By David Morgan, Associate Editor
They say things are bigger in Texas. As witnessed at the start of Sunday’s XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, so are the wrecks.
Coming to the green for the second race of an NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader in the Lone Star State, chaos erupted in the back half of the field, when Pietro Fittipaldi made contact with Sebastien Bourdais, sending him for a spin and collecting several other cars in the process.
Among those involved were Fittipaldi, Bourdais, Dalton Kellett, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, and Conor Daly, with Daly getting the worst of it when his No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet got squeezed between two spinning cars, sending Daly up and over.
The aeroscreen that has been in place as a safety device around the driver’s cockpit since last year got another test in the Lap 1 incident with Daly making airborne contact with the outside wall and then skidding across the frontstretch upside down, flipping back right side up when his car reached the grass.
Fortunately, Daly was able to emerge from his mangled car and would be okay, as would the rest of the drivers involved in the crash.
“In general, in IndyCar, we definitely have too many start crashes, we should probably look at that,” Daly said. “There’s such an accordion effect. It looked fine. Everyone was accelerating. I had the best view because I was last, so you see it, but all it takes is one person because everyone is nose to tail.
“I don’t know what happened. You can’t throw blame at anyone. All I know being upside down isn’t fun. Never had that happen in IndyCar before. On our bingo card of terrible things to happen to us this year, I don’t know what is going to be next, but I really hope we can start turning things around, because it has been a rough start for sure, but I’m good, I’m alright.
Coming into the crash from his shotgun start on the field, Daly noted that there was a hole he tried to get through, but it closed up on him, sending him on his wild ride.
“We found the hole,” Daly said with a laugh. “Hinch got right through there and I tried to follow my pal through there and the No. 4 car looks like just caught whoever else was also crashing on the inside. It was like the two giant cars came together and I was in the middle. Turns out you can be upside down quite easily, so that sucked. We will be on to better things hopefully at Indianapolis in our hometown.”
The crash was the second crash in as many days for Bourdais, who got wrecked out of the first half of the Texas doubleheader when Josef Newgarden made contact with him and spun him out on Saturday.
“Obviously, I didn’t see anything,” said Bourdais. “Pietro apologized for running into the back of us. I’m guessing he just drilled us. That’s what sets the whole thing in motion. Clearly there was checking up at the front, which at this stage where we are we should be going, so I don’t know what was going on at the front, but it’s still not an excuse.
“Same thing as yesterday, when someone checks up in front of you, you should be in control of your car and slowing down. Real shame that two days in a row we get drilled and taken out of the race, but nothing we can do about it. Unfortunately, it’s a very expensive couple of days for AJ Foyt Racing and the Rok-It No. 14.
“Nothing to take away from that couple of days and unfortunately, it’s a shame. It’s always a shame when you get wrecked, but it’s even more of a shame when it’s that way and it seems like you have something to fight with. The guys worked all night to get it fixed up after Josef took us out and then we can’t even take the green flag. Not quite sure what to say, but not very impressed right now.”
After his day ended early, Alexander Rossi placed some of the blame for the incident on the sanctioning body, raising the question on why Sunday’s race was set by points instead of holding time trials ahead of the race with weather not being the factor it was the day before.
“First of all, watching that, I’m glad Conor is okay,” said Rossi. “I’m glad everyone is okay. You never want to see that. Obviously, there was a concertina effect and Pietro got into Sebastien and then just kind of spun into me.
“The biggest problem I have with all this is we have an entire day and we’re still setting the grid based on points. We had plenty of tires and plenty of opportunity and daylight to qualify and I don’t think this No. 27 AutoNation Honda should have ever been starting 15th. I understand why we did it yesterday, we wanted to get the show in, we wanted to get the race in. I’m all for that, but it makes no sense why you don’t qualify this morning. We had plenty of time.
“That’s frustrating. It’s the same for everyone, but I feel for us, we definitely had a car that’s above a 15th place car and shouldn’t be with guys that maybe don’t have that same amount of pace. Ultimately, it is what it is. It’s disappointing. Again, glad everyone is okay. We’ll reset and go forward at Indy in a couple of weeks.”