IndyCar champion Will Power credits career confidence to wife’s ‘uncanny’ premonitions


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!’ ”

Over the course of one memorable weekend on the Monterey Peninsula, it all came true – again.

A day after notching his 68th career pole position to break the mark of a racing legend, Power capped the tightest championship battle in 20 years with another title by finishing third in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Though he was a jumble of nerves and woke up in the middle of the night a few times last week, he was calm after strapping into his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet and remembering what Liz had said.

Will Power, wife Liz and son Beau celebrate after Sunday’s season finale (James Black/Penske Entertainment).

“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.

Liz Power watches the closing laps of her husband’s victory at Detroit this season. She is known for tightly clutching water bottles during races in anticipation (Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment).

“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.”

Liz Power and son Beau celebrate Will’s second IndyCar championship after a third at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports).

Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The Red Flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500