By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Horrific carnage has struck again at Pocono Raceway.
This time it was the opening lap of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 as jockeying for position at the Long Pond Straight went completely wrong as five drivers were collected in the Turn 2 accident.
The five guys were Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felix Rosenqvist, James Hinchcliffe and championship contender Alexander Rossi.
Rossi, who started second after the field was formatted by points due to Saturday’s qualifying session being washed out, had a tough start and saw himself battling Scott Dixon for fourth.
Sato went on a blistering pace on the top groove and Hunter-Reay went low, leaving Rossi in a tight spot just as they’re entering a braking point of Turn 2.
Then Sato came across Rossi, resulting into wheel contact between them and Hunter-Reay, sending the trio into the inside barriers before going back across the track and collected Hinchcliffe and Rosenqvist.
The latter’s car was lifted from contact with Sato and went into the wall with the left front being ripped apart after making contact with the fence. Fortunately, the Chip Ganassi Racing rookie’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda landed back on the track surface and was able to get out of his car.
Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR Medical Director, reported that Rosenqvist was sent into the trauma center for further evaluation, but has non-life threatening injuries after walking on his own to the ambulance.
Hours later, Rosenqvist was checked and released from the hospital. As far as driving next Saturday at Gateway, he’ll be cleared to drive.
As for Sato, he went upside down and rested on his side next to Hunter-Reay’s car. Both guys were able to get out of their cars unharmed.
Hinchcliffe and Rossi too were able to exit their wounded cars without assistance, but the latter was beyond upset as his bid for the Astor Cup may have been dashed and blamed Sato’s aggressive driving.
A key point of the blame had a lot to do with last year’s violent crash involving Robert Wickens, which has sidelined him to this day after his car went into the fence in the same corner where the opening lap crash occurred.
“I can’t even begin to understand how after last year how Takuma thinks that’s any sort of driving like that is acceptable,” Rossi said. “To turn across two cars at that speed in that corner in a 500-mile race. It’s disgraceful, upsetting and cost us the championship.
“This team works too hard to have something like that happen. We got a couple of days to rebound and go for race wins at this point now.”
Hunter-Reay also agreed the crash was ridiculous and too thought everyone learned their lesson from last year as he and Hinchcliffe were also involved in the accident with Wickens.
“I had a nice clean run on Rossi and almost three-quarters on the way up past him. All of a sudden, out of the nowhere, I’m backwards,” Hunter-Reay’s point of view of the accident. “I saw myself hit the inside wall and then I saw the field coming as I was backing into it and thought, ‘This could get really bad.’
“Then I saw Felix go up into the fence and now we have fence repairs again. I don’t know, it’s so unfortunate. It’s the beginning of a 500-mile race. The car was good yesterday and just needed to put 500 clean miles. First and foremost, thank god everybody’s alright.”
Like everyone, Hinchcliffe was on the move but as soon as the three-wide battle began, he backed out to avoid it at all cost which didn’t panned out.
“I thought that was actually going to save us because it happened in front of me. I couldn’t see exactly what started it, but then the wreck sort of moved down on the inside. I got slowed up pretty good but it slid out to where I was and there was nowhere I could go. It sucks.
“Not too hard of a hit and glad everyone’s okay, but it’s a 500-mile race. I don’t know how many times we have to do this before people figure out that you can attack all you want, it doesn’t give you a chance to win if you’re in the fence.”
Hinchcliffe further commented that it’s crazy how driver’s level of patience at Pocono isn’t stable.
“Let’s call it spade of spade, after last year I don’t think anybody had to say anything,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s just crazy. It’s such a waste of time, money and energy for everybody to come out here and do a 500-mile race with half the top-10 end up in the fence in Turn 2. It is what it is but we’ll move on to Gateway next week.”
Once Sato exited out of the medical center, he immediately thought about Rosenqvist and apologized to the title contenders for the five-car incident.
After getting that out of the way, Sato thought he was clear of Rossi and defend his case that he wasn’t aggressive.
“I’m not really over aggressive of attacking or anything,” Sato said. “They need to say really, if anything, sit down and watch the replay. I’ll obviously do that and will wait for the INDYCAR call for that.”
Other drivers who aren’t racing at Pocono were vocal about the future of Indy car racing at the 2.5-mile circuit. Wickens was one of them and tweeted his take.
How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) August 18, 2019
The fence damage from Rosenqvist’s left front hitting it brought out the red flag on Lap 4. It’s the fourth stoppage this season and the first after the race was halted due to rain at Iowa Speedway two races ago.
During the stoppage, Rossi’s Andretti Autosport team began working on the car to assure his title bid isn’t over after one lap.
Rossi’s race strategist Rob Edwards said he’s more than willing to take as repairs can’t be done under the red flag.
“There’s a bit of work to be done. Got to change gearbox and right side suspension,” Edwards on Rossi’s damaged car. “We’re going to throw a bunch of people at it and see what we can do. We’re obviously going to be penalized for working under the red flag.
“I prefer taking that penalty and see what’s involved, trying to get on top of it as quickly as we can. It’s unfortunate and it’s all about minimizing the damage now going forward.”
Hinchcliffe was the first driver to resume his race and returned 49 laps down after serving a 10-lap penalty for repairs under the red flag. He would run several laps before parking it for good. Hunter-Reay also followed suit and return on track for a few laps.
Finally on Lap 75, Rossi’s car was in the process of heading back out to gain a few spots as possible and hit the track laps later.
Rossi ended up 18th as the race ended after 128 laps due to weather. Will Power was the race winner.