Rossi maintains Texas pit collision was Kirkwood’s fault despite his penalty


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Alexander Rossi maintains his view that Kyle Kirkwood was at fault for the pit lane collision between the pair in IndyCar’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The pair collided during the first caution period. This was triggered when Chip Ganassi Racing’s Takuma Sato crashed out, prompting the majority of the field to pit.

McLaren driver Rossi was running in fifth when he came in, eight places ahead of Kirkwood. That meant Rossi was potentially able to make his stop – involving changing tyres and being refuelled – and be released back into the fast lane of pit road close to the Andretti driver.

However Kirkwood’s arrival at his pit stall was delayed by a wheel-spinning Josef Newgarden joining the fast lane. As a result by the time Kirkwood was level with Rossi’s pit stall the McLaren driver was having his fuel hose disconnected and was about to be released back into traffic. Rather than being clearly ahead of Rossi, the rear of Kirkwood’s car was level with the front of the McLaren.

The outcome was Rossi accelerated out of his stall and then immediately tried to swing his car back to the left – applying full steering lock – as the slowing Kirkwood steered towards him to enter his pit stall. Rossi’s front-right wheel hit Kirkwood’s rear-left, spinning Kirkwood sideways into his pit area, while Rossi stopped his car.

The drivers and their crews fortunately escaped injury. The NBC commentary team held Kirkwood responsible for the collision but the stewards found Rossi and his crew was at fault, citing an “unsafe release”. He was given a drive-through penalty for making “contact with another car,” putting all of the responsibility for the incident on Rossi.

His race had already been ruined prior to the penalty as he lost five laps while a new nose cone was fitted. Both he and Kirkwood took to social media after the race to point out they each thought they had been within the rules during the pit lane incident.

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“Pretty disappointing how much hate mail I’ve received for the pit lane incident yesterday,” said Kirkwood. “I’d like to clarify that I was fully 100% within pit lane protocol and the IndyCar NBC broadcast team has kindly apologised for making me out to be the bad guy.”

Rossi’s second race for McLaren was ruined by the collision
However Rossi told media including RaceFans this week he has had “no change of opinion” over who was to blame for the pit lane tangle.

“Hopefully we can as a series learn about communication and continuity and just take lessons from it,” he said. “It’s a shame to have situations exist and not really learn anything from it. So it’s something that we all talked about at length.

“At the end of the day it’s history now and we just got to make sure that going forward, everyone’s on the same page.”

Rossi pointed out the drivers’ positions in the pit lane will be even more important in this weekend’s Long Beach Grand Prix. The Texas qualifying result provides the order in which drivers can choose their pit stalls for this weekend, and Rossi was therefore third to choose.

“For Long Beach, it’s important to be in the front in terms of pit selection, just so that when you’re leaving to go to practice, qualifying, qualifying sims or whatever, you have as much clear track front of you as possible,” he explained.

“For the ovals, it’s a pretty big advantage to have an open ‘in’, just because of the way that cross weight is set up. You can carry more speed into the box for some of these tracks we go to where we have a lot of cars in a small pit lane.”

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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9 comments on “Rossi maintains Texas pit collision was Kirkwood’s fault despite his penalty”

  1. Not having seen the incident , but reading the description of events here, i would say it’s extremely clear its an unsafe release. So there must be more to it than whats described here that causes the confusion on who was to blame?

    1. Rossi said later in the race as he was coming into his pit, Newgarden was leaving his pit so he slowed down to let him out. According to Rossi with the visibility, Kirkwood was the only one who could have seen the car and avoided him. If it’s really not on the driver entering the box to yield a car in front of him he should have just hit Newgarden and ruined his race. Newgarden would have gotten the penalty even though he initiated the contact. Right or wrong, that’s his view. Also Indycar changed his penalty from unsafe release to avoidable contact which is what really irritated him, because he said with the visibility of the cars there’s no way he could have seen kirkwood.

      1. I can imagine that avoidable contact is a bit of a weird penalty. Seems like a slam dunk unsafe release to me.

    2. That’s the problem with commenting on something you haven’t seen. There’s a reason all the on air commentators said “it was 100% Kirkwood’s fault. It’s important to know that their pitlanes are about 5x wider than F1’s.

      1. I’ll clarify, by saying I don’t think it was really the fault of either driver. Just some really bad luck.

    3. RandomMallard
      13th April 2023, 13:56

      @cdfemke What they were mentioning on the broadcast involved having the pit lane split into the fast lane closest to the track, the slow lane in the middle and the service lane (where the pit stands are). From my understanding of what NBC were saying, you are supposed to move into the slow lane a bit before entering your pit stall, to signal to other crews that you’re about to turn into your stall.

      However, Kirkwood appeared to turn directly from the fast lane into the pit stall, without entering the slow lane first, and thus the McLaren mechanics were not expecting him to turn in at that point (IndyCar pit stalls are arranged differently from race to race so it can be difficult to remember exactly whose stall is where).

      Based on my understanding, this is why the NBC team blamed Kirkwood, because he didn’t enter the slow lane to signal that he was about to turn into his box. However, the stewards clearly disagreed, and blamed McLaren for the unsafe release. I have to say though, I think it is especially harsh on Rossi considering he couldn’t really have done anything differently (although realistically a drive through is the only way to materially penalise an unsafe release, even when it isn’t the driver’s fault).

      I generally agree with Nick T though. Just a collection of bad luck with no one party having the overwhelming blame.

  2. BTW, here’s a video of the incident:

  3. Rossi’s team shouldn’t have released him from his box until Kirkwood entered his. Case closed.

  4. covered this in detail in a far better way than I can explain in a comment.

    The TLDR is that neither were at fault. The rule book is that you stay in the fast lane (the right lane) until you need to cross to your pit, which Kirkwood did. Part of the problem with this incident is that it looked like Kirkwood missed his turn point anyway and would have overshot his pit box.

    It’s one of those rules that’s in the rule book therefore the penalty was issued, but questioning why the rule is in the book in the first place is definitely warranted based on this case.

    It didn’t help that the commentary attempted at least twice to explain their take but were distracted by other things happening on track (a pass for the lead, as was the case, being a pretty good on imo). It’s unfortunate that the didn’t get round to explaining it.

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