Despite appearances, Will Power is one of IndyCar's biggest goofballs and wackiest characters

ST. PETERSBURG — As his new series and first-year team marketed him as a rising star in front of national reporters and the bright lights of New York, Will Power played with a fart machine.

His wife laughs as she tells the story of Power pulling pranks with then-teammate Oriol Servia at his rookie media day four years ago. The jokes provide a rare glimpse at the off-track quirkiness of one of the IndyCar Series' top talents and unknown personalities.

The public sees the two-time series runner-up as a humble 31-year-old with an Australian accent and a competitive drive befitting his unmistakable name. Those in the series know Power as one of their sport's biggest goofballs and wackiest characters.

"He's so focused race weekend that people don't get to see it," said his wife, Liz. "At home and away from the track, he's just a riot."

Power's antics began growing up in Toowoomba, Australia at a home overrun with creativity. His father, Bob, was an open-wheel driver. His three brothers became a stand-up comedian, a break dancer and (yawn) an accountant.

The quartet shared their father's love of extreme sports and competition. They hopped one, then two, then three 20-liter barrels on their bikes — until one snapped in half. They drove go-carts and tried dirt racing.

Power used his first paycheck from stocking shelves at a warehouse to buy a drum kit. The next ones fed a skateboarding addiction that chewed through two pairs of shoes and a board every month.

"I guess with my parents we were a real handful, no question," Power said.

Power eventually graduated from being pushed around in a plastic car by his brothers to racing the real thing. His spontaneity and sense of humor never changed.

As a Champ Car rookie in 2006, Power let his brother Damien impersonate him at the series' stop in Australia, to laughs from fans and amazement from his future wife. The joke turned on Power months later when his too-good-to-be-true name became a punch line in Damien's stand-up routine.

"He'd give me (a hard time) about my name," Power said.

Power took the jabs in stride and won't take himself too seriously, especially around his brothers. Soon after he proposed to Liz, the couple visited Toowoomba for their first Christmas with Power's full family. The brothers borrowed props from one of Nick's choreographed routines to try break dancing — on stilts.

"It was the craziest thing I had ever seen," Liz Power said. "His poor mother was freaking out. She didn't want them to mess up the carpet."

The break dancing continued at their wedding, much to the surprise of Liz's Texan family and her 90-year-old grandmother.

The public gets peeks of Power's goofy side.

He jammed with a music school band in August to promote the Sonoma race. Cameras caught him sneaking bites of a honey and banana sandwich in the cockpit during a red flag at Brazil. He posed for pictures with a hotel worker in Baltimore wearing Family Guy boxers and a T-shirt that read "Heartthrob."

At media day this month, Power cracked that since Danica Patrick has bolted for NASCAR, he'd love to take her GoDaddy commercials. He deadpanned before correcting himself to say Verizon, which surely pleased the sponsor of his No. 12 Chevrolet.

"He's a funny guy, when you get to know him," driver Graham Rahal said. "Most of the conversations I have with Will, I just spend a lot of my time laughing. I think he'd be a really good ambassador for the sport."

But when Power gets to the track, his comic side disappears. The laser focus honed from battling three brothers takes over.

Since joining juggernaut Team Penske full time in 2010, he has won a series-best 11 races — including the 2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — and finished second to Dario Franchitti in the points race both years. He'll be one of the favorites in Sunday's Grand Prix and is the top contender to end Franchitti's run of three consecutive championships.

When Power's on-track personality does emerge, it's more fiery than funny. TV cameras caught him making obscene gestures at the race control tower in New Hampshire after he wrecked during a late restart on a damp track. After he and Franchitti collided in Toronto, Power blasted his rival as a "dirty" driver and called him a princess on Twitter.

"I was like, 'Really? That was the best you could come up with, Will? …' " Franchitti said. "That's Will."

But Power also shows signs of maturity.

He's long since chopped off the long hair he had as a rookie, and he's shaved the stubble he grew in the offseason. He said he tries to treat people with more respect and that he learned from the angry birds that earned him a $30,000 fine.

"At the end of the day, you are representing a brand and there probably are kids watching as well," Power said. "That is conscious in my mind."

Power still jokes with his brothers and pulls pranks on his competitors. He plays the drums almost every day in his Charlotte basement, and his wife hears him singing at the top of his lungs.

But his thirst for victory made him end another love — skateboarding. He almost bought a new board over the winter, but the risk of threatening his racing career with an injury is too great for him to start up again.

Which is too bad, he says, because the driveway at his new home would make a perfect playground.

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Friday, March 23, 2012 | ★ ★ ★ ★

ST. PETERSBURG

As his new series and first-year team marketed him as a rising star in front of national reporters and the bright lights of New York, Will Power played with a fart machine. • His wife laughs as she tells the story of Power pulling pranks with then-teammate Oriol Servia at his rookie media day four years ago. The jokes provide a rare glimpse at the off-track quirkiness of one of the IndyCar series' top talents and unknown personalities.

The public sees the two-time series runnerup as a humble 31-year-old with an Australian accent and a competitive drive befitting his unmistakable name. Those in the series know Power as one of their sport's biggest goofballs and wackiest characters.

"He's so focused race weekend that people don't get to see it," said his wife, Liz. "At home and away from the track, he's just a riot."

