MONTEREY, California – Will Power has learned to trust the gut feelings of his wife Liz, who always seems to know when her two-time IndyCar champion husband arrives at a career-defining moment.
“She has good intuition,” the Australian said in his typically droll understatement.
Or maybe a better way of framing it might be that she has an uncanny knack for predicting the future.
There was the time in 2008 when Liz talked Will out of the only racing deal he had for the following season, insisting that an opportunity would materialize out of the blue with an IndyCar powerhouse. When Will won the biggest race of his life in 2018, Liz (a worrywart who admits “I don’t hide that very well”) was serene throughout May in the expectation that an Indy 500 win was imminent.
So when Power began to fret in February while standing in the kitchen of their Troutman, North Carolina, home a week before the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season opener, Liz naturally delivered another morale-boosting premonition of clarity, confidence and inner peace.
This would be the year Will broke Mario Andretti’s mark for career pole positions and captured his second title.
“He was getting nervous, obviously like pre-nerve jitters before the start of a season,” Liz told NBC Sports. “I told him, ‘Will, I know that you’re going to beat his record. You’re going to do it. And I honestly believe you’re going to win the championship, too. You’re going to do it in grand fashion. I just know it.
“And so all throughout the year, too, I kept telling him, when he would get nervous and kind of down, I was like, ‘I know you’re doing it! I don’t know why I know you’re doing it, but I know you’re doing it!’ ”
“It actually gave me confidence,” Will said. “That’s how much faith I have in her gut feel. It kind of made me feel, ‘OK, yeah, she’s said things like this before.’ Man, everything has got to go right. But deep down, I know how life flows at times, and I kind of thought that this could happen.”
That was the same approach Liz took when Will signed a deal to race in the fledgling A1GP Series in the fall of 2008.
Liz had been working for IndyCar team owner Derrick Walker, who had a line of sight into A1GP’s financial trouble as a consultant. Despite her warnings that it was “a bad call,” Will signed with the series because he had no IndyCar prospects (despite having won the Champ Car finale at Long Beach). Two days later, he had second thoughts, and Liz worked her magic.
Sometimes, she gets similar hunches about things that don’t involve her husband’s career, but she always follows the advice of her mom: You have to go with your gut.
“Another one of my weird feelings,” she said with a laugh in recalling the events that led Will to his dream job. “I said, ‘If you sign it, to get back into IndyCar will be really hard, and how do you know that a seat at Ganassi won’t pop up, or a seat at Penske. He said, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t know that!’ He fortunately got out of it.”
A month later, Helio Castroneves was arrested on tax evasion charges, and Roger Penske suddenly needed a backup plan if Castroneves was unavailable to start the 2009 season.
Will was packing to return to Australia one night when the phone rang.
“We’re thinking, ‘OK, it’s not going to happen,’ ” Liz recalled. “He gets the call, and I’m laying on the couch, and I pop up when I hear him go, ‘Oh hey, Roger!’ I’m jumping up and down, and as soon as he hung up, I went, ‘Told you so! I knew I was right!’
“So he always hates it because every time I’m like, ‘You should listen to me more often!’ ”
Will probably will be taking those cues more often after last weekend. He still talks with awe about how Liz trigered his career-saving move to Penske.
“It was uncanny, unbelievable,” he said. “She actually talked me out of that (A1GP) contract. It just blew my mind. How could she know that? She didn’t know. She just felt that.”
Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.
“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.
The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).
He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.
“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”
There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).
He was even better this year at Daytona.
He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.
A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).
“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”
Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.
“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.
“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).
“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”
Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.
The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”
Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.
And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.
“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.
“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.
“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”
A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.
It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.
“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”
Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.
“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.
“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”
Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.
“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.
This is what it’s all about. Not just a team but a 𝙁𝘼𝙈𝙄𝙇𝙔
“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”
Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.
A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.
With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel
“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.
“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”