Will Power’s Most Terrifying Trick

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Will Power was pulling out of the pit lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he had done hundreds of times. Unlike those hundreds of times, and unbeknownst to Power, he was accelerating straight toward a slippery substance on the track surface.

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Power hit the patch just where the pit lane merged with the track. His tires spun, causing his Indy car to slam. Power – his car still out of control under him – slid back into the grass and onto the track itself, just ahead of a group of cars.

This is it, Power thought. “It’s going to be really bad.”

Welcome to Split Second, where we ask runners to recall a split-second moment etched in their brains – the perfect pass, the slow-motion movie of their worst accident, the near miss that scared them , or anything else – and what gives memory power. In this edition, we spoke with two-time IndyCar champion Will Power, who described an unexpected scare in Indianapolis.

power, who won his second IndyCar Series championship in September, was at an April test for that year’s Indianapolis 500 when he lost control. It was a month before the big race, when 325,000 people would fill the stands overlooking it. The day he spun, however, the track was empty except for cars.

“It was my worst nightmare,” Power said. “I left the pit lane and the tires slipped, and I spun down the track with a whole group coming in at 250 miles an hour. I wasn’t even ready. I was just coming out of the pits and it turned.

The power was at the Indianapolis pit exit, a narrow road parallel to the 2.5-mile oval of the track with only a strip of grass in between. So he wasn’t.

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“I wasn’t even pushing,” Power said. “I was not on the limit. I was not spinning the tires. I was going 60 mph. I was literally half throttle and shifted into second gear, which is a very high gear, and slowly shifted to full throttle and spun. It’s something that doesn’t happen. The tires just spun, and it made me spin and go up the track. Then the car stalled, because all I could think about was trying to save the car, saving myself.

The power slid onto the grass and onto the apron lining the bottom of the track, straight into the path of Andretti Autosport driver Colton Herta. Herta, who was running the low line of the track at the time, whipped towards the outside wall to avoid Power. He lost control, triggering his own spin in front of at least seven oncoming cars.

They all scattered to avoid Herta – some missing it by car lengths and others by inches. Meanwhile, Power sat in his broken down car in “total shock.”

“The worst nightmare is spinning on an oval apron,” Power said. “I couldn’t believe it. The full pack arrives and you get super alert. It was [in] slow motion. I was on the radio and I said, ‘Oh my God, what was that?’ It freaked me out.

Power got his car started again, but he didn’t go out for any test laps. He returned to the pit lane, got out of the car and said, “I won’t be coming back until I know exactly what happened and why it happened.”

“Dude, it just kinda turned on,” Power told NBC’s Peacock show afterwards. “I had already done a lap, so I had the temperature of the rear tires, I thought. Scared the absolute daylights out of me. I got zero warnings. Zero. Normally, you’re ready for that kind of stuff. You’ve had a career doing this stuff, and you’re getting a warning.

“I want to know what I did wrong, and I want to know if it’s something on the track. It was like water. It was such a shock to me. I came off that track stalls hundreds of times. I don’t want anything to happen to anyone else, or anyone to get hurt because of this.

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Power was the third lap of the day on a slow access road, including 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi and four-time winner Helio Castroneves. Castroneves felt like Power, saying via NBC Sports“I didn’t even push, and the car spun. I wasn’t even trying. It was very strange.

There were about 30 minutes left in the day’s session when Power shot, but IndyCar didn’t run them, opting instead to investigate what happened. Indianapolis had recently applied a “quick-breaking emulsion” sealant to the track surface, and the main theory became that there were too many in some areas.

“It’s a coating they put on the track to make it last longer,” Power said. “He fills in all the gaps. I think what happened was there was nothing left to fill in, and it just sat on top of the track when it dried and returned it sliding. I just hit the wrong patch.

IndyCar brushed off the excess filler and rolled tractor tires over the surface to add grip, and Power said the track was fine afterward. But the bizarre and unavoidable accidents always worry him, whether in the pit lane or outside.

Electric driving during the 2022 Indy Open Test.

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“It’s just been a concern for me for years,” Power said. “I broke my back in 2009 because I had crossed a ridge when someone had just spun. I mean, you have to understand, motorsport is just dangerous at these speeds They’ve improved safety immensely, but at the speed you’re driving in Indianapolis or a superspeedway, it’s dangerous.

Power said the thought of the test crash lingered with him through April and into May, the month of the 500s. But like everything in racing, he knew he had to eventually to get rid of.

“You never want to crash on an apron,” Power said. “When you’re out on track, you’re a bit wary when you see someone leaving the pit lane on ovals. It’s human nature, isn’t it, to think about stuff like that. “But you gotta block. You gotta go. You just gotta keep moving.”

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