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Why Will Power’s IndyCar win at Road America was special

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – In the current generation of IndyCar, only Scott Dixon has been to victory lane more times than Team Penske’s Will Power.

Dixon has won 58 IndyCar Series races dating back to 2001. Power’s win in Sunday’s XPEL Grand Prix at Road America was his 42nd since 2005, tying him with Michael Andretti for fourth place on IndyCar’s all-time victory list. The only drivers with more are Mario Andretti with 52, Dixon with 58 and AJ Foyt’s 67.

As usual, Power’s wife, Liz, son Beau and mother-in-law Kathy were there to help him celebrate. But this victory at the beautiful 14-turn, 4.014-mile road course was more special than his previous 41 triumphs.

It marked first time in 34 IndyCar races that Power had won, a span of 736 days since he drove to victory at Belle Isle in Detroit on June 5, 2022. He went on to win his second NTT IndyCar Series Championship that season and was a man focused on his racing career with the support of his wife and family.

Liz Power_ wife of Will Power - Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix - By_ Karl Zemlin_LargeImageWithoutWatermark_m61571

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).

A few months after the 2022 season ended, Liz Power started to get sick with what she thought was the flu. Thanksgiving came and she started to feel worse, but figured it was something she could fight off.

But as Christmas approached, Liz Power was getting worse, experiencing a high fever. In the first week of January, the symptoms were much worse, and she was delirious from fever.

She had a rare staph infection and was taken to the emergency room at a hospital near their home on Lake Norman in North Carolina.

The infection had settled in her spinal column, and she needed emergency surgery, which she received on Jan. 17. She nearly died on the operating table.

At that point, Will Power seriously considered ended his racing career for good in order to take care of his son, if Liz passed away.

“When that was going on, you start thinking, should I be racing at all?” Power admitted Sunday evening following his win. “If something happens to Liz and something happens to me, is she going to get better, what’s going to happen?

“The doctor said this can come back at any time. Should I be racing? That was the thing that was planted in my mind last year.

“You certainly don’t perform at your highest level because you don’t want your son to have no parents. That is sort of the thing you’re thinking.

“Ultimately, yeah, if she wasn’t getting better, I would stop. I would have to stop for my son. Simple as that.”

Although his wife would eventually get better and battle back from her near-death experience, her overall health was dramatically impacted by the enormous amount and strength of the antibiotics she had to take. Doctors also had to rebuild her spinal column.

Power had a lot on his mind that naturally impacted his ability to drive a race car. He struggled through a winless 2023 season, his first season without an IndyCar victory since 2006.

“Yeah, in the off-season when my wife is sitting in hospital, we’re just wondering what’s going to happen here,” Power said. “She almost died.

“You start thinking, yeah, I’m going to have to stop now, take care of my son.

“Then after that, it’s a long process. Once they put the metal plates and all that, you have that infection in the blood, it can stick to the metal, come back. It’s like, what’s going to happen?

“Continual blood tests, you just got to be on top of it. If it comes, you have to be very quick to have the antibiotics reduce it. The doc said it can come back anytime. You got to be quick to catch it.”

By last year’s Indianapolis 500, Liz Power had recovered to the point where she could travel to some of the races to support her husband. But it was too much, too soon.

After the 500, she had a setback at Road America when she had a reaction to her medication that caused her to hallucinate.

“It was a very stressful weekend because I left thinking that Liz was sick again,” Will Power admitted. “I left. She was looking in a glass, getting in the car, we had booked a private plane, because that’s the only way she could travel.

“We got in the car, she looks down and says, ‘Look at all the worms in that cup.’

“I’m like, ‘Oh, (bleep).’

“I told my mother-in-law, I said, ‘You have to stay here. We already booked this plane. Taking off now. I’ll go, call you on the plane.’

“All weekend she’s going back and forth to the doctors. Turns out she mixed some medications. Hallucinations. That’s how it all started, hallucinations.

“Stressful, yeah, this predicament. Should I race or not? Then you crash bad. That’s why I was so I angry or just stressed. Anything set me off grappling with that.”

Dixon Power Road America

Will Power attacks Scott Dixon at Road America in 2023

Power’s emotions hit a boiling point when he was involved in a crash with Dixon at Road America on Saturday last year. Dixon was unaware Power’s car was approaching at speed when he pulled up on the track, causing a massive collision.

Power was enraged and aggressively charged Dixon and pushed him. Dixon understood what Power was going through and did not retaliate, accepting fault for the crash.

After the 2023 season ended, Liz was able to continue her recovery and Will Power was able to put some focus back on racing.

The offseason prior to 2024 was much better than the difficulty he experienced with his wife’s health one year earlier.

That has been evident on the race track this season as Power has been much more competitive. He nearly won the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April, building a 7-second lead before a caution period wiped out his advantage.

Ironically, it was Dixon that drove to victory at Long Beach.

Power qualified for the middle of the front row for the 108th Indianapolis 500 in May, but he crashed in the race.

Still, he knew he was getting closer to victory, even before Sunday’s race at Road America.

“I just came in way more prepared like I normally am,” Power said. “I was just back to how I prepared for a year, which is constantly improving on my craft.

“I have to say I’m a better driver again this year than I was in ’22 when I won the championship. Last year was sort of a stall-out here. Not much I could do. Spending a lot of time at home, looking after Liz, making sure everything was going well for her.

“Back to Liz helping me, like she is a big part of my preparation. She does a lot for me.

“We’re back as a team again.”

On Sunday, Power led a 1-2-3 Team Penske sweep of the podium as he defeated teammates Josef Newgarden with Scott McLaughlin third. It was the first 1-2-3 Team Penske sweep since 2017.

2024 INDYCAR XPEL Grand Prix at Road America

Elkhart Lake, WI - during the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Joe Skibinski | IMS Photo)

Liz Power (center) with son Beau greet Will Power after his victory at Road America — IndyCar Photo by Joe Skibinski/Joe Skibinski

In victory lane, Liz, Beau and Kathy were there to greet him.

Tears were flowing.

“It was very special,” Power recalled. “She was in tears. So was her mother. She had Beau there.

“Yeah, been a rough trot. It was last year we didn’t get a win. She wasn’t at a lot of the races.

“Yeah, good stuff. Good stuff. Very positive.

“Yeah, that’s life. People have it way worse. I’m not complaining. People have it way worse.

“I’m lucky, very lucky.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500