By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Not even 30 seconds into the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series campaign, there was mayhem on Lap 1. A multi-car crash in Turn 4 wiped out title contenders during Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden lost control of his No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet and spun. What made the episode worse was the fact he spun right in front of the field, creating disastrous outcomes.
Newgarden was drilled by last year’s third-place points finisher Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The pileup also dashed the afternoons of Max Chilton and Felix Rosenqvist, with the latter getting some air.
Rosenqvist’s miserable debut for Arrow McLaren SP ended like most of his sessions, damaged goods. Despite getting launched from hitting Chilton’s No. 59 Gallagher Chevy, he was able to continue.
The same can’t be said about Herta, who’ve hoped his first race in Andretti Autosport’s No. 26 team gone better.
“I was waiting for Newgarden to spin somewhere and spun at the same place. I had Conor (Daly) on my right, so I couldn’t go right. Man, that sucks,” Herta on his exit.
“Such a disappointing start. I was waiting for him to go find a direction to spin in and he just kept going straight. It just sucks and I’m ready to get out of here and get going for St. Pete.”
Despite the putrid start to his season, Herta knows the big picture isn’t quite over with 16 rounds yet to unfold.
“It’s such a competitive year this year. The guys are going to have bad races and aren’t going to do as well everywhere that we go,” said Herta. “It sucks for us because now we’re in the backfoot. Plenty of races left to get back in it. These guys worked so hard to get the car ready after the crash in Practice 2. Really disappointed. I don’t know much of what I could’ve done.”
In spite of right front damage, Herta’s crew were able to repair the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda and got the car out. Due to this, only Newgarden and Hunter-Reay were the only retirees from the crash.
Newgarden held himself accountable for ruining the days of others, saying he got loose over the hill.
“We were lining in pretty nicely. I just got loose in the weight, I thought I had the car (saved) and then touched the grass. Once I touched the grass, it pinched me sideways,” said Newgarden.
“Feel real bad for everyone that got involved in that. My mess created a bigger mess,” Newgarden added. “Any of the cars that got involved, I’m really sorry. It’s obviously us that tipped it off.
“Shame because we had a really good car. We just needed to file in there at the start. Partially did that. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve I guess. We’ll come back, but we just got to bounce back for the next one.”
Also involved in the mayhem were Rinus VeeKay, whose right side tires hit the Turn 1 gravel, but was able to continue his 90-lap odyssey. Finally, Dalton Kellett, James Hinchcliffe and debutant Jimmie Johnson sustained minor damage.