INDIANAPOLIS — ’Tis the season to celebrate not just the holiday season, but another unveiling of a winning Indianapolis 500 driver’s sterling silver facial likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“It’s like the gift that keeps on giving,” Will Power said before Wednesday evening’s event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. “You just keep getting reminded that you won the Indianapolis 500, and it always puts a smile on your face.”
The 37-year-old Team Penske driver from Australia was joined for the ceremony by three people prominent in the process: Doug Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president; Michelle Collins, BorgWarner director of marketing and public relations; and William Behrends, the sculptor who created Power’s likeness that was affixed to the iconic trophy with the likeness of every Indy 500 winner.
Collins did the honors of pulling away a black curtain to reveal the finished product to an eager Power.
“Wow!” the driver said, leaning over to get a good look at his likeness. “That’s amazing. Very, very good. Amazing. Amazing!”
Power’s likeness is the 105th on the iconic trophy, which Collins reminded was first commissioned in 1935.
“Who could have imagined that in 2018, we’d be here at the museum, all of these additional faces added, another base to accommodate all that, and really just how it’s evolved over time,” Collins said. “We’re excited to be joined by both Wills.”
The “other” Will, Behrends, has sculpted the last 29 likenesses. But it was the first time he’d made the trip from Tryon, North Carolina, to attend the unveiling. Power visited Behrends’ workshop in September and was amazed at how the sculptor completes his winners’ faces by looking at pictures.
Seeing his likeness again this day, Power seemed even more impressed.
“That’s incredible when you think about some of the legendary names that are on there,” Power said. “Thank you, Will. It’s an amazing image. It looks like me, so that’s good.
“You actually kind of improved my face a bit, so that’s not too bad because it’s there for life.”
The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion reiterated that nothing in his 35-win career can compare to his May triumph in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Power concedes he’s come a long way from a being “a boy from Toowoomba,” and it took time to truly understand the importance of the Indianapolis 500.
“Walking out there on race day, out of Gasoline Alley into a stadium that can hold up to 300,000 people,” he said, “that atmosphere you feel nowhere else in the world, no other sporting event.”
He recalled how his first visit to IMS in 2005 was kind of a pit stop while in town to be interviewed and eventually hired by Indy car owner Derrick Walker, who was among those in attendance at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“The first thing I did was come to the speedway here and I actually did a lap in the museum bus,” Power said, prompting laughter. “That was the slowest lap I’ll ever do around the place, but I got a look at it.”
Boles pointed out that Power is also a three-time INDYCAR Grand Prix winner on the IMS road course, a racetrack upon which he’s been so successful and seems so suited for, that Power said he wouldn’t mind if “every road course in the whole season was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
Power never gave his two cents on the oval track until he learned that a sealant was to be applied to the surface earlier this offseason. He made it clear in several conversations with Boles that he didn’t want the track to change. An offseason test reassured Power.
“Hopefully we’ve left it alone so you can come back and try to defend your championship here next year in Indianapolis 500’s 103rd running,” Boles said.
Power gushed with pride about how much it will mean to be able to share his signature accomplishment with his young son, Beau, two weeks shy of his second birthday.
If nothing else, Power is confident Wednesday won’t be the last of his welcomed friendly reminders that he’s the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner.
“There’s no place like Indianapolis,” he said.
Tickets for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the INDYCAR Grand Prix and all month of May events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are on sale now at IMS.com. The 2019 IndyCar Series season opens March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.