Will Power’s concussion leaves IndyCar in a fog

Before Penske Racing driver Will Power ever stepped foot into his racecar on Friday, he had a problem. Unknown to most in the garage area, the 35 year old driver Australian had been battling an inner ear infection, but was still determined to be medically safe to drive. Now, I don’t know about you,  but most people who suffer from an inner ear infection face balance issues, nausea, and dizziness; all of these can be compounded by the extreme G-forces that IndyCar racers face. Nonetheless, he jumped in the car, and went out for morning practice. What happened then is history; he crashed!

It wasn’t a major crash, to be sure, but it did total the No. 12 Verizon sponsored Chevrolet. We will never know if the inner ear infection contributed to the accident, but my guess is that it was a contributing factor.

After climbing out of the machine, he promptly lost his lunch, sorta speak, and lounged around until Saturday. On Saturday, he strapped back into the racecar, and dominated the speed charts, setting a new track record in the process, and qualifying in the pole position. Following his record setting run, he was interviewed about his accomplishment, and didn’t look right. To be honest, he looked as though he was about to pass out!

Sunday morning, he skipped practice, replaced by Spaniard Oriol Servia. Rumors in the garage area, and in the media, were that he was battling a stomach flu, but IndyCar and the Penske team knew the truth. In Friday’s crash, he suffered what has been labeled as a “minor” concussion, which was diagnosed late Saturday by the IndyCar medical staff. Nonetheless, he still drove on Saturday, placing not only himself, but other drivers, fans, and safety workers in jeopardy.

In the 15 years since Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed due to a closed head injury, one would think that the auto racing world would be more aware of these sort of brain traumas, and their impact on the health and well being of the competitors. However, a macho, walk it off attitude still pervades the paddock area. This attitude is at the very least unsafe, and at the worst dangerous to not only the sport, but the future well being of the racers themselves.

Will Power has now entered into the IndyCar concussion protocol, and will continue to be evaluated before being allowed to compete again. Let us hope that IndyCar, and racing in general, will improve their diagnosis of brain injuries, and that the lackadaisical attitude towards the danger of concussions and other sports related injuries will not be allowed to continue. Otherwise, we might not be so lucky in the future.

Adam Sinclair