Wickens urges IndyCar to drop Pocono as five-car crash stops race on lap one

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The Pocono 500 has been stopped after a major crash on the first lap of the race involving five drivers.

Takuma Sato made contact with Alexander Rossi while he was side-by-side with Andretti team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay. Sato’s car then spun into Felix Rosenqvist’s, launching the Ganassi driver into the barrier. James Hinchcliffe was also involved in the crash.

All five drivers were taken to the medical centre following the crash. Rosenqvist was subsequently taken to a trauma centre for further evaluation. An IndyCar statement described his injuries as “non-life-threatening”. The other four drivers have been released from the medical centre.

The race has been red-flagged to allow debris to be cleared before the remaining 17 cars tackle the rest of the 500-mile race.

The crash is the latest in a series of major incidents at the track. Four years ago Justin Wilson was killed when his helmet was struck by debris in a crash.

Last year Robert Wickens suffered paralysis after he was launched into the catch fencing on the first lap of the race. Writing on social media following today’s crash he called on IndyCar to stop racing at the three-turn superspeedway.

“How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono,” wrote Wickens. “It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 32 comments on “Wickens urges IndyCar to drop Pocono as five-car crash stops race on lap one”

    1. It’s just insane that they still do this here. And they’re fixing the broken fence with what looks like zip ties. Because you know, that’s how to stop a car going 200mph. Absolute disgrace. Really hope Felix is okay.

    2. Sato deserves a BIG penalty for that one. terrifying

      1. Much as I like him he, at minimum, deserves a slap or two around the head.

    3. I watched the video of that on YouTube and honestly I had no idea it was that unsafe. Like we joke about F1 being sometimes a little too cautious and safety obsessed but they’re literally just taping up that fence, no run off, no protection – and it’s not like the first time one of those cars have been airborne at the same track! Hope Rosenqvist’s alright, and agree with Wickens – might be time for IndyCar to forget Pocono.

      1. I may be showing my own ignorance but ovals are inherently dangerous tracks due to their high average speed and walls that leave no room for even minor error, but so far as I can tell this sort of incident can happen on any oval.

        1. No. The track width, banking angles and catch fencing make incidents at Pocono both more common and more dangerous when they do happen. Indy for example is a completely different beast.

    4. I don’t see why Pocono, especially in regards to that crash, is anymore dangerous than other ovals. Obviously all ovals could have walls removed and run off added but that would remove the unique challenge of oval racing.

      1. Run off for a car coming at 220mph?
        This is going to be a pretty big run off then.

        1. The run off would be so the cars were more likely to crash off track instead of coming back into other cars rather than to avoid crashes. Not that I like run off either way.

    5. It does seem dangerous, especially without halos on the cars.

      1. There’s video of that ‘stick-up fin’ on top of the tub in front of the drivers likely stopping a wheel and debris hitting them.
        This place and Texas need to go IMIO, enough already.

    6. IndyCar should drop all oval tracks, not just Pocono.

      In fact, every single motorsport series out there in the wild should stop racing on ovals. Oval racing no place in modern world.

      1. IndyCar is never going to drop the Indy 500.
        That’s their bread and butter.

        1. I only watch the Indy 500 and the odd highlights of indycar so I’ve got to disagree with @huhhii. There’s a place for all types of racing in the modern world as long as fans and competitors enjoy it.

          Oval racing is risky and we should always look at improvements but unless we want the drivers holding remote controls all motorsport will have a risk and ovals are just one part of that risk.

      2. They could using the roval version of some tracks like Charlotte & Daytona, or back to the Glen & going to Sebring..

        1. @ernietheracefan A lot of the rovals aren’t really suitable for Indycar, There either too slow, too narrow or too short & wouldn’t be that good from a racing perspective because of some/all of those things. Aside from the Indy I think the only roval that is really suitable for Indycar’s would be Homestead as they did a lot of testing there in the past.

          Regarding Daytona. They did run a test around the Daytona road circuit a decade or so ago & found that even at slower speeds the tyre loads in the banking were too high to be able to put on a race there.

          Besides for the most part the drivers enjoy racing on the ovals. More than a few of them would love to be back at bigger Super Speedways like Michigan & Auto Club Fontana because they want to see a bigger diversity in circuits like in the CART days. And the drivers also enjoy Pocono because it offers a unique challenge with each of the 3 corners been different, The speeds are fairly high & the racing usually exciting.

          Pocono was built for Indycar’s, Fans & drivers in the 70s/80s loved the place & it was the fans constantly asking for it that brought it back to the Indycar calendar & that as well as drivers liking the place is what has kept it a part of the season the past few years.

      3. The Indy 500 is the worlds oldest, biggest race. It will never be dropped.

    7. This track has some bad history, but I’m not sure what it is that makes it more dangerous than other ovals. If anything this looks like Sato’s fault. He’s gotten a lot better over the years, but just like his BAR years he still causes some senseless accidents.

      1. It’s a superspeedway like Indy and like Indy it is going to have a higher death rate than shorter ovals. The speeds are greater.

