Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

Opening Lap Crash Strikes Again at Portland

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. – Lap 1. Turn 1. Chaos ensues yet again in the Grand Prix of Portland.

The story was a field of 23 hungry wolves storming into the Shelton Chicane, eyeing on gaining as many spots as possible.

However, like a year go, some drivers didn’t make it past the corner as a multi-car crash took out both ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers Conor Daly and James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach and Graham Rahal.

Other drivers involved were championship contender Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot and defending Portland winner Takuma Sato, with all drivers continuing the fight but negatively impacted by the incident.

Worse for Rahal, he’ll be listed as the last-place finisher for the first time since the first Belle Isle race a year ago.

Once the melee calmed down, Rahal admitted fault of taking out several competitors as he went low, looking for room but to no avail and plowed into Veach which began the accordion effect.

“I just messed up. I misjudged it bad. To be honest, I lost my depth there a little bit in the pack,” Rahal said. “Obviously, I misjudged it by not just a little but quite a lot. I’m disappointed for myself and sorry for the guys that we’ve affected. I hurt Takuma, I know that as well. I thought the pace was fine, but I screwed up. I don’t know what else to say. I’m disappointed.”

Veach wasn’t remorseful when asked about his viewpoint of the accident, stating how frustrated it is when drivers complain about doing such antics, yet tend to cause crashes.

“The start was a bit messy. We kind of had that stop-and-go thing,” Veach said. “We got off to a good start and got a couple of guys on the inside going into (Turn) 1. Then I got hit by a rocket launcher from behind. We were going to stop and make the corner well enough and then I just gained another 40 mph from someone hitting me.

“I hate it for the guys who were involved because once I got hit, I was basically a missile into the mess of the pack. It’s unfortunate because people complain a lot about other people, but they tend to be the issue sometimes.”

Hinchcliffe’s frustration of being out on the opening lap was yet again having issues in that particular lap for the third straight race in a row.

“I had an okay start. Nice and clear in Turn 1 and then I got broad sided. I guess Graham got into the back of Zach here,” Hinchcliffe said. “If you watch the replay, Graham’s right-side tires are on the white line. If no other car were there, you wouldn’t physically get through Turn 1 from there. I don’t know what he was thinking.

“It’s frustrating man, third race in a row we’ve been hit on Lap 1. I was joking with the guys. I think we should actually paint a target on our cars so maybe we don’t get hit. It’s unfortunate. We can’t catch a break.”

Hinchcliffe praised Daly, who filled in for Marcus Ericsson as he was at the Belgian Grand Prix as a reserved driver for Alfa Romeo Racing, for doing the job well as he qualified ninth for Sunday’s race.

“Conor did an incredible job jumping in here and putting the car in the top-10,” Hinchcliffe said. “We had more pace I think than we were able to show in qualifying. We were really excited for the race. I think we were going to be able to move up and be competitive. We’ll never know.”

The drivers who exited without completing a lap will now shift their focus into making the NTT IndyCar Series finale round count as the series will make its return to WeatherTech Laguna Seca Sept. 22.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a two-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.