At the end of the Grand Prix of Long Beach the IndyCar series brought several drivers to the free feeding trough that is the media center for interviews. League officials had decided beforehand that they would have the top two finishers and the "story of the day" driver offered up the the hungry scribes, so they ushered in succession winner Dario Franchitti, runner-up Will Power, and Danica Patrick after she drove from 22nd to 4th. Also, they brought in some guy named "Helio" over whom much ink has been spilled recently.
We don't know who's going to win this weekend in Kansas, but it's a safe bet the real "story of the day" driver won't be attending a post-race press conference because he won't even be participating in the race. Yes, we're talking about Will Power, who is SECOND in championship points, and but as part of his arrangement with Team Penske looks to be sitting out every other race this year not named "Indianapolis 500". Think about that - when was the last time a guy who was second, or anywhere in the Top 5 for that matter, sat out a race for anything other than an injury? Has this ever happened before? Is Donald Davidson in the house?
It's an unfortunate situation to say the least. Power was obviously hired as a contingency plan for things outside of his and Roger Penske's control, and by all accounts that agreement provided The Captain the right to have sent Will packing post-haste this weekend. But Roger kept him in a car, perhaps because with two street courses starting the season Power may have been the best available driver for those circuits - an opinion that seems accurate since, again, he's second in championship points - and Penske appears to have enough confidence in Power to field a rare third entry for him at Indianapolis.
But it's the fact that Power is still being kicked to the curb that has some Power fans spitting nails. For example, toward the end of yet another stellar race recap from Robin Miller's close, personal friend pressdog, our fellow word butcher detailed what Will had to deal with to accomplish his second-place finish at Long Beach.
OK, I gotta say right here I'm a little yanked off. I hate to bust up the Helio Love Fest, but FIRST, Will gets kicked over to the backup car after working with #3 all weekend so Helio could make his triumphant return. Fine, he knew that was coming. THEN he gets the replacement crew that goes with the car. All wonderful people, I'm sure, but not the well-oiled Penske Machine that runs the #3 crew. So what does he do? Stuffs it on the pole only to have the stories be about Helio's post-crash headache usurp his party, again. THEN his radio and telemetry on the "identical" backup car are whack yet he remains P1 then some crew dude screams "yellow-yellow-yellow" when it's green-green-green so Power gives up two spots before he knows what is what. So he has to inhale Danica and drive on fumes to STILL get P2. If his name was Andretti, there would be a statue being cast and a TV package being prepared right now.While not sharing the same level of fervor I do feel sympathy for Will, who said this weekend he took the deal because wants to spend the rest of his career driving for Team Penske. That seems a slim proposition since Roger already has two drivers, plus a third who might someday return. The more likely scenario is that Will finds a home with a different team, as more than one has expressed interest at the chance to add the Australian to their roster. Pending funding, of course.
I hope Roger gives Will a bear hug and festive fruit basket at least for everything he did over the weekend which was amazing and would have had everyone weeping tears of Power is Great Joy if not for The Return of Helio.
Only time - and possibly the accountants at Verizon Wireless - will tell how this season turns out for Will Power, but for now here's a little My Name Is IRL love for the real "story of the day" for the next race. If he happens to win at Indianapolis - a very real possibility in a Penske car - he could end up being "story of the year".