The rush to go racing on Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway claimed almost 25 percent of the NTT IndyCar Series field on Saturday.
As the 23 drivers rounded Turn 4 in preparation for the start, the left lane appeared to slow, prompting Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou – starting 11th – to pull out of line and go to the left. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in 13th followed – all before green had been waved – and behind Pagenaud, Arrow McLaren SP’s Oliver Askew in 15th dove left, hit Pagenaud who, in turn, hit Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.
With the three-car melee brewing and making contact with the pit wall, the crash was exacerbated by Andretti’s Zach Veach, who was starting last, as he accelerated into the pack, striking teammate Marco Andretti from behind.
Ed Carpenter’s self-named entry was also pulled into the mess, and once it was over, Askew – the driver who started the chain reaction – was the only one to make it to the checkered flag.
“I was driving straight,” an incredulous Rossi said. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Just never even got a chance,” Pagenaud added. “A little too much excitement at the start of the race. The front slowed down, so we had to pull out with Palou. It’s very unfortunate. People need to be more patient.”
For Veach, his hopes of driving through the middle of the mess fell short of expectations.
“I noticed the bottom lane checked up and Pagenaud was sideways,” he said. “The window to escape closed so quickly; some of us were left without an option.”
Veach’s team owner Michael Andretti was not complimentary of his driver’s decision.
“It looks like Zach didn’t back off and took out two of our cars,” he said.
As a result of the crash, Pagenaud finished 19th, Carpenter was 20th, Veach was 21st, Rossi was 22nd, and Andretti was 23rd and last.
Already a longshot to win the championship, the crash effectively ends any hope for Rossi, who entered the race holding 14th in the championship, from mounting a title run. For Pagenaud, the incident compounds a poor Indy 500 finish (22nd) which dropped him from second to fifth in the championship.
With Scott Dixon’s win at WWTR Round 1 and the Penske driver’s 19th-place outcome, Pagenaud dropped only one spot, from fifth to sixth in points. But the real damage done was the increase of his points deficit to the championship leader, which grew from 123 to 163.