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.
“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.”