Although Skirts and Scuffs is known for its NASCAR coverage, our readers have asked that we explore other areas of motorsports. This weekend Skirts and Scuffs is expanding coverage to include the IZOD IndyCar Series and the event leading up to Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Columnist Lindi Bess had the opportunity to meet with Team Penske drivers for one-on-one interviews. What follows is the second of three pieces that will introduce our readers to IndyCar and some of their most popular personalities.
Will Power was born in March 1981 and is originally from Australia. His racing career actually started at the age of 6 racing go-karts.
Will’s passion for racing began early on with the his father, Bob, who raced in early 1980 in F2 and F3. Will is doing the one thing that he had always dreamed of as a young boy. With a career that spans from Australia to America, he continues to live his dream.
Moving to the United States in 2006, this talented driver began his open-wheel racing career. Part of Team Australia, he found early success in Champ Car, finishing sixth in points that same year. He was named the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year.
In 2009 it was into the No. 3 car, replacing Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves while Castroneves dealt with some legal problems. In his first race of the year at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Power finished in the 6th position. Upon Castroneves' return, Power was put at the helm of a third Penske car, the No. 12. His top-5 finishes would soon lead him to a contract for an additional five more races in the second half of the season. It was in July that Will claimed his first IndyCar win at the Rexall Edmonton Indy.
Later that summer, during practice for the Motorola Indy 300 in Sonoma, Power was injured in a crash involving EJ Viso. With two fractured vertebrae, Power sat out the remainder of the season. In 2009, it was announced that Will would drive full time for Team Penske in the No. 12 with sponsor Verizon Wireless.
2010 proved to be a year he would redeem himself, as he began by winning the first two races of the season. Taking the pole at WGI, he handed Roger Penske the first-place trophy in his first IZOD IndyCar Series race. He returned to Sonoma in 2010 and beat the track, winning both the pole and the race the next day.
Power returned to Sonoma this weekend, Aug. 26-28, for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, one of his favorite tracks. Power had this to say recently about the upcoming race:
“This is going to be yet another very tough weekend — the competition seems to be getting tighter each race. The Verizon car has traditionally been quick at Sonoma and it is a place that really suits my driving style. Once again, it is going to require flawless execution to come out on top. I am very focused and determined to give it everything I’ve got.”I’d like to congratulate Will Power for again taking pole at Sonoma. On Saturday, Team PENSKE shared their first 1-2-3 qualifying effort of the 2011 season. Power’s qualifying time was 01:18:6017 at a speed of 105.479 mph.
Currently Power is in second place for the championship, standing behind No. 10 Dario Franchitti. Franchitti qualified right behind the PENSKE Team in fourth.
Will was gracious enough to sit down with me in a one-on-one interview just prior to a practice run on Friday. Below you will find the result of that interview.
LB (Lindi Bess): You were fined $30,000 for actions at Loudon two weeks ago. It's been reported you would pay off fines with a series of promotional appearances. Is there a chance that you will appeal or do you feel the punishment fits the crime?
WP (Will Power): I think the fine is very hefty, but there is no excuse for what I did definitely. I was frustrated. I should have kept my composure. It’s the penalty they gave me and which it was fair enough.
LB: You are originally from Australia, and are currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Did you come from a large family?
WP: I came from a family of 6, three brothers and obviously a mom and a dad.
LB: Was it your dream as a young boy to be a racecar driver?
WP: That was my absolute dream to be a racecar driver. Absolutely. I can’t believe I am here.
LB: Your father, Bob, was a racecar driver in Queensland at first. What was the best piece of advice he gave you when you began racing?
WP: I think one piece of advice that I remember was go slower or go faster because you can overdrive the car quite easily. He said just go out and be smooth and then bam, the lap time came down. That was definitely one thing he taught me.
Photo credited to Nate Jacobsen
LB: What’s been your most memorable win?
WP: My most memorable win is probably still here at Sonoma (2010). You know, coming back a year after a bad accident, winning, most laps lead and all the Verizon people are here. I would say that is my most memorable.
LB: How would you say Australia fans differ from U.S. fans?
WP: It’s hard to say. I never raced in Australia as a professional driver. I have only experienced fans here in the U.S., when I became a professional driver here. It’s a tough comparison to me.
LB: You're still somewhat in the honeymoon phase, just married in December 2010. Had time for a honeymoon?
WP: Yes, we did. We did go on a honeymoon to Hawaii.
LB: So Elizabeth works in the industry. Is that how you guys met?
WP: Yes. She worked for the first team I drove for, Walker Racing. She now she works for another IndyCar team, Dreyer & Reinbold.
