Thursday, October 27, 2011

Will Power says he's committed to IndyCar Series

( 10-26-11)

Will Power said Wednesday he's committed to IndyCar and believes the series will become much safer from the investigation into Dan Wheldon's fatal accident.

Power was involved in the 15-car accident that killed the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Power's car went airborne in the Oct. 16 accident and hit the wall that had an energy-absorbing SAFER barrier at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In the days after the accident, reports in Power's native Australia indicated he was reconsidering his future in IndyCar, which he said is not the case.

"I am committed, I am staying in IndyCar, simple as that," Power said.

Power suffered a broken vertebra in the accident, his second serious back injury. He also broke two vertebrae in a 2009 crash at Sonoma. The injury will temporarily keep him from testing the 2012 IndyCar, but Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said the driver is mentally ready to get back in the car.

"I think the best medicine for any race car driver is to get him back in the car, get him back to what it is he does," Cindric said. "Obviously, he was very lucky for how it turned out for him. But he's a race car driver, and he's ready to compete.

"Is he ready to test? Ready to go back out? If we had a race tomorrow, he'd be ready to go."

Power expressed confidence IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard will improve overall safety in the series through the investigation into Wheldon's accident.

"I see how committed Randy Bernard is to making it safer, and that gives me confidence," Power said.

The Las Vegas event was the final race for the current IndyCar, and the new model is being tested all winter in preparation for the 2012 season. Power has tested the car and believes the safety improvements on the new model, particularly bolstering the seat and adding foam to soften rear impacts, "probably would have prevented me from breaking my back."

But as one of the drivers who went airborne in the accident, he recognizes how quickly things are taken out of the drivers' control. He recalls with vivid detail every step of the accident, from when he first saw smoke to when he hit the left rear tire of Alex Lloyd's car and "my car took off, went flying, and I remember thinking 'Oh, I'm going to the catchfence; that's not good."'

It was Wheldon, though, who hit the catchfence, and Power could tell immediately it was a serious situation.

"I was happy the car had stopped, I felt fine, I knew I had done some damage to my back," Power said. "And I wasn't really thinking about anything. Then I was just concerned for who was in the car in front of me, I then knew it was Dan and thought 'This is bad.' I could see the concern from the medical guys.

"So, I eventually got out of the car. I went away. I walked off."

He said he has had conflicting emotions in the week after the accident.

"It was so hard, comprehending everything that happened, really, that someone had actually been killed," he said. "It's weird, it's hard and it's tough. It's such a tight-knit community, motorsport, and that's worldwide, and it was honestly a bit of disbelief for a couple days.

"You just can't believe it happened, you just can't believe Dan Wheldon was killed. And then after reality, it sets in, and then it becomes common to you."

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