By all accounts, the car and fence did their jobs during Robert Wickens’ vicious crash in last Sunday’s ABC 500 at Pocono. But IndyCar’s president of competition Jay Frye says nobody in his organization is satisfied.
“We were very encouraged by how the car held up,” said Frye on Friday. “Certainly not satisfied. The reason we’re not satisfied is [that] the driver was injured. We’ll never be satisfied till we get to the point where that doesn’t happen. It’s going to be weeks [analyzing the crash]. We’re going to go through this thing with a fine-tooth comb. The initial review of all the parts and pieces that you get, it did what it was supposed to do.
“Remember, the car, this new kit, has the driver side-impact piece that was we think an important element to the way the car held up. There were also five or six other things we’ve done to the car over the last few months that are safety updates that we’ve had to the car. They all seemed to do their job.
“Again, we’re very encouraged by how it performed, but not satisfied. We’ll never be satisfied. Driver safety is our No. 1 priority, No. 1 concern.
Wickens sustained a still-undetermined injury to his spinal cord along with fractures of his lower extremities, and there was a report the on-board fire extinguisher came loose on the violent impact and contributed to injuries to his ankles and feet.
“I don’t know if that’s completely true,” said Frye. “It [the extinguisher] was loose, so that’s part of what we’ll analyze to look to make better going forward. Again, it’s very early in this whole process. I mean, the race was last Sunday. By the time we do what we can at the track, we bring the stuff back, we looked at the car at the shop, we’ll start going through it. Dallara will be involved. Obviously, huge kudos to them on this whole process, too, the crew. They build really good race cars.”
There were also questions about today’s catches fences, whether the SAFER Barrier should be raised, and if the repaired fence at Pocono was up to standard.
“Tony [Cotman, IndyCar consultant for race tracks and member of the FIA Circuits Commission] obviously is somebody who we rely on a lot,” said Frye. “He sits on the FIA commission for courses. He is really a front-line person on any kind of – he’ll get it first, any of this stuff.
“I saw his comments [on RACER.com]. Again, the car [did its job], yes, but at the end of the day there’s something we can do to this car that can even make it better. The same way with the fence. There’s got to be more that can be done, too. Again, it always evolves and you learn something every time you have something like this.”
The red flag was out for 90 minutes at Pocono while the Turn 2 fence was repaired, and at least one driver initially questioned whether it was properly rebuilt. “The biggest determining factor are the guys who fixed it,” said Frye. “Pocono was there, obviously it’s their fence. Our guys were there with the Pocono people. Again, kudos to them, their people are phenomenal. So it was really when our safety guys – who do this for a living every week, which is very important, right? They follow us around. They say we were good to go, we’re good to go.”