Ryan Hunter-Reay took his second win of the 2015 season at the ABC Supply 500, but the celebration was muted by a serious accident involving his teammate, Justin Wilson.
Josef Newgarden was the early man to beat after two aborted starts. The Tennessean made a bold 4-wide pass for the lead and preceded lead the opening stint. Following the first round of pitstops, the yellow flag flew for Jack Hawksworth’s car losing a wheel which brought the remainder of the field down pit road and cycling the lead back to Newgarden.
Newgarden picked up where he left off on the restart as Tony Kanaan soon roared to life and picked his way through the pack and took the lead on lap 55. Following the next round of pitstops, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud managed to take the lead by the virtue of making better fuel mileage than his rivals.
Polesitter Helio Castroneves soon joined the fight and took the lead before the second yellow flag of the day on lap 85 flew for Jack Hawksworth and Charlie Kimball coming together.
Following a round of pitstops, Castroneves maintained the lead only for a corner as Tony Kanaan passed him while championship changing drama unfolded behind them on lap 93. Second place man Graham Rahal was riding in the back of the pack after a fueling issue cost him several valuable seconds. Rahal was hit by Tristan Vautier who dove down low as the two went three wide with Justin Wilson and they crashed in turn three.
Kanaan held the lead briefly until his rookie teammate Sage Karam took the lead briefly before being forced to pit after just a few laps at the front.
Karam would catch a lucky break as the yellow flag flew once again for debris from Ed Carpenter’s Chevrolet on lap 109 which brought the field down pit road again. Gabby Chaves inherited the lead as he along with Will Power and Justin Wilson stayed out under the yellow.
The Columbian rookie did not back down and diced with Penske giants Helio Castroneves and Will Power for the lead before being forced to pit under green. Meanwhile, Ryan Hunter-Reay rose to the occasion and took the lead for the first time of the day.
Much like Karam’s luck, Chaves would regain the lead as the yellow would fly once again for Tony Kanaan’s spin on lap 132 and crash in the short chute. He would lose the lead on the restart to Simon Pagenaud but the yellow flew again for Marco Andretti’s crash in turn one.
Hunter-Reay picked up the lead on the restart and held for 12 laps until a fox ran on the track on lap 163, bringing out another yellow. Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson stayed out under the yellow as the rest of the field pitted as the field geared up for the restart on lap 167. Karam didn’t get going which produced a spectacular display as the field went seven wide going into turn 1 and nearly making it stick but Helio Castroneves crashed, which inevitably brought out another yellow.
The majority of the field pitted again in order to top up with fuel to insure that they would go the distance.
After four laps of yellow, the race restarted and saw its longest green flag stretch since the opening and featured rookie Sage Karam, Josef Newgarden and Takuma Sato taking turns at the front.
Karam soon extended his lead comfortably but fuel was becoming a concern for the young rookie. With 21 laps to go, Karam spun coming out of turn 1 and hit the outside wall head on. Scattering debris across the track.
While trying to avoid the debris, Wilson was struck by a piece of the nosecone from Karam’s crash.
The Briton was extracted from his car and was airlifted to Leigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital for an apparent head injury.
The race was never red flagged and Gabby Chaves picked up the lead once again. With seven laps to go the race restarted and Ryan Hunter-Reay wasted no time roaring to the front and took the lead for good as Chaves would fall out himself with an engine failure with three laps to go, which ended the race under yellow.
The celebration was muted as Hunter-Reay’s thoughts were with his teammate.
“Obviously, first and foremost, we’re thinking about Justin Wilson,” he said. “With heads exposed and when you get flying debris, it’s a bad luck deal. Our thoughts are with him. I know him and his family well, they’re great friends of ours. Really, really just thinking about Justin right now.”
IndyCar officials announced that Justin Wilson is in a coma and has suffered a severe head injury following the accident and is listed in critical condition.