If there was any doubt about who was to blame for the eight-car smashfest Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe would like to enter Exhibit A, a certain driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, into evidence.
“Tony Kanaan,” he declared on the NBCSN broadcast after his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and SPM teammate Mikhail Aleshin slammed the Turn 3 wall. “It’s a shame, he’s the most experienced guy at this kind of racing and unfortunately Texas isn’t what it was – it’s gone back to what it used to be, what we got away from.”
Kanaan, whose car was unknowingly steered right into the path of Hinchcliffe on the approach to Turn 3, set off the chain of events on Lap 152 that took out almost half the field.
“I got a run off of [Turn] 2 and if you look, he’s two, two-and-a-half car lengths to our left and he turns me right into Mikhail [Aleshin],” Hinchcliffe added. “We were three-wide and either his spotter didn’t tell him we were three-wide or he didn’t care, which I find hard to believe. He just goes right, right, right…I don’t know if he notices the corner’s left.”
Video evidence notwithstanding, Kanaan’s team owner Chip Ganassi offered an earlier opinion that both SPM drivers were at fault. Hinchcliffe was unamused.
“I think it’s adorable,” he said, dipping into his well of sarcasm. “I wasn’t the last guy to the three-wide – if he wants to play that game Mikhail probably should have lifted being the last guy to the party, but Tony turned right into a left-hand corner.”
At first, Aleshin appeared to testify for the prosecution, but also might have entered Hinchcliffe as Exhibit A for Kanaan’s defense. His summation could be interpreted both ways.
“I just didn’t understand what was going on, because I gave space to them,” the Russian said. “I think that something was going between James and Kanaan. And in the end what we [SPM] have is two great cars that ended up in the wall. It’s just dumb, it’s stupid and I’m very disappointed. We just lost this opportunity because of some idiots.”
Ed Carpenter, who also had his race ruined as a result of the crash, took the stand and corroborated Hinchcliffe’s testimony.
“The replay I saw, I think that was Tony’s fault – you can see the dotted lines, he’s just driving up the track,” he said. “We talked about lane integrity and giving each other space. I have as much respect for Tony as anyone, we’ve been in this series racing together a long time but, the replay I saw, I know he wouldn’t like it if he was raced that way, so he’ll probably think different when he sees the replay.”
With a clear conviction against him, Kanaan asked for forgiveness from those who were impacted by the Lap 152 transgression.
“I guess I moved up, and I really have to apologize to Hinch,” he said. “I’m definitely going to go see him if he wants to see me or I’ll call him. But yeah, and I guess it was a close call. I moved up, and we hit. I’m really – it’s sad. I don’t do those kind of things. I race people clean, and I want people to race me clean.
“It was definitely an honest mistake. You never – especially in a place like this, you don’t crash people on purpose. I’ve been around it way too long to do any silly things like that, and if I did, it was really a mistake, and I apologize for it.”