Power's antics began growing up in Toowoomba, Australia, at a home overrun with creativity. His father, Bob, was an open-wheel driver. His three brothers became a stand-up comedian, a break dancer and (yawn) an accountant.

The quartet shared their father's love of extreme sports and competition. They hopped one, then two, then three 20-liter barrels on their bikes — until one snapped in half. They drove go-carts and tried dirt racing.

Power used his first paycheck from stocking shelves at a warehouse to buy a drum kit. The next ones fed a skateboarding addiction that chewed through two pairs of shoes and a board every month.

"I guess with my parents we were a real handful, no question," Power said.

Power eventually graduated from being pushed around in a plastic car by his brothers to racing the real thing. His spontaneity and sense of humor never changed.

As a Champ Car rookie in 2006, Power let his brother Damien impersonate him at the series' stop in Australia, to laughs from fans and amazement from his future wife. The joke turned on Power months later when his too-good-to-be-true name became a punch line in Damien's stand-up routine.

"He'd give me (a hard time) about my name," Power said.

Power took the jabs in stride and won't take himself too seriously, especially around his brothers. Soon after he proposed to Liz, the couple visited Toowoomba for their first Christmas with Power's full family. The brothers borrowed props from one of Nick's choreographed routines to try break dancing — on stilts.

"It was the craziest thing I had ever seen," Liz Power said. "His poor mother was freaking out. She didn't want them to mess up the carpet."

The break dancing continued at their wedding, much to the surprise of Liz's Texan family and her 90-year-old grandmother.

The public gets peeks of Power's goofy side.

He jammed with a music school band in August to promote the Sonoma race. Cameras caught him sneaking bites of a honey and banana sandwich in the cockpit during a red flag at Brazil. He posed for pictures with a hotel worker in Baltimore wearing Family Guy boxers and a T-shirt that read "Heartthrob."

At media day this month, Power cracked that since Danica Patrick has bolted for NASCAR, he'd love to take her GoDaddy commercials. He deadpanned before correcting himself to say Verizon, which surely pleased the sponsor of his No. 12 Chevrolet.

"He's a funny guy, when you get to know him," driver Graham Rahal said. "Most of the conversations I have with Will, I just spend a lot of my time laughing. I think he'd be a really good ambassador for the sport."

But when Power gets to the track, his comic side disappears. The laser focus honed from battling three brothers takes over.

Since joining juggernaut Team Penske full time in 2010, he has won a series-best 11 races — including the 2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — and finished second to Dario Franchitti in points both years. He'll be one of the favorites in Sunday's Grand Prix and is the top contender to end Franchitti's run of three consecutive championships.

When Power's on-track personality does emerge, it's more fiery than funny. TV cameras caught him making obscene gestures at the race control tower in New Hampshire after he wrecked during a late restart on a damp track. After he and Franchitti collided in Toronto, Power blasted his rival as a "dirty" driver and called him a princess on Twitter.

"I was like, 'Really? That was the best you could come up with, Will? …' " Franchitti said. "That's Will."

But Power also shows signs of maturity.

He has long since chopped off the long hair he had as a rookie, and he has shaved the stubble he grew in the offseason. He said he tries to treat people with more respect and that he learned from the "angry birds" that earned him a $30,000 fine.

"At the end of the day, you are representing a brand and there probably are kids watching as well," Power said. "That is conscious in my mind."

Power still jokes with his brothers and pulls pranks on his competitors. He plays the drums almost every day in his Charlotte basement, and his wife hears him singing at the top of his lungs.

But his thirst for victory made him end another love — skateboarding. He almost bought a new board over the winter, but the risk of threatening his racing career with an injury is too great for him to start up again.

Which is too bad, he says, because the driveway at his new home would make a perfect playground.

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

.fast facts

Three things
to know about
Will Power

1. His full name is William, which comes from his great-grandfather, but friends called him Will as a kid. That his name is a common phrase wasn't relevant until his racing career took off. "It wasn't a big deal until I was a race driver — a popular one — then it became a big deal," Power said. His mother still calls him William.

2. The rest of his family is successful, too. Damien, the comedian, has performed at the same festival as Tom Green and was recently selected for one of Australia's top gigs, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Nick, the dance choreographer and break dancer, has backed up Run DMC and is in Paris on a prestigious three-month arts residency.

3. He met his wife, a PR director for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, when they worked for the same racing team in 2006. Dating co-workers was against the rules, so they kept their relationship a secret for two years. He proposed on a horse carriage ride through Indianapolis, and they were married in December 2010.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

What: IndyCar season opener

When/where: Today-Sunday, downtown streets

Tickets: Prices range from $20 for ages 12 and under for today and Saturday to $125 for a three-day adult upper-reserved seat. Paddock passes and convenience charges extra. Details or to buy: gpstpete.com or (727) 898-4639, ext. 225

FAST RISER: A rookie reaches IndyCar in just eight years. 2X

BREAKOUT: Shannon McIntosh of USF2000 gains fame fast. 4X

INSIDE: Driver lineup, IndyCar schedule, track map and more.

Despite appearances, Will Power is one of IndyCar's biggest goofballs and wackiest characters 03/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 8:33pm]

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