Tony Borroz opens up what has been dubbed “The 2018 Indy 500 Notebook” for an unedited look at The Greatest Spectacle In Racing. The 2018 Indy 500 Notebook is an unfiltered look and what makes the Indy 500 so alluring in the first place. The series concludes with this final installment, Part 9: “Moving On.”
The Indianapolis 500, as big as it is, is a thing of the past. Or at least now it is. The dust has barely settled and the teams have all moved on to the next round, a double-header race set on the beautiful Belle Isle Park in Detroit, with Will Power riding a wave of considerable momentum. At this point, I’d say Power is now the favorite to win the series championship, but this whole thing is far from over.
Power always seemed like he was running closer to an emotional edge than most other racers in the series. His last race, or few races, always seem to affect what’s coming next more with Power than with his competitors. That’s why winning this year’s 500 will have such a big impact going forward for him, both this season and in years to come. After chalking up a big win at Indy – two, actually, since you should also count his win on the Indy road course – Power will most likely be able to parlay that into enough wins, places, and shows to notch up another championship.
His joy at winning The 500 seemed like more than that, more than just elation at (finally) winning one of the crown jewels in all of racing. Along with all the screaming, gesticulating, furtive twitching and such, Power displayed a sense of relief that was almost worrying in its intensity. It became easy to stitch together a bunch of stuff in Power’s past with his Victory Circle response.
Up until winning Indy, you could see that it was Bugging him with a capital B; I mean Bugging him the way not settling the score with Moby Dick was starting to bug Ahab. We’re all complex creatures, we humans, and some of us are very complex indeed. Will Power seems to fall into that latter half of humanity. Having a certain level of drive and determination is part and parcel of being a racer at this level. Roger Penske or Michael Andretti or Josef Newgarden didn’t get to where they are because they had nothing else better to do. You don’t back into anything at this level. So having a certain amount of dogged determination to “succeed” is to be expected.
But, like anything else in life, it’s when you get on the other side of that power curve of determination that I start to worry. Captain Ahab is not a heroic figure. There is nothing fine and noble and valiant at attaining your goals at the cost of your humanity. I’m not saying that Power was going full Ahab here, but I am saying that his palpable sense of relief at finally winning worried me that he was edging closer to that.
Cats In The Cradle
I’ve seen it before, and far too many times at literally every level of this sport. I’ve seen drivers so blindly determined to win that they slowly lose everything along the way. Racing, as an activity, is riddled with broken relationships, snapped bones, burned out friendships, twisted frames, destroyed families. Some disabilities are not physical. Some drivers (and team owners) become so fixated, so focused on Winning, that literally nothing else matters to them.
Normal, healthy relationships with their spouses or children or close friends? They can be jettisoned with nary a backward glance if they are in the way of “winning.” Not winning can be the worst thing in the world. Not winning can Cost You, and you won’t know what the final bill is until it’s far too late in your life to be able to truly pay it.
And that’s why, in retrospect, I’m as relieved as Will Power over his 2018 Indy 500 win. Looking back, I can see how Power could have let missing another 500 win affect him. It would gnaw at him, and the pressure would mount, and build, and, like 90 percent of the other racers out there, he would have responded the only way racers know how: work harder, try harder, sacrifice more, risk more. When you buy into the mindset that your racing results define who you are as a human being, then results are all that matter.
That is, obviously, seriously unhealthy. Eventually, the results have got to stop. Eventually, the spotlight fades and the applause dies down and you are left with time on your hands. And if you’re one of those people who don’t know how to balance out all aspects of your life, even the big aspects of your life, like being a racing champion, then that time can stretch out before you like a yawning chasm. You can turn into one of those irascible old jerks at the local bar; one of the “remember-whens” and “I used to . . .” people.
No, Will Power finally winning The 500 wasn’t his “cure” for that. It never is. But what it hopefully will do for Mr. Will Power is give him some peace. Now that he has ticked off the “Win Indy 500” box, maybe he can get some perspective. Now, maybe he will realize he’s working, not from a place of accomplishment (although he surely is working from that as well), but from a place of peace and calm and quiet and he can move on and live a more balanced life.
Sure, this will make him a much stronger racer, especially in the short term, but eventually this will also make him a much stronger person, and we are all better off knowing that.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.