The Verizon IndyCar Series' medical consultants have given the okay for Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe to get back behind the wheel of the #27 United Fiber & Data Dallara-Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's been a long couple of days sitting at home and not even really watching," said Hinchcliffe. "I was banned from electronics and I was getting little updates and snippets here and there, and that made it tougher because you don't know exactly what's going on
"But I knew everyone was running and I was sitting at home," he added. "That was the toughest thing ... seeing everyone driving. It was the first time I'd been here for any on-track activity and it was tough to watch but it's all come good."
Hinchcliffe had received a concussion last Saturday while competing in the inaugural road course race at IMS, after he was hit on the helmet by flying debris from the shattered wing of Justin Wilson's car following a restart.
The official announcement noted that Hinchcliffe had been cleared to resume driving duties after passing the post-concussion ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) evaluation, according to IndyCar medical director Dr Michael Olinger.
ImPACT - the most-widely used and most scientifically validated computerised system for assessing concussion - tests neurocognitive functions including verbal recognition memory, design memory, visual processing speed, symbol matching, color matching and three-letter memory against a baseline reading taken before the start of the season.
"We ever surprised the doctors with how quickly we've been able to come back," Hinchcliffe said. " All of the testing has been good and everything we've done is pointing in the right direction, so I'm feeling good."
Hinchcliffe admitted to reporters that he had no recollection of events between the restart and waking up in hospital. "Unconscious? I believe I was momentarily, yes. I woke up in time to turn it, apparently, so that was lucky.
"My belief is that when the helmet was hit it went up and when it went up the front of the mouth guard hit my nose and jammed it up," he said, explaining a bruise to his nose. "There's a couple hours there that I don't remember, some of which was caught on TV for good and bad. Luckily everything since then has been good. I've had no real issues
"I woke up Sunday with a little bit of a headache, but other than that, not bad at all. I did a really intense day of resting, which is kind of an oxymoron, but a lot of sitting around," he continued. "By Monday, I was feeling myself. I felt 100 percent."
If he hadn't been able to pass the ImPACT assessment on Thursday it's unlikely that Hinchcliffe would have been ready to participate in this weekend's qualifying sessions for the Indy 500, which would have left him out of next week's race.
"Vacation over, back to work! So happy to be cleared to drive," Hinchcliffe posted on Twitter, adding in a team press release that "It goes without saying, I'm thrilled to be back."
In Hinchcliffe's absence, the #27 car has been in the hands of former team mate EJ Viso for the first five days of practice for the Indy 500.
Unfortunately just prior to the announcement that Hinchcliffe had been cleared to return, the engine in the #27 blew up and the team needed to take most of the rest of the day making the necessary repairs and changes before Hinchcliffe can get back into the cockpit for his first 2014 outing on the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Hinchcliffe did finally get strapped into the car in time to make one partial installation lap before the end of the session.