LB: I interviewed Ryan’s (Briscoe) wife, Nicole, last year. They were married in Hawaii, too. Does that have to do with the halfway point thing?
WP: Yeah, it’s halfway, it’s easy. It’s a holiday destination. It’s just easy. People come halfway. Everybody wants to go to Hawaii.
LB: I read you did a groomsmen snorkeling adventure or something for the groomsmen, how was that?
WP: That was a lot of fun. I think I was suffering from drinking the night before, or a couple of nights before. I was a little bit quiet on that trip.
LB: I see a totally different passion in the Indy drivers as opposed to NASCAR. How do you explain the passion for this sport and how do you handle it when the heat is on?
WP: Usually, I use the passion in a positive way. Motivation to be quick to do things right on the track. It’s not often that I lose my cool off the track except one time, which was a unique situation.
LB: I asked both of your teammates this. Do the “Powers that Be” ask you guys to show passion on the track, because in NASCAR, it’s a "Boys Have At It" policy out there ...
WP: In IndyCar, I don’t think you have to be told to show passion. You just feel, you’ve got it. If you’re in the heat of the battle and something goes wrong. You get the raw end of the stick, I mean, really you know you’re human or you don’t like to compete because you’re not upset.
LB: Mr. Penske is very well respected in the motorsports world. How would you describe your relationship with Roger Penske?
WP: I only see Roger on the race weekends, mainly. He is a real racer at heart. He loves to win, and he loves to do things properly. My relationship has been very good. He gave me an opportunity with his team. Even when I had my bad accident, he stuck by me. I feel as though he has allowed me to have a really good career in IndyCar.
LB: Dario Francitti is your biggest rival right now. You’re second, only 47 points out. What’s it going to take to bring him down and get the championship?
WP: I think he needs to have a bit of the bad luck these last five races. We have to execute. I really think we got the speed to do it, just need to put it together on the weekends.
LB: You won at Infineon in 2010 as we talked about recently. Do you feel the recent win gives you somewhat of an advantage?
WP: No, I think the tide changes each year. It’s a little different setup each year. You gotta always be ready. Expect the worse, hope for the best.
LB: How do you keep momentum going on your team?
WP: It comes with success. Success comes with hardwork. That’s how you keep your momentum.
LB: It’s been a while since IndyCar and Cart have reintegrated. What would you say is the best thing about the reunion and is there anything you missed about cart?
WP: I would say what I missed about cart was the turbo engine, and some of the really nice places that we went to, and the cars are awesome. What do I like about the merger is the competition is very tough. There are so many good drivers and teams. And next year we get the turbo engines.
LB: Introducing new cars with a new engine, is it a good move for Indy drivers as a whole or will it benefit certain teams?
WP: It’s hard to say. No matter what, when there is an engine manufacturer, two different engine manufacturers or three different engine manufacturers, there is going to be one that’s better and one that's worse. It’s simple as that. So it’s impossible to tell which manufacturer that may be. I think IndyCar has a good hold or grasp on making sure the playing field is even as possible.
LB: For the most part, our readers are NASCAR fans. We are just starting to hit Indy. We are introducing them this weekend. What would you say to stockcar fans to get them to at least give Indy a try?
WP: I think that we have some pretty cool racing. I mean we definitely are the fastest cars in the world on closed circuits. I mean at Indianapolis we did 230 mph, and next year probably faster. Good drivers, good competition and good racing. That’s all a fan can hope for, that’s what it is.
LB: Have you gained fans on Twitter because of the way Twitter spread the world of your display to people who normally wouldn’t pay attention? Did you notice?
LB: Yes, I did. Every time I do something like that, you know, maybe ask for my interview if you want to, I get a jump in fans, especially after New Hampshire. Not the way to gain though, but they are there.
In closing, I want to thank Team Penske, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, as well as their PR representative Merrill Cain. Merrill made this first step into Indy one that I will always remember. Allowing me to spend time with these three championship drivers, and get to know them so I could in turn bring them to our readers. It was a high point in my young career as a writer/columnist, not soon forgotten.
I would also like to thank Kim Martin who assisted me with the Penske interviews. She was an asset to me with her support and her love for IndyCar and NASCAR. A thank you also goes out to Skirts and Scuffs contributing writer Kristin Weaver who helped with transcribing the interview.
The WIN Series and INDY Shorts Series are exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and was created by Lindi Bess. The first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in NASCAR coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch, Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Wendy Venturini and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally. If you've missed any of Lindi's interviews, just click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet me @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you.