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For Will Power, IndyCar’s off-season provides time for reflection

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Though IndyCar’s lengthy off-season may feel like an eternity to some fans, for drivers the time away from the track presents an opportunity to reflect on another year gone by and to catch up on tasks that would have been difficult to complete during the thick of the racing calendar.

For Team Penske’s Will Power, his off-season is much busier than many fans may realize. Even though drivers like himself may be out of the public eye over the next few months, that does not necessarily mean they aren’t at work, and more often than not, their agenda changes from day to day.

“There’s plenty of different stuff that you do,” Power told NBC Sports. “It’s not a set routine until you get fully into training [later in the off-season] and get up every day to go to the gym.

“You could be doing some PR stuff, obviously we have a test at Indy [an IndyCar aeroscreen test at IMS in October]. I have a wedding to go to, then I’ll go to Australia for three weeks to do some stuff down there and obviously see the family.

“Then I’ll come back. I think I’m going to do a go kart race in Vegas in November, and I have a 21st birthday party for a young kid, so there’s various things. On top of that, you start preparing for the next season as you get into December.”

Still, even though drivers like Power keep busy during the off-season, they still do have some opportunities to just rest and reflect on the previous season, and Power says that whether or not these reflection sessions are positive or negative can all depend on a driver’s performance over the course of the previous season. 

“If you have a bad season you definitely reflect on why and what could have been better,” Power said. “That even starts before the end of the season, reflecting on why we struggled.”

There will likely be plenty for Power to reflect on this off-season. Though it appeared that he would be a title contender early on in the season when he scored two poles in the first two races, the first three quarters of 2019 season turned out to be very disappointing for the Aussie.

In IndyCar’s inaugural visit to the Circuit of the Americas in March, Power appeared to be on-track to his first victory of 2019, as he led the race’s first 45 laps from the pole.

However, a mechanical issue would end Power’s afternoon, and he finished the race dead last. Over the next 11 races, Power would finish on the podium only twice.

“It was such a pity that not winning that COTA race really started a trend of just bad results,” Power said. “That should of been a win for us, and obviously the gearbox blew up and it went yellow, so we were done no matter what happened there.”

However, the tides began to turn for Power as the season began to close. He scored his first victory of the year in the rain-shortened 500-miler at Pocono Raceway, and then followed up with a second victory two weeks later at Portland – the 37th of his career.

Power would the end 2019 season with a second-place finish in the season finale at Laguna Seca and with a respectable fifth-place finish in the overall point standings. Not bad at all for a driver who almost looked as if he was going to go winless for the first time since 2006

“I was just happy to get a couple of wins,” Power said. “I was thinking ‘man, I don’t want to go winless this season,’ so I was really happy to get those two wins.

“Obviously we had a very bad start to the year, and man this was just a nice way to go out.”

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Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”