is an understatement… I always try to measure myself against the best writers in this business, and what Malsher put together is arguably one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, regardless of sport. The fact it isn’t all praise and instead is a roller coaster ride that parallels Power’s career makes it all the better.

Power, whose dogged determination, relentless pursuit of race wins and brutal honesty and self-reflection has helped drive him to where he is today, has fought through a lot more than a lot of folks probably realize.

It’s that desire to be the best through sheer will – no pun intended there – that has not only helped him rise to the level he is in IndyCar today, but also drive him to be even better with each passing race.

And the things that stood out to me throughout the book were how many times it could have been taken away from him, and yet it didn’t.

Then a rising star in Formula 3 and Formula Holden when coming up in Australia, Power’s move to Europe nearly left him high and dry altogether with no ride and no money despite his obvious speed and talent. It was only thanks to some investment – as chronicled in great detail by Malsher – from his key partners and from Power’s countryman Mark Webber that Power was able to progress into 2005 and make his Champ Car debut on home soil in Surfers’ Paradise later that year.

Then, after Power’s career seemed at a crossroads following the loss of the Team Australia funds when the Surfers’ round went away post-2008, there was the Penske interview process when Power became an option to fill in for the then-sidelined Helio Castroneves, who was going through tax evasion charges. This is as close as most of us in the industry will get to seeing how the “Penske perfect” process works, and from Power’s own perspective, he seemed less than confident he’d get the chance. As we all know however, he did, and that one-off fill-in role for Castroneves led to the part-time third car, and his eventual full-time ride.

There’s also the brutal, graphic detail Power had to endure when being involved in the 15-car horrific accident at Las Vegas in October 2011, the race that took the life of Dan Wheldon. Without going into details – I’ll let the book do that – I’ll just say that Power’s strength helped him through what was an incredibly jarring moment from both personal and professional standpoints. Malsher and I were both at Las Vegas that day, and we had to compartmentalize the pain we were feeling as humans and then put together the next issue of the magazine that following week as journalists, with the Wheldon tribute as the lead-off point. Little did I know, certainly, the pain and agony some of the other drivers were facing at the time.

Where Power’s M.O. took a shift and has probably served him better to this day was in mid-2013, as he fought through a roller coaster season where he wasn’t getting any sort of results. It’s here Malsher makes the key point that focusing only on results misses the point; it’s the why results don’t happen that is more notable here. But with Power out of the title fight and less concerned with points, his stock rose within the Team Penske framework and led to some of his best drives – a dominant win at Auto Club Speedway stood tallest, to be honest, because it came in the season finale where each of the previous three years he’d lost the title in cruel fashion.

So 2014 at Auto Club – where he finally won the title – serves as both the starting and ending point of the book. How Power’s preparation was throughout that weekend and how relieved he and his family (wife Liz and Liz’s mom Kathy Cannon play an integral role throughout the book) was with this ultimate result.

Bottom line, Power’s road to that title wasn’t easy but he wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s a great read, highly recommended.

Penske Acura duo of Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves win third straight

Ricky Taylor Helio Castroneves
IMSA
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Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves made it three consecutive victories in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to close in on the points lead in the DPi class.

After Castroneves started on the pole position in No. 7 Acura, Taylor took the checkered flag by 0.607 seconds ahead of Felipe Nasr’s No. 31 Cadillac.

Aside from being three victories in a row for Castroneves and Taylor (who also won at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta), it was the third consecutive victory for Team Penske at Mid-Ohio, which is the home racetrack for Acura.

Penske is in its final season with Acura, which announced this week that it’ll field DPi cars with Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing next season.

“I’m just proud,” Taylor told NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch. “Helio did an amazing job at the start, kept his cool. It’s not easy starting on the outside, but he settled in, picked people off and put us in a position to jump the 31 on a stop.

“Then I felt like we were the strongest car on track when we had new tires. It was a real team effort.”

Helio Castroneves picked up Ricky Taylor and carried him several yards down the pit lane in celebration.

Helio Castroneves carries Ricky Taylor away from their No. 7 Acura while celebrating their victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (IMSA).

“This guy, I’m so proud of him,” said Castroneves, who will be returning to the NTT IndyCar Series next weekend. “The entire Team Penske, Acura, it’s a team, and today it was all about being cool.

“Last year, I had a little issue and lost my cool at the start of the race, and we threw the race away, so this time, if something happens, I know we’re going to come back, and here we are in victory circle.”

With three races remaining this season for the premier class, Castroneves and Taylor have moved to third in the standings, five points behind Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, who finished third in the No. 10 Cadillac at Mid-Ohio.

Ranked three points behind in second is Pipo Derani, who is Nasr’s teammate.

The championship race could have been tighter as Acura Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya passed van der Zande for third after the cars banged together a few times with 10 minutes remaining.

But Montoya spun off course a few minutes later in Turn 1 and handed a podium finish back to the Wayne Taylor Racing car.

“Bashy, bashy right there,” van der Zande said. “Old school NASCAR racing, I guess. I’m not so used to that. He was very aggressive but also very very fast. It was a fantastic race for us.”

The final three races will be held at Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca and Sebring.

“It was a great third place with a lot of pressure from Montoya and Mazda and everyone really,” Briscoe said. “We’ll take the points and keep pushing. It’s so close. Can’t think too far ahead, but we’d love to get another win or two to finish out the season. There’s some really big races coming up, and this team tends to excel in the long races, so we’re looking forward to it.”

In other divisions at Mid-Ohio:

–Corvette Racing scored its first victory at the track in eight years as the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia won from the pole position. Teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished second in a class that featured only four cars because of the pullout of Porsche.

It was the fourth victory this season for the No. 3 and the fifth for Corvette, which also is 1-2 in the points standings with the No. 3 ahead by 17 points.

“It was a perfect weekend for our Corvette,” Taylor told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. “The car rolled off the truck really well. This was one of the tracks where we never tested at, so the preparation by the team really set us up well. … We’ve been so strong on pace and reliability.”

Said Garcia: “It’s a shame that Porsche is not here as we want them back for sure. It was a brilliant job by everyone. Jordan did a fantastic job all day long, getting on pole and then getting a solid lead even if there were a ton of yellows. The C8.R worked perfectly again today.”

–The No. 14 Lexus of AIM Vasser Sullivan won in the GTD class, moving drivers Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth to the points lead. With four races remaining, Telitz trails the No. 86 Acura by two points, and Hawksworth is four points behind.