Liz Power's Premonition Comes True for Husband to Win Indy 500
By Phillip B. Wilson
INDIANAPOLIS – Liz Power woke up on race day with the unbelievably confident premonition that her husband, Will, was going to win the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
But Will, prone to worry and ever mindful of too many past heartbreaks, thought his wife needed to chill.
“I don’t want to psyche you out,” Liz told him Sunday. “But I just knew. I was so excited.”
Where it once would have seemed so far-fetched, considering Power entered the Verizon IndyCar Series as a road racer, the 37-year-old Australian confirmed his transformation to successful oval driver by proving his wife prophetic in conquering Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile track for 200 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t much care for IMS in the beginning. Runner-up Ed Carpenter, his strongest challenger this day, remembers how Power used to complain on the radio.
“He hated this place,” said Carpenter, who has always been just the opposite, a driver who couldn’t love IMS more. “He likes to think of himself as an oval guy now. He definitely has one up on me now.”
Hall of Fame team owner Roger Penske, after celebrating his record 17th Indy 500 win, conceded that Power needed some time to get used to driving on ovals.
“He didn’t like ovals at first, I tell ya,” Penske said.
It wasn’t until the end of 2013, his sixth series season, that Power celebrated an oval victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. He won at Milwaukee’s short oval the next year, at Pocono Raceway each of the past two years and at Texas Motor Speedway in 2017. In fact, with Sunday’s victory at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Power has now won the last three Verizon IndyCar Series races conducted on superspeedways.
“I’ve won so many races and poles, led more laps than anyone,” Power said. “I just hadn’t done it here (at IMS). I’ve been thinking, ‘Am I going to finish my career with an Indy 500 win?’”
He did more than think about that. He dwelled on it. Although Power finally won a series championship in 2014, he became obsessed with what was missing on his racing resume. Or as Liz says, her husband was “driven” to win the Indy 500.
Team Penske president Tim Cindric says there have been times when that’s all Power would discuss.
“The one thing he always talked about was, ‘I have to win the Indy 500, I have to win the Indy 500 to get to where I need to be,’” Cindric said.
Power finished second to teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015.
“I was so disappointed,” he said. “Man, so close.”
Three days ago, Power said he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to roll into victory lane at IMS. He’d obviously thought about it so many times, but said he couldn’t envision getting out of the car with so many people cheering in a crowd of more than 300,000.
His celebration actually started a lap early on Sunday.
“On the white flag lap, I started screaming because I just knew I was going to win it,” Power said. “Unbelievable. Never been so excited.”
His 34th career win tied two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. for eighth on the all-time list. Power is also the points leader after becoming the first driver to sweep both May races at IMS — he celebrated his third INDYCAR Grand Prix victory on May 12. He’s also the first Australian to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“He won this race today because he was the best,” Penske said.
But none of that mattered when Power arrived in victory lane. The astonished winner looked up from the car in disbelief and raised both arms as high as they would go. He shouted toward fans. Then raised the arms again.
Cindric couldn't remember ever seeing Power act like that. Power can be a bit quirky, as evidenced by when the winner paused before sticking with tradition in accepting a bottle of milk.
“I knew you drink milk here,” he said. “Believe me, I’ve seen a few of my competitors do it. I just hesitated a bit because I’m not supposed to eat dairy, but I didn’t care. I just drank it.”
Liz, too, couldn’t remember ever seeing her husband like this.
“It’s so surreal, I can’t believe it,” she said, laughing. “The (series) championship, he was obviously excited, but this is an excitement I haven’t seen in Will Power.”
Said Will: “I’ll have to see the (TV) footage. Obviously, I screamed a lot. I just lost my head.”
He saved his best reaction and raw emotion, fittingly, for Liz. He remembered how his wife had woken up with a hunch.
Husband and wife shouted at each other and reached for each other. Before embracing, Will screamed to Liz: “I did it! And you were right!”