Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was laid back and happy after returning to the cockpit for the first time since setting the track record and winning the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12.
“It felt good, really good,” the Team Penske driver said after a daylong solo test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham on March 22.
Power sat out the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener March 13 due to effects from an inner-ear infection that prompted concussion-like symptoms including nausea, headaches and neck stiffness. It was only after a thorough battery of tests the day after the race that Power was determined not to have sustained a concussion.
INDYCAR Medical cleared the 35-year-old Australian to resume driving and, following a week to recover under prescribed medication, Power was on track at Barber.
Getting back in the car was “no problem,” he reported, after running through a planned test program set up by team engineer David Faustino.
“It was basically a combination of getting back in the car with the race coming up, too,” Power said, referring to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber from April 22-24. “It all helps out. I know this track like the back of my hand.”
That’s an understatement. Power is a two-time race winner and three-time pole sitter at Barber.
Power was scheduled to participate in a private test with most of the other series teams last week at the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course, but missed it while recuperating. Because there were no competitors on the track when he tested March 22, it was difficult to gauge where he stood against his rivals.
“It’s OK,” he said. “You like competition there so you can judge where you are at. It’s way more beneficial to test when the other cars are here. You have a measure how to tell exactly where you need to be.”
But was there any advantage to conducting what became a private test?
“There aren’t any secret bits,” said Power, who turned nearly 90 laps. “I’m afraid you can’t really change much. You’ve just got a combination of things … trying a few items my engineer wanting to get to and getting laps under our belt.”
As he left Barber, Power was already looking forward to another track: Phoenix International Raceway. The Phoenix Grand Prix at the historic 1.022-mile oval on April 1-2 is the next stop on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule
“It’s good, it’s really smooth, it’s a nice track,” Power said. “It’s the closest thing to Iowa (Speedway), really. Having a little less banking in Turns 3 and 4, it’s hard to say how it’s going to race, but it’s fast. Cars are really quick down there.”