IndyCar: Even with long championship odds, Will Power still singing a happy tune

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Editor’s note: For the next four days leading up to Sunday’s IndyCar championship-deciding Grand Prix of Sonoma, we will feature each of the four title contenders.

Today we focus on this year’s Indy 500 champ, Will Power. We will feature Alexander Rossi on Saturday and Scott Dixon on Sunday. We kicked things off Thursday with Joseph Newgarden.

Will Power is one of the coolest and most laid-back guys on the IndyCar driver grid.

He’s still in a championship battle heading into Sunday’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway, and what does he do after Friday’s second practice?

He broke into song, singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers – and he did a pretty darn good job, to say the least. Check out the first few seconds of this post on Facebook:

Later on in the same video, Power started laying down a quick line from a rap song, about 1:48 into the video.

And don’t forget that at the top of Power’s official Twitter page, next to the lead photo of his Indy 500-winning car from May is a shot of Power playing the drums with a band.

If all that doesn’t show how relaxed and how little pressure the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500 is feeling going into as equally important a race as Sunday’s is, nothing will.

Admittedly, Power is a substantial 87 points behind series leader Scott Dixon and 58 points behind second-ranked Alexander Rossi. Also 87 points back is Power’s teammate and defending series champion Josef Newgarden.

Both Team Penske drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the championship, although the odds are long: Dixon would have to finish last in the 25-driver race field and Rossi would have to finish 24th.

But Power is as carefree as any guy from Toowoomba, Australia can be going into one of the most important races of his career.

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet thinks his second IndyCar championship (he won his first in 2014) is still attainable, and would be a great way to bookend a season that included him winning the Greatest Spectacle In Racing for the first time in May.

“We’re just going to go there and do the best job I can do,” Power said. “Obviously, it’s a very long shot – Alex and Scott have to have a very, very bad day and we have to win the race to win the championship.

“We’re just going to go there, try to have fun and try to win the race.”

Some people may say Power is too little, too late to still win the championship, but you won’t hear Power saying that.

He even has a championship-winning strategy already in mind. Now he just needs Dixon and Rossi – and for that matter, Newgarden – to, shall we say, cooperate. It actually sounds pretty simple and attainable.

“We need it put it all together to be on pole, lead the laps, all that stuff,” he said. “But we’ve got some fierce competition. So I’m just got to focus on my job and see if I can nail that.”

Sonoma has been very good to Power over the years. In nine starts there, he has three wins (2010, 2011 and 2013), five podiums and five poles. He admits he’s going to miss the place (it is holding its last IndyCar race for the foreseeable future, if not forever, on Sunday).

“It’s sad to see Sonoma go,” he said. “It’s been a great track for myself and the team. It’s exciting to go back to Laguna Seca (which replaces Sonoma on next year’s schedule), it’s a really cool track.

“It would have been nice if we could have both, but that’s the way it is and I’m going to enjoy my last race at Sonoma.”

While doing well in Sunday’s race is key, equally important is for Power to qualify well. Coming into the race, he has four poles in the first 16 races of 2018 – and 54 thus far in his career.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Power said. “The track is very low grip. Obviously we have less downforce this year (with this season’s new aerodynamic package), and it’s just so hard to put a mistake-free lap together.

“So yeah, it’ll be a very interesting qualifying session. As you can see (the track is) very tight at the front, then the middle pack is very tight. It’s just tight all the way through, and that’s just IndyCar now. You can’t pick a bad driver out of that lot.”

Power knows the odds are not in his favor Sunday. He also can look back upon on how he fell so back in the championship race after leading the points after winning the Indy 500 and again after Belle Isle 2.

Crashing at Texas and exiting Road America early with a mechanical issue – along with a crash at Phoenix and running off-course at Barber Motorsports Park – are things Power hasn’t forgotten.

“Yeah, exactly that, too many DNFs, way, way too many DNFs,” he said. “Unfortunately with the speed we’ve had all year and have been so strong, our qualifying efforts have been great, and any race we finish, we finish well.”

But until that checkered flag falls Sunday, Mr. Cool and Loose is not going to give up on his hopes to still pull off the impossible.

“Yeah, it would be just an amazing occurrence for that to happen, like (for Dixon) to have an engine issue or a gearbox issue,” Power said. “Yeah, it could happen.

“And then you need Rossi to have a bad day, as well. So obviously it’s pretty stacked against us, but all we can do is just focus on putting ourselves in a position to win. The others we can’t control.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead

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With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.


In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list