IndyCar

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

 

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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