Dave Faustino, Will Power’s race engineer, has praised Team Penske personnel for repairing the crashed #12 car well enough to allow the 2014 champ to set Friday’s fastest time at St. Petersburg.
Power’s Team Penske-Chevrolet shunted heavily just five laps into the morning practice session, yet he re-emerged in second practice to knock reigning champion Scott Dixon from top spot in the final minute.
Faustino told Motorsport.com: “Will was adjusting his brake balance bar, so driving with one hand just as he hit a bump that's right at the kink on the back straight.
“That ripped the wheel out of his hand, turned it straight for a split second, and that was enough to send him off line and into the outside wall.
“So I have to give our guys so much credit there. The whole rear end of the car, the right-hand bodywork and the front and rear suspension were wrecked.
“It was like a slower oval crash – fully wrecked right side at 140mph into the wall.”
Faustino explained the team had not had to fully switch to a backup car, but had needed to cannibalize it.
“We had a split backup car and used its rear end,” he said. “Then we needed a new front wing, new rear wing new right-hand sidepod, new underwing, and a new suspension obviously.
“So yeah, quite a substantial shunt. But those mistakes are rare from Will, so…. “His neck is a little stiff, but he’s fine – got his hands off the wheel in time, and as you saw, he certainly recovered mentally.”
Power joined in his praise of the #12 mechanics, saying: “Definitely a bad start, but full credit to the guys to get the car back out there for the second session. It let me get some laps, get my head around the track and so on.
"We ran in circles with the setup, but P1 – pretty happy."
More set-ups to try on Saturday
Team Penske has scored seven wins and six pole positions in the last 10 St. Petersburg races, and Faustino believes the team’s databank for the 1.8-mile street/airport course was one of the keys to getting Power back up to speed rapidly.
“The accident set us back in terms of not having time to test everything we wanted to test,” said Faustino, “but luckily right now our base car is pretty good. So we just need to build on that through Saturday and quickly try little things here and there.
“The four Penske cars are quite far apart right now, actually, but I think they’ll converge a bit more once each of our guys has discovered what worked and what didn’t.”
Faustino was non-committal on whether the team had discovered all the parameters of the revised-for-2016 Chevrolet aero kit.
He said: “We’re still not 100 percent there. I think we’re going to have to get our heads round it on each track – road course, street course, short ovals.
“On the other hand, the changes for us weren’t as big as they were for Honda cars, so we don’t have to get our heads around too much.
For now, however, he said the speedway kits remained an unknown.
“The speedway kit has new domed skid plates,” he said, “and I don’t know how much difference they’ll make. We’ll know more in the test in the first week of April at Indy. It’s a manufacturers’ test and a so-called Indy Safety Test.
“It will be for everyone, so at least we’ll see what we’ve got before we start practice for the Indy 500.”