By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Controversy sparked just before crossing the start/finish line to start the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, collecting both Spencer Pigot and Graham Rahal.
With the lack of track time, there was eagerness from the 22-car field to get the race going. Pole sitter Will Power led the field to the green flag, but the bunching began at the back as some drivers pushing forward.
Scott Dixon and Pietro Fittipaldi were among the early movers, but some weren’t able to respond right away as Ed Jones and Tony Kanaan had to check up, and Graham Rahal tried going full throttle, but he paid the price.
Rahal plowed into Pigot, sending his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet around, and made slight contact on the inside wall. The collision damaged the left front wing of his No. 15 Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Honda and made repairs once pit road opened.
Meanwhile, Pigot had to exit from his car unharmed and went to the infield care center where he was cleared to race.
Pigot felt that his race was all done, but wasn’t sure what led the field to bunch up, and felt Rahal was committed with his line.
“It was kind of over before it began unfortunately. I don’t really know exactly what happened, but it seem like a lot of movement forward and backwards, having to accelerate and break to kind of keep up with the guy in front,” said Pigot.
“That’s happening up at the front of the pack. When you get to the middle and the back, it just became a huge domino effect, and it’s gonna be hard to predict.
“(Graham) was obviously committed to accelerate and everybody kind of checked up. I don’t know what the root cause of it was, but just unfortunate for the Fuzzy’s Vodka No. 21 car.”
Pigot’s car was set to return, hoping to avoid his second last-place finish of the season and make the most of his first trip the the treacherous “Tricky Triangle.”
However, he was penalized for unapproved repairs as they did it under the red flag for a Lap 7 crash that notably involved Robert Wickens and four others in Turn 2.
“The car has been fixed. We’ll get back out there. I think we’re quite a few laps down, so we’ll run a few laps. Make sure everything’s okay and maybe run a stint or two,” Pigot added.
“There’s probably not a huge amount we can learn from, but it’ll be nice to do a few more laps on the track. I’ve only done 19 or 20 here so far.”
Rahal said the front of the field checked up and caused the unusual start, ruining his afternoon at Pocono.
“I was going through (Turn) 3 and started to lose gap, so I thought ‘okay, it’s time to go.’ We’re in the start zone and all of a sudden, everybody checked up. It’s just wrong,” said Rahal.
“We need to repair the car, so we’re going to be three laps down. I think IndyCar mandated that we changed the off ride on the right front. Even though it was seemingly fine, but that’s going to cost us a two lap penalty for doing that, and we’re going to need some luck now to get back in this thing.”
Rahal wasn’t alone as Dixon, who started in 13th, blames Power for bringing the field slowly, and was forced to downshift to avoid the accordion effect.
“The problem was the person taking us to the start,” said Dixon. “I was in third gear, then down to second into first, and back to the second. It was all over the map.
“I can’t comment too much, but I don’t know if there was a bit of accordion going on. It sound like that everybody was pretty packed up. The start speed going to the green was all over the sharp. It was so late that I think everybody wasn’t expecting that.”
In Power’s defense, he said he remained at the speed INDYCAR Race Control wanted at 107 mph, and actually took off earlier while Dixon took the big jump.
“Exact speed. 107 mph, exactly what they wanted. Actually went before the start zone,” said Power.
“Scott was the one trying to get a big run as he blames me. Never ever faulted on speed, it was as I wanted. It wasn’t a late start. It was actually an early start, and I maintained speed. It’s the guys back there that tried to jump.”
Pigot returned to the track 10 laps down, surpassed the five drivers who were involved in the Turn 2 crash, but it was all he can do and retired in 16th.
“We were so many laps down already. There was not much for us to gain. We just kind of went out and did enough laps to jump everyone that was involved in the other incident.” said Pigot.
“The car got a lot of damage on my right rear. When we went back out, it didn’t feel quite right. No sense risking anything else on the car, so we gained the positions we could gain, and that’s our race unfortunately.”
Rahal continued to race and ended up in 14th, four laps behind winner Alexander Rossi.