Winning the Indianapolis 500 is a life-changing event for Will Power. It solidifies his spot as one of the top drivers of his generation, winning IndyCar’s most prestigious event to go along with his 2014 series championship.
It also puts him in the record books as the first Australian-born driver to win the Indy 500.
"I really, really wanted to be the first Australian to win," said Power, who is from Toowoomba, a city in Queensland, Australia.
"My parents have said there’s been a lot of coverage about it [in Australia], friends have sent text messages and stuff. It was a big deal back there."
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Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, was born in Brisbane, Australia, but he is considered a New Zealander. His parents are from New Zealand and relocated to that country shortly after Dixon was born.
With that being said, Power's victory may spark an influx of local Aussies to Texas Motor Speedway for next weekend’s DXC Technology 600. After all, this is a second straight year that a foreign driver has become his country’s first Indy 500 winner.
Japan’s Takuma Sato did it a year ago, and TMS saw more interest in its race from the local Japanese community. So far, though, the local Aussies haven’t been storming out to buy tickets.
"We haven’t had an Australian run on the ticket office," TMS president Eddie Gossage said, chuckling. "I wish I could say yes, but no. Last year we saw the Japanese community from Dallas—Fort Worth come out to support Takuma Sato. Perhaps there will be some response from the Australian community, if there is such a thing in Dallas—Fort Worth."
There are a couple Facebook groups dedicated to Aussies in DFW and Aussies in Texas, but it remains to be seen just how much traction Power’s victory will spread beyond the racing community.
But there’s no question Power is proud of where he’s from and hopes to do something similar as to Sato in terms of returning to his homeland as the Indy 500 champion with the Borg-Warner Trophy.
"Hopefully I get to go back with it after the season," Power said.
Heck, Power may be able to bring a few Texas trophies with him too. This is a track that has suited him well throughout his career.
Power, known as a road-course driver early in his racing days, has mastered the oval tracks. The breakthrough came in 2011 at Texas when he won the second of two races of the Firestone Twin 275s.
That marked his first oval victory in 77 career IndyCar starts.
Power has gone on to win at more ovals, earning his second career victory at Texas last summer and now becoming an Indy 500 on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval.
"It’s just been a slow process over the years. You can’t beat experience," Power said. "We don’t do that many ovals every year, so it takes a long time to build that up."
Power believes he can contend at any track these days, and rightfully so. This is a guy who now has 32 career wins in IndyCar, including multiple victories in eight of the last nine seasons.
"The thing that I give Will the most credit for is that he came into the series as a great road racer who didn’t like racing on ovals," Gossage said. "But he’s a very cerebral driver and he’s committed himself to it and figured it out. He was excited to win here last year because his first was one of the twin races. He wanted to win the whole race."
Power has grown fond of Texas and the oval tracks. And, hey, even if there aren’t many local Aussies flooding the ticket office, he’ll have plenty of support.
Power’s wife, Liz, grew up in Plano, and her family certainly enjoyed being invited to watch a Cowboys’ practice from The Star last week.
But Power, who now resides in Charlotte, punted on a question of who he’d be rooting for in the season opener when the Cowboys – his wife’s hometown team – are at the Panthers – his adopted hometown team.
"That’s a battle we have," Power said, smiling. "When I come down here, I tell the family I root for the Cowboys and when I’m up in Charlotte I’m like ... yeah. It’s just tough, right?"