Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Indianapolis, 2020

Dixon surprised Indy 500 was not red-flagged


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Scott Dixon said he was surprised by race control’s decision to end the Indianapolis 500 under caution following a crash late in the race.

Spencer Pigot caused the seventh caution period of the race with five laps to go in the 200-lap event. The RLL driver crashed heavily at the pit lane entrance, causing substantial damage to a barrier.

Dixon finished second after leading much of the race. He fell behind eventual winner Takuma Sato early in their final stint on lap 172.

When Pigot crashed on lap 194, Dixon thought race control would red-flag the race to allow the clean-up to be completed and give the drivers a chance to race to the finish.

“I definitely thought [that] with five to go,” said Dixon. “I thought they were going to immediately because [of] the size of the crash and where it was, it wasn’t going to be a quick clean-up.

“I was surprised they didn’t. I heard they said normally we don’t do that. History would tell you that’s not true either.”

Last year’s Indianapolis 500 was red-flagged with 20 laps to go after a multiple car crash, then restarted. The previous four runnings all ran green over the closing stages.

In 2014 a red flag was thrown with nine laps to go after a single-car crash for Townsend Bell, which allowed the race to restart before the finish. The previous year’s race ended under caution.

Dixon believes it would have been fair to red-flag and restart this year’s race.

“If they had thrown a red, at the restart the car in second in a scenario like that where you’re not trying to save fuel, going flat out… the leader would have been a bit of a sitting duck unless he did something very weird or strange that caused a bit of a chain reaction or an accordion effect. If there was a three-lap shoot-out, that would have been pretty fair.

“I don’t know how or why or how they do it in the past. The last few times it was maybe more laps to go in the race. I think if they called it pretty quickly like they typically do, you still could have had at least three laps to fight it out.”

Had it not been for the late caution period, Dixon suspects Sato would have had difficulty making it to the end of the race at the pace he was running without running low on fuel.

“It was definitely a good day. Everything we did, strategy, was on point. We definitely had a pretty fast car. We knew it was always going to get tricky at this point of the day. We thought we made the right call.

“When we ran the first couple of laps after the last restart, we couldn’t get the fuel mileage we needed to finish the race. We went to a leaner mixture, just kind of sat there. We didn’t think they were going to make it on fuel.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “Dixon surprised Indy 500 was not red-flagged”

  1. I suppose it wasn’t red-flagged because the pit entry was destroyed and couldn’t be repaired in a reasonable time?

    1. Exactly, that’s what I was thinking. It would have taken hours to fix the pit lane entry. No one except Dixon would have wanted to wait around that long to finish the race. I am sure the broadcasters wouldn’t want it red flagged for hours just to have 5 laps of racing. Most likely a large portion of TV viewers would not wait around to see the finish, not to mention the hours of filler content and other shows getting preempted.

    2. @paeschli I came to the same conclusion as the barrier had completely lost its shape and was probably destroyed beyond repair (this is a good thing since if it didn’t do either of these things more impact would have been on the car/driver).

      It would have taken a very long time to replace and since cautions do tend to breed cautions there was always a chance that another would come along just after and that you would’ve ended in the same situation with an even slimmer chance of a green finish.

      That being said I did feel sorry for Scott Dixon as he did everything right to win and got the thin end of the wedge luck wise. I suspect a 6th championship may go some way to to compensate (can’t see him losing from here).

  2. If they had thrown a red, at the restart the car in second in a scenario like that where you’re not trying to save fuel, going flat out… the leader would have been a bit of a sitting duck

    Which explains why Dixon wanted anything that created a restart.

    I think at every start/restart yesterday the car that was at the front lost a spot or 2 as the tow on restarts was a huge advantage. I think this is the main reason scott wanted one, if they had of done a restart he more than likely would have won the race easily.

    i’m actually glad they didn’t as it would have been unfair to affect the race that way. yes by letting it carry on they also affected it to a degree but restarting it would have guaranteed the leader on the restart (sato in this case) wouldn’t win the race.

  3. Dixon took the risk of running in second place to save fuel. The risk was that a caution could occur in the closing laps. One can understand that he thought that unlikely because cautions seldom happen at the 500….

    1. I feel Dixon was just slow in the last stint. Sato pulled a 1sec+ gap where Dixon wouldn’t have saved much fuel anyway.

  4. I think part of it was that they simply didn’t have time to throw a red & then go through the restart procedure with only 3 laps left. You can’t just send them out the pits & go green next lap as they need at least 2 laps to get the tires upto temperature from cold & I think the engine/gearbox also needs to be brought upto temperature to stop them falling into a safe mode.

    They may have also considered how effective the tow had been on prior restarts & that doing a white flag restart would have left Sato at a big disadvantage with no opportunity to try & recover from it as when getting passed into T1 you tend to lose momentum & not be able to respond into T3/4.

    I guess you could argue that ending it under yellow also decided the race but would a restart with a virtually guaranteed lead change have been fairer?

  5. FINALLY someone took notice that sato was 1second+ in front at one point in these last laps.
    nobody else seems to mention it.1second or so 6/7 laps from the end is HUGE in indy.

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