The ABC Supply 500 at Pocono was halted after just a single lap of competition, after a 5-car pile-up.
Second-starting Alexander Rossi slipped back on the start and, heading toward Turn 2, was sandwiched between Takuma Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda on the outside and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport Honda on the inside. The trio made contact and slid into the inside wall, with Sato bouncing back onto the track and and collecting the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Felix Rosenqvist, who was then launched skyward nose-first toward the catch fence in a manner frighteningly reminiscent of Robert Wickens’ devastating crash at this race last year. Thankfully, this time the car did not rise up and into the fence, slamming hard back onto the track.
Wickens, watching from home, weighed in on social media:
Meanwhile Sato ended up upside down atop Hunter-Reay’s car, while James Hinchcliffe was also caught up in the mayhem. Initial rescue efforts focused understandably on Sato, before the Japanese driver was able to scramble out unhurt. Rosenqvist took longer to extricate himself and, after being examined at the infield care center, is being transported by ground to a local hospital for further evaluation for what IndyCar termed “non-life-threatening injuries,” although it noted that Rosenqvist had walked to the ambulance.
An angry Rossi struggled to contain his emotions as he was the first to emerge from the medical center: “I didn’t get a good start and that was on me. but then we were three-wide and Sato was on the outside. I can’t begin to understand, after last year, how Takuma thinks any kind of driving like that’s acceptable, to turn across two cars at that speed in that corner in a 500-mile race is disgraceful and upsetting.”
“We’ve got a couple of days to rebound and then go for race wins at this point. That’s all that matters.”
“I feel sorry for the guys,” admitted a contrite Sato. “Ryan and I were obviously racing (out of) Turn 1, and it looks like Alexander had a slow start and we went left and right (of him). I thought I was clear, and unfortunately we got together.”
Hunter-Reay was irate. “This is ridiculous. Thank God everybody’s all right, you know. I thought we learned our lesson here, lap one of a 500-mile race. From my perspective I had a nice clean run on Rossi, I was almost three-quarters of the up way past him and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere I’m backwards. I saw myself hit the inside wall and saw myself coming back into traffic. I could see the field coming as I’m backing into it and I thought, man this could be really bad. Then I saw Felix go up into the fence and we have fence repairs again…”
Hunter-Reay did note another factor he thought might have played into the wreck, however: “It is so important to gain positions at the start, because it is a track position race. It’s not like it used to be here, where if you had a good car you could knife through it. I came from the back three times one here and went all the way to the front. You can’t do that right now, so I think a lot of guys felt the pressure to gain some spots at the beginning…and it all hand-grenaded.”
Hinchcliffe also had some harsh words after being caught up in the wreck — during which a piece of flying debris appeared to strike the attenuator in front of his cockpit.
“We were heading into Turn 2 kind of three-wide; I thought that’s probably not a good idea so I backed out of it,” related the Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver. “I couldn’t see exactly what started it, but then the wreck came down to the inside. I got slowed up pretty good but it slid out to where I was and I had nowhere to go.
“It sucks. I’m glad everyone’s OK but I don’t know how many times we have to do this before people figure out that you can attack all you want, but it doesn’t give you a chance to win if you’re in the fence. It’s just crazy, man. It’s just such a waste of time and money to come out here for a 500-mile race and half the top 10 end up in the fence at Turn 2.”
The race restarted after a 45-minute delay to repair the fence above Turn 2.