    8. I wouldn’t say that Pocono is any more or less dangerous than any of the other ovals Indycar race on.

      Additionally it’s not as if the accidents that led to Justin Wilson’s death or Robert Wickens injuries last year couldn’t have happened elsewhere. Wilson’s was purely down to bad luck, A single car spin/crash where debris unfortunately came down at the wrong time & into Justin’s path. And last year was 2 cars racing hard & not giving each other enough room with wheel to wheel contact launching one into the fence which could have happened anywhere even on a slower street circuit (See Dario Franchitti’s career ending crash on the Houston street circuit).

      I just don’t see how Pocono is any different to Indy, Texas, Iowa or other ovals in terms of the risks so I don’t see why it should be singled out as the one that needs to go.

      1. Agreed, they would do better banning Sato and shrouding the wheels more than banning ovals.

      2. @stefmeister I agree, the track layout is not the issue (although the catchfencing definitely is a universal issue that needs solving).

        I’d say the common factor between Wickens’ wreck and today’s is that both were on start/restarts. Drivers have said that the new superspeedway aero kit makes it much harder to pass and forces them to take much more risk on restarts. And one of the main factors in that is the removal of the rear wheel guards, which cleaned up the aero wash and helped the cars follow much more closely.

        IndyCar’s aero team seems to be resistant to go back to the draft-fests of the DW12, and I can understand the position that, like DRS, it makes passing too easy and meaningless. But I think they’ve gone too far in the other direction and there seems to be no sense of urgency to make it significantly easier to pass. I think the superspeedway kit needs a major overhaul, not just a new wicker here or there.

        1. @markzastrow
          The aero is not to blame as noone lost control before they crashed into each other. Sato just made a Stroll and turned into a car without looking.

          1. @rethla That’s not my point. My point is that, as Ryan Hunter-Reay said when interviewed after the crash, that the drivers are taking much more risk on restarts than in the past because they have to to make up positions—and it’s the aero wash from the 2018 superspeedway kit that is making it much more difficult to follow than previously.

    9. Quit going there before someone gets seriously hurt or killed again. The place just doesn’t work with IndyCars anymore. Too fast and dangerous.

      1. I disagree. Pocono is no faster and no more dangerous than other ovals so if you think pocono is unsuitable and too dangerous than i guess they need to just stop racing on ovals altogether at which point it becomes f1 lite just as champcar did which is part of what led to that series losing its popularity and becoming irrelevant within a 2-3 years span.

        the lap average speeds at pocono (219mph) are over 10mph slower than what is seen at indy motor speedway (230mph) and marginally slower than at texas motor speedway (221mph).

        1. I agree. Take Indianapolis off the schedule.

        2. Sorry that was meant for Don.

    10. If you stop going to Pocono because its dangerous, then you have to stop going to Indianapolis for the exact same reason. They are both relatively flat 2.5 mile ovals with 210+ speeds. For one to be acceptable and the other to be dangerous and called for removal is asinine. In the last 10 years at Indy, we have seen Sebastian Bourdais sustain season ending, James Hinchcliffe nearly lost his life and Scott Dixon nearly get decapitated. Yet we seem to find this acceptable and Indy lives on.

      And for anyone suggesting that they should tear down the walls and create a run off, you are forgetting something. These corners are banked and that banking is only going to act as a launching ramp which would probably create an even more dangerous situation.

    11. It’s not so much that the track is more dangerous than other ovals, but it seems to be more about the circumstances around the race. It comes after IndyCar’s summer break and marks the final push to the end if the season (typically 4 races). So drivers have a long time to think about the last race and get fired up to make a late season push for championship points. The last few years due to the oval aero package changes, it’s also been a track position race so drivers are making risky moves for position even with 199 more laps to go. I think if you changed the first post summer break race to a dedicated road circuit then you would not see the same sort of accidents with consequences that are so dire.

    12. Watched some of the race, including the start, and it was pretty horrible viewing, especially for someone who doesn’t often watch IndyCar. From the replays I’d pin it firmly on Sato, but regardless of the blame there was plenty of luck involved in letting all the drivers walk away with no serious injuries.

      I’d be surprised if stuff like this doesn’t influence Alonso’s decision (and the decisions of other drivers) to not do a full Indy season…

    13. These cars are going 220+ mph, bad crashes are going to happen. I mean, if these cars were not safe Robert Wickens would be in a coffin. The fact of the matter is this accident could have happened on any oval. Texas, Indy, even formally at Phoenix etc. Dario Franchitti went into a catch fence on a street course and it ended his career. I want safety to be proactive from the cars, the tracks, the safety crews. Die hard fans know how much effort, and important the safety of this sport.

      The thing is, the drivers need to start taking some responsibility. This was an absolute atrocious decision from a veteran racecar driver who is capable of making better moves on the racetrack. The drivers need to sit back and think about what they’re doing out there. To do this on lap one, cold tires, full fuel load, tons of dirty air, a green track….why? It’s a head scratcher really.

      I don’t remember where I saw it, but I think they were interviewing a driver about if anything regarding early aggression was talked about in the drivers meeting between indycar, or the drivers themselves. The answer was simple. No.

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