Will Power says his return to fitness is going better than expected and he plans to get back into an Indy car in January, following yesterday's announcement of his deal to race full time for Penske next year.
The Australian made six appearances for Penske last season, including a victory at Edmonton, and has been confirmed as teammate to Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves in 2010. He is still recovering from the back injury he sustained in a crash at Sonoma's Infineon raceway in August, but says his recovery is going better than expected.
"I'm feeling good," said Power. "Everything is going well. It's actually ahead of schedule. I'm in the gym every day and I can't believe how far I've come in just one month – I'm swimming, I'm on the rowing machine, I'm doing weights."
Power fractured three lumbar vertebrae and his fifth thoracic vertebra, and suffered a heavy concussion when he crashed into the car of Nelson Philippe, who had spun over a blind crest. He was fitted with a customized back brace which he was expected to wear until January, but thinks he could be ready before the new year.
"I don't think there's going to be any problem getting back in the car in January, that is sort of my plan," he said. "I'll probably be cleared to drive before then, but to get back to full cardio fitness I think I need to wait until January."
He is looking forward to a full season with Penske and believes the deal justifies his decision to stay with the team even though it couldn't provide him with a race seat on a regular basis once Castroneves returned to action earlier this year.
"I think I would have stayed there no matter what, because it was a great situation for me to be driving there," said Power. "Every time I was in the car, it was a good car. It's no use running around the back of the field with a team that's sort of not up for the job, because you don't do yourself any favors.
"For me it was a great year, although it ended badly. Now it's turned out that it was just a very good decision for me to go there. I really look forward to it."