The 2021 NTT IndyCar season was about 15 seconds old Sunday afternoon when all hell broke loose.
Three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden lost control cresting the hill at the exit of Turn 4 on the opening lap and the carnage that ensued collected Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felix Rosenqvist, sent Rinus VeeKay spinning and damaged Max Chilton’s car.
Rosenqvist got airborne and hammered the guardrail, while Herta and Hunter-Reay suffered irreparable chassis damage.
“I got loose coming over the hill and thought I had the car saved but then got in the grass and that turned me sideways,” said Newgarden, who had started eighth in the Team Penske Chevy. “My mess created a bigger mess and I feel bad for all those guys that got caught up in it.”
Because of the blindness of that part of the road course, none of the drivers behind Newgarden could see what was happening until they were already in the crash. VeeKay spun his Sonax Chevy but kept going and didn’t lose a lap, but Chilton lost two laps while his Carlin crew made repairs.
“I don’t know what I could have done there,” said Herta, who started ninth in the Gainbridge Chevy for Andretti Autosport. “I thought he (Newgarden) was going to spin, I just didn’t know where it was going to be.”
A big crash on the opening lap of the 2021 @IndyCar Series season.
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) April 18, 2021
Runner-up to Scott Dixon in 2020, the two-time IndyCar champion and Herta (third a year ago) now find themselves in a big hole heading to St. Pete.
“Lot of races left and everyone is going to have a couple bad days so we’ll battle back,” said Herta, the youngest winner in IndyCar history (18 years old). “I just feel bad for this team because they worked so hard to get my car back together after I crashed it on Saturday.”