Many of the spoils of winning an Indianapolis 500 are immediate. There’s the donning of the wreath, the drinking of the milk, the kissing of the bricks.
But the best one, the most permanent one, comes several months after taking the checkered flag.
When William Behrends sculpts your likeness for the Borg-Warner Trophy, that’s forever. That’s when winning “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” perhaps hits home more than all the aforementioned moments.
Alexander Rossi, the winner of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in unbelievable, empty-fuel-tank fashion some six months ago, is closing in on that moment where he’ll see his face on the famous trophy. The reveal will come Dec. 7 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, though Rossi got a sneak peek in September when visiting Behrends’ North Carolina studio and seeing his life-size bust.
Before the sculptor creates the bas-relief image to be added to the trophy featuring the likeness of every winner in race history, he makes a bust of the winning driver to get a better handle on the person’s features and demeanor.
“Well, I think it’s cooler than looking in the mirror, for sure!” Rossi said upon seeing the bust in September. “It’s very special and it’s way more detailed, accurate and amazing than I ever thought it would be.
“I am so far from being anywhere close to an artist, but you can really appreciate what he’s done and I don’t even know where to begin in how you acquire such an amazing skill set. It’s fantastic that I had the opportunity to work with him for a short period of time and I think that it’s a very special program to be part of.”
Rossi’s likeness will be the 27th that Behrends has created for the Borg-Warner Trophy. In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya became the first driver to visit Behrends’ studio. Rossi followed this year in what may be a new tradition for the winner – and one that ultimately adds to what goes on the Borg-Warner.
“Being able to sit with them for a couple hours and talk about their lives, about their racing, about their win, it really does translate something into the work for me,” Behrends said. “It really enriches it for me, makes it more pleasurable for me to do.”
Fans are invited to attend the Borg-Warner Trophy unveiling with Rossi’s bas-relief image added. The event begins at 5 p.m. ET Dec. 7 and is included with paid admission to the IMS Museum. The ceremony will also be streamed live on IMS.com.