Thursday, November 30, 2023

Open Test Spin at Indy ‘Scared the Absolute Daylights Out of Me’ – Power

Will Power at the Open Test on Wednesday at IMS.
Will Power was taken aback after a scary spin from the warm-up lane at the end of Day 1 of the Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Image courtesy of Travis Hinkle / Penske Entertainment

Will Power shared his emotions after a frightening spin prompted IndyCar to put an early end to the first day of Open Testing on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 41-year-old Australian was on the acceleration lane when his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet randomly spun and nearly shot up into the race track into traffic before returning back to the inside part of the track covered by grass. The incident, though, was not without a crash as Colton Herta’s quick hands reacted to the momentary drift upward from Power’s car at the exit of Turn 1. As a result, it put Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda into the outside wall in the short chute before a near-miss by Marcus Ericsson and finally coming to a stop on the inside part of the the track entering Turn 2.

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For his part, Power confessed there was no warning ahead of the spin.

“Man, it just lit up,” Power said to NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider during Peacock’s coverage of the session. “I didn’t have much lateral (load) in it. I was in second gear, full throttle but it has a very tall second gear. I had already done a (warm-up) lap, so I had rear tire temp, I thought.

“Scared the absolute daylights out of me. You know the situation, when you come up on a track and there’s a whole pack coming at those speeds. I feel terrible for Colton that he crashed because I spun. But I had zero warning – Zero. You know, before I was going to go out again I told the engineer, ‘Just look at the video, we’ve got to understand what happened there, because I don’t understand what happened.’ It’s just a bad situation. I want to know what I did wrong because I never want that to happen again. I don’t know if it’s something on the track because it felt like water. As soon as I finished spinning, I said, ‘Man, there must be water there.’ I got something, because I’ve been out of that pit lane hundreds of times.”

Power was the third driver to find issues from the warm-up lane, with Alexander Rossi starting his day by spinning out the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. Moments before Power’s incident, reigning and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves crashed his No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda into the outside of the Turn 2 wall after spinning trying to merge from the warm-up lane.

“I had been super-careful all day because Rossi was the first one to spin,” Power said. “Man, I have been taking it easy on the apron for that reason, and because it’s just testing. You never want to risk going quick on the apron and ending up on the track when other cars are at speed.

“It just surprised me, big time. Normally, you’re ready for that stuff. You’ve had a whole career with this sort of thing and you get a warning.

“One thing I noticed is that there is more of a bump now where you go over the road course, and I’m wondering if it just got a spike of boost or if it was cold tires. But I’d already done a lap, and normally when I leave the pits even on cold tires you go out faster than that. So yeah, it was a surprise to me. I said, ‘Man, we’ve got to understand this and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through (this) or something happen to anyone else, or someone else gets hurt because of it.’ 

“Yeah, I feel terrible for Colton to have to crash because of something that happened there by me.”

Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner and 2014 IndyCar champion, felt the series made the right call by calling an end of the day with roughly 20 minutes to spare.

“Yeah, let’s really review the video and have a look at the track,” he said. “I’m sure the guys [track officials] have inspected it to make sure there’s not a weeper or something, because I asked my guys, ‘Did I hit the grass on the inside?’ And they said, ‘No.’ It just looked like it went like that, with zero warning.

“Phwah, man. Oh my God. Like, when I spun and was going up the track, I thought, ‘This is it. This is going to be bad.’ Then I grabbed the rear and headed back in, but then I saw Colton crash, and I thought, ‘Ugh, now I’ve caused other people to have wrecks.’ Scary.” 

In the midst of explaining his emotions, Power referenced Alex Zanardi’s 2001 accident at Lausitzring in Germany. Zanardi, a two-time Indy car champion in CART, spun exiting the pits at the oval circuit and went across the track sideways before the full speed car of Alex Tagliani slammed into him. Zanardi lost both legs as a result of the crash.

“It’s like my worst nightmare,” Power said. “It’s something you always think about as a driver because you’ve seen it. You saw what happened to Zanardi and it’s just something you’re aware of and you’re cautious of during practice. I just couldn’t believe it caught me out.”

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