The tub that IndyCar drivers slide into as they prepare to race is called a survival shell. Today just further signified why it is termed as such and just how much it lives up to it’s name.
Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon, the polesitter for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500, had nowhere to go on Lap 53 in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 when Jay Howard made contact with the outside wall and slid down the track toward the infield. Dixon had a head-on impact with the left side of the No. 77 SPM Team One Cure Honda, immediately launching into the air, where the car began to roll. The side of the car slammed down hard onto the top of the inside wall safer barrier. The impact was on the right side of that survival shell. The car was also held in by the catch fence as it spun like a top, the front nose then hitting the catch fence down a ways. A burst of fire came out of what used to be the fuel tank as the car continued spinning and bouncing down the track. The No. 9 Camping World Honda came to a stop right side up with the entire back of the car gone and all but 1 tire missing.
We could see immediately that he was moving around in the cockpit and moments later he got out of the car under his own power. The Holmatro Safety Team was on scene within seconds, as always, and took Dixon to the infield medical care center for exam. The race was red-flagged in order to clean up the massive debris field, spanning the length of the quarter-mile short chute on the southern end of the track.
Shortly thereafter, he was checked and released from the center and given clearance to drive.
Dixon lived up to his nickname of Iceman, as he walked over to media to discuss the incident just after his release. I could not believe how composed he was in the post-incident accident:
“Definitely a wild ride. When you make those decisions of which way to go, there was no way to avoid him. You just hang on and believe in the safety progress we’ve had over the last couple years.”
If I’m being truthful, Dixon was in more control than most of us. I just keep shaking my head or putting my hands over my mouth every time they replay the accident in the media center. It’s hard to comprehend what I’m seeing and the fact that both drivers not just survived the horrific wreck, but they were uninjured.
This result is a testament to the engineers, crews, and safety teams that keep Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, track workers, and fans safe – from the the advanced safety features and construction of the DW-12, to the quality and efficiency of the walls, SAFER Barriers, and catch fences, as well as the impeccable response time and top-level talent within the Holmatro Safety Team. Without all of those elements working cohesively, incidents like yesterday would have fatal consequences.
Jay Howard gave that same credit to everyone involved, having survived the direct impact of Dixon’s car, when it slammed into the left side of his survival shell at 220+ mph, and the bottom of Dixon’s car narrowly missed his helmet when it launched into the air.
“Credit to IndyCar, IMS, Dallara, Holmatro… glad Scott is okay, he was a victim of this. It sucks. Not sure it was a suspension issue. I lifted and let Hunter-Reay go (on the front stretch leading into Turn 1). I tried to slide in behind him but he didn’t give me any room and that pushed me into the marbles. I was just a passenger at this point.”
Howard had his wheel turned all the way to the right, trying to stay against the outside wall and out of the way of traffic, but couldn’t do anything to control the No. 77 after the initial impact. Today was Howard’s first time racing in IndyCar since the ‘500’ in 2011, after many years of attempted entries.
Dixon started on the pole for this year’s race, and escaped a robbery at gunpoint a week ago at a local Taco Bell drive-thru with his wife Emma, and their friend and former IndyCar driver, Dario Franchitti. It’s been one heck of a week for Dixon and the IndyCar community in general. Let’s hope it calms down significantly, and soon.
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Feature photo credit: Michael C. Johnson / Amarillo Globe News c/o Motorsport.com