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IndyCar: Will Power gets hero’s welcome back home in Australia

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You can take the boy out of Australia, but you can’t take Australia out of the boy.

Defending Indianapolis 500 champion Will Power is currently on a whirlwind tour of his native land, where he’s being feted for what he did in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

And now that he’s won the biggest race in the world, Power told the Australian Associated Press that he wants to win the biggest race in Australia, the Bathurst 1000.

“I’d love to do Bathurst again,” Power said. “We’ve definitely talked about it.”

But because of his regular day job, Power likely won’t get a chance to race again on his home soil for at least the next several years. Still, he hopes to do so within five years, he said.

“It’s hard for me to get the time to fly over without it affecting the Indy car season,” Power said. “That’s the hang up. It’s all got to work with the team.”

Power has one previous start in what many consider Australia’s answer to the Indy 500 when he finished 18th with co-driver Mark Larkham in the 2002 Bathurst 1000.

All told, Power has six career starts in Australian Supercars, the most recent being in 2012 during a race on the country’s Gold Coast.

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister