The (Will) Power of “What If”

Will Power after winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500/Stephen Knell

The history of the Indianapolis 500 is made up of millions of “what if” questions, inspired by looking back on those these moments where if one of two things had gone differently, things would have been dramatically different for everyone involved.

Now, on the Monday after the race, after the milk has been drank, the accolades have been awarded and the fans have gone home, we have pulled our favorite “what if” questions from the 2018 race weekend. We hope you enjoy.

Will Power kisses the bricks after winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500

Will Power kisses the bricks after winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500/Stephen Knell

1. What if… Will Power didn’t end up winning the Indy 500?

As late as lap 195, two drivers on alternate race strategies still sat between Will Power and the only major IndyCar accolade that has eluded him in his 13 years of IndyCar racing. But he seemed to be snake bit at Indy, with a best finish of 5th in his first 7 starts. But in 2015, he was 2nd, showing that if the breaks fell his way, he had a chance.

But until the seas parted on lap 196 as both Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey pitted, out of fuel, did the outcome become clear. Passing was difficult all day, and even with fresher tires and more fuel, getting through the cars ahead of him would have been a challenge, and the disappointment of another near miss may have been similar to when he lost the IndyCar championship three years in a row.

But, of course, he did win. The win led to one of the most joyous Victory Lane celebrations in recent memory, and gave Will a spot amongst the all-time greats in IndyCar history.

Stefan Wilson enters the pits during Indianapolis 500 final practice, May 25, 2018/Stephen Knell

2. What if… Stefan Wilson had won the Indianapolis 500 instead?

A beneficiary of fuel strategy and off-sequence to the rest of the field, Wilson took the lead on lap 194. and pulled away from the field, leading for just long enough for the media, and fans alike to imagine what an incredible story the win would make.

Consider:

  1. Wilson gave up his ride in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 so that Fernando Alonso could have a chance to race.
  2. Wilson lost his enormously popular brother Justin in a fatal crash at Pocono in 2015, and was racing in advocacy of organ donation, having watched Justin save five lives in this way.
  3. The car carried the same number 25, and he drove for the same team as Justin did in his last race.
  4. Stefan’s car carried the names of 25 people on the transplant waiting list.
  5. Stefan has no regular ride scheduled for the rest of the 2018 season.

Could he have made it to the end? With four laps to go, Wilson pulled into the pits, to get enough fuel to finish the race. He wound up 15th, but a late race caution may have just have made him a legend forever. Still, he was pleased with the effort. And, it goes without saying, but we are sure Justin is proud.

Helio Castroneves after crashing out of the 2018 Indianapolis 500/Stephen Knell

3. What if… this was Helio Castroneves’ last Indy 500?

Fortunately for everyone involved, this question was put to rest quickly after the race as it became clear that he would be back in 2019. But, until that announcement it wasn’t abundantly clear that this would be the case after his lap 146 crash.

“The fans are so incredible,” Castroneves said to the Indianapolis Star. “Hopefully (Roger Penske) and everybody sees that. This place, definitely I deserve another chance. I can’t go out like this.”

He told Autosport, “It’s a shame. It caught us by surprise. We will learn a little more and hopefully, I can convince RP [Roger Penske] to bring me back.”

Fortunately, the disappointment about this being the end for Helio instead is replaced by having to wait until next year to see if the Dancing With The Stars champ can join the exclusive four-time Indy 500 winners club.

Alexander Rossi accepts his honorary 32 cent check from the Last Row party.

Alexander Rossi accepts his honorary 32 cent check from the Last Row party, May 24, 2018/Matthew Knell

4. What if… Alexander Rossi didn’t get a puncture during his qualifying run?

Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner, who was 10th fastest on the first day of time trails, suffered a tire puncture leading a slow leak on the second day, which led to a 32nd starting spot of 33 cars. His race day charge from 32nd to 4th was the best in 26 years, and one wonders what might have been had he started the race further up the field.

The media scrum around Danica Patrick on Indianapolis 500 Media Day, May 25, 2018/Matthew Knell

5. What if… Danica Patrick didn’t crash?

The center of much media attention in qualifying for her first Indianapolis 500 in 7 years and the last race of her career, the promise of a top finish for Patrick in the race was real. In an Ed Carpenter prepared car, she was fast all month, but saddled with a loose race car all day, her run ended all too quickly. She will end her racing career as the only woman to have led laps at the 500 to date, and with the best finish for a woman, 3rd in 2009.

6. What if… AJ Foyt was on social media to talk about all of this?

During Media Day, we asked 2013 Indy 500 winner, social media star, and AJ Foyt Racing driver, Tony Kanaan this exact question.

Not surprisingly, the thought of Foyt, the first four-time winner of the 500, and known for his fiery personality, on social media, led to an inspired answer from Kanaan, who himself has been curious about the possibility.

No one will ever know what AJ would have said on social about this Indy 500, but it sure would have been noteworthy.

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