DETROIT – In true Ginger Baker style, Team Penske driver Will Power showed he’s just as relaxed behind a drum set as in the cockpit of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet today.
In the Motor City to promote the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Belle Isle from June 2-4, Power belted out tunes from Cream, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers on the rooftop of the downtown Lear Innovation Center during lunchtime.
Accompanied by local musicians Frank D’Angelo on lead guitar/vocals and Bob Dempster on bass, Power stepped up to the challenge of drumming along to British ‘60s super group Cream’s classic “Sunshine of Your Life,” made famous by Baker on skins and Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton on guitar.
Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and two-time Belle Isle winner, began racing in Formula Ford in his native Australia in 2000 and in the Champ Car World Series in late 2005 before joining Penske in 2009 as a fill-in for Helio Castroneves. It was the same year Power first picked up a set of drumsticks.
“I’m no pro (on drums),” Power said humbly. “I really started playing in 2009, when I was a part-time driver. I play a little bit on and off. I’m not that good.”
Named the Will Power Turbochargers for the jam session, the trio seemed as though they’d jammed together for years.
They certainly entertained the large group of Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association members and Lear Corporation employees who gathered to hear Power talk about his racing and watch him perform on the drums. He was also present for the unveiling of the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix poster, designed by 21-year-old Kaylin Mahoney from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit.
As a kid, growing up in Toowoomba, Australia, Power was influenced in racing by his father Bob, an open-wheel driver, he told the group.
“I like the style of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana), Jimmy Chamberlin (The Smashing Pumpkins), Travis Barker (Blink-182) and jazz great Buddy Rich,” said Power. “But I drive a lot better than I play drums.”
It’s been a tough start for Power this season on the track. He’s had mechanical issues, a crash on the opening lap at Long Beach and a flat tire at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama last weekend after he’d led 60 laps and looked the winner.
Despite two poles in the first three races of 2017, Power has been snake bit in races.
“We’ve had a lot of speed,” he said. “Honestly, Barber was one of my best races ever. It was heartbreaking at the end.”
Power was called into the pits with a tire slowly leaking air while dominating.
“I tried my best to stay out,” admitted Power. “I said, ‘I don’t feel it.’ Then it started to bother me. I said, ‘Just let me do one more lap.’ They said, ‘You’ve got to come in.’ I did.”
Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden went on to win the race in his rookie season for Roger Penske.
“I think we would have taken off had we not had the tire problem,” said Power, who is mired in 14th place in series points. “We had so much speed in hand.”
On his incident with Charlie Kimball at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, Power said the pair straightened things out at Barber after he had called Kimball “the most dangerous driver on the track.”
“I saw him in the (motorcoach) lot … and we just talked and shook hands in the end,” said Power. “It’s just a couple incidents we had. I felt he could have avoided it, so we talked about it.”
On returning to Belle Isle, where he won the second race of the doubleheader weekend in 2016 for Team Penske, Power said he was excited.
“I love Detroit,” he said. “The racing is great; the track is bumpy and technical. It’s the backyard of Chevrolet, it’s Roger Penske’s home, just a great place to race.”
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