This article was originally published on MTAF Wheels, which is now dark. Thank you for enjoying it here through the Live Full Throttle Archives.
Three Chevy incidents over the past week in practices have led to just as many upside-down Dallaras here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Helio Castroneves (Team Penske, No. 3), Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing, No. 21) and most recently, Ed Carpenter (CFH Racing, No. 20) all had impacts and/or spin outs that resulted in their cars going airborne to varying degrees. They found themselves upside down during their incidents.
My biggest concern, and I know I am not alone in this, is what happens when these cars lose control in traffic? We have seen cars lose control at the Speedway many times, and this is certainly not the first time we have seen cars go airborne. The concern lies in the fact that the anatomy of the incidents, at their starting point, did not seem extraordinarily different from incidents in the past. We have witnessed drivers spin or get loose (for whatever reason) and they end up getting into the wall – sliding down a good length of it, or even ricocheting off the wall and making their way back onto the track or across it, resting down towards the apron. Flipping upside with the airiness of a feather however, is not an image we are used to seeing and certainly not something we want to continue to observe. We have seen cars in the fences or catch air, but not in the extreme fashion we’ve seen this week – and many of those accidents which I can immediately recall were due to contact with another car, not a solo situation. Nor have we seen so many in a small timeframe that induce jaw-dropping, outside of a live race.
Are the aero kits responsible for this situation? I don’t know. Team members I have spoken to are not willing to place blame on them as the sole catalyst either. I am not an engineer. I do not claim to have extensive knowledge in the physics or technological aspects of the aero kit. I am however, a writer who has been around this series my entire life. I do not jump to conclusions, and I give opinions based on education, experience and observation. I do believe that the kits must be playing some role in these incidents. The kit is the main change to the vehicles in comparison to the past 3 seasons. I don’t think they are necessarily the cause of the accidents, but they seem to be playing a large role in how the anatomy of the accident changes once the car has abandoned its normal line or direction.
The speed that the cars are running has also been called into question by the public. This is where things get complicated. The increase in speed is due to the new aero kits, so we enter into a vicious cycle of “damned if we do, damned if we don’t”. That’s also the road I feel like I’m traveling down if I delve into this much further so I will leave it at that for now.
The point of the matter is, IndyCar has the safety of the drivers and fans as their number one priority. If re-evaluation is needed on particular aspects of the series, rest assured that those issues will be taken into account and examined in a concentrated effort to produce the safest racing situation possible. This is motorsports and the risks associated are numerous, but I have faith that the teams, drivers, crews, administrators and any other bodies that take part in the decision-making process have the drivers and fans best interests at heart.
As of now, we are in a holding pattern at the track with Turn 2 repairs underway to the permanent part of the track. These repairs are due to Carpenter’s incident this AM. The footage of said incident is available above in a link or below in the YouTube player. Carpenter has been medically cleared by IndyCar. The CFH Racing team is working very hard on getting him into their last complete back-up car here at the Speedway. Ed is set to qualify within the first 4 of the order but whether or not the team will be ready is another question.
The morning practice session was red flagged with 14 min 17 sec left. They have not called it yet so we are waiting for Group 2 to complete their practice and then we will get to qualifying. Qualifying format is listed here and we will are on a delay from the originally scheduled 10:00AM start. No exact time has been listed yet but I will keep you updated as news is released.
Turn 2 repairs were completed on a permanent part of the track this AM. Word is, they have fired the engine on the No. 20 so hopefully Carpenter will be able to take his qualification spot in order.
Mark Miles and Derrick Walker addressed the media and gave an official statement:
“This morning we saw a third car get into the wall, turn backward and lift into the air. We’ve said all along we want to go faster, but we want to do it safely. As a precautionary measure, INDYCAR will require that the cars qualify today in the same aero setup that they will run in the Indianapolis 500 next weekend. Also, for today, boost levels will return to race conditions. Given these changes, we have elected to not award points for today’s qualifications. Safety for drivers and fans is the top priority for INDYCAR and we will continue to be proactive in our research and development to improve all safety aspects of our sport.” – Mark Miles, CEO – Hulman & Company
Miles and Walker were also very clear in stating that this is not a Chevy or Honda issue – the situations that occurred for all three airborne cars were different catalysts. These changes and the decisions made are based on “safety being their guiding light”, according to Walker. They are not addressing things as manufacturer vs manufacturer, it’s the bigger picture and the safety of ALL involved.
Remember, the entire field shares that track – so the struggles of one driver or team, quickly becomes the struggles of all drivers and teams. IndyCar races might only have one winner a piece and produce serious competition on the way there… but all individuals involved have to hold not only themselves, but everyone around them accountable. A safe and entertaining race, or in this case practice & qualifying, is only possible as a collective effort.
The morning practice session was ended with 14 min 17 sec left. Another practice session will run from 1:30 – 2:30 PM. No guaranteed green flag time. Qualifying will start at 3:15 PM. The format has changed again. Each car will get one shot for their qualifying effort. No division of groups. No Fast Nine shootout. I do not have any updates yet on live broadcast but will bring that to you via live tweets and updates here on MTAF Wheels once an official announcement is made.