IndyCar makes ‘top of the list’ safety fix after wheel clears barrier at Indy 500


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IndyCar has introduced a safety change to its cars after a wheel cleared a barrier following a crash at the Indianapolis 500 two months ago.

The series’ chassis supplier Dallara is introducing an updated rear-wheel bearing retaining nut to all of the cars from this weekend’s Iowa double-header.

The rear-left wheel was torn from Kyle Kirkwood’s car after he collided with Felix Rosenqvist during the race. The wheel flew over the fencing and the grandstands and landed in the circuit car park. Although no one was hurt by the wheel, it damaged a car belonging to a spectator.

Dallara reviewed the crash and the wheel failure, and to prevent similar incidents has upgraded the rear-wheel bearing retaining. The strength of the new part “has increased by 60% over the previous design,” it says.

Wheel tethers usually prevent detachments during crashes. But prior to Dallara’s investigation it had already determined Kirkwood’s wheel had not detached due to a failure of the tethering system.

Reigning IndyCar champion Will Power said he was glad to see how quickly IndyCar had addressed the safety risk so swiftly.

“It’s at the top of the list of importance that those wheels don’t go flying,” Power told media including RaceFans.

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“They’ve done a great job in the past with the tethers. There was a big investigation into how that wheel came off and why. Sounds like the tether must have worked, but it must have actually pulled the wheel nut and the wheel bearing off the actual uprights.

“It’s massively important, that stuff. Flying wheels, flying debris into big crowds is just all bad. We got lucky there that the wheel that came off ended up going through a gap and they were very quick to investigate and make a change so it will be safer.”

The last fatality of an IndyCar driver during a race occured in 2015, when Justin Wilson was struck in the helmet by flying debris. In response to that the series added tethers to aerodynamic parts such as car noses and wings.

“It is Dallara’s mission, along with IndyCar and all of the racing series we work with, to maintain and continuously improve safety based upon the highest standards,” said Dallara CEO Stefano dePonti.

“After completing a detailed analysis of the accident during this year’s Indy 500, together with IndyCar we have reached the conclusion that the outcome was the consequence of an unusual and never experienced set of circumstances.

“Nevertheless, we have developed and produced new components that will increase the strength of the corner in case the unlikely sequence of events repeats itself.”

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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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4 comments on “IndyCar makes ‘top of the list’ safety fix after wheel clears barrier at Indy 500”

  1. Always said that on the hierarchy of safety at the circuit, spectators are always at the top. A driver will always know there is a chance they may not get out the car, a spectator shouldn’t have to have the same thought.

    My heart was in my mouth when I saw the tyre flying through the air and landing on and smashing up sedan was a very lucky result!! Anything to prevent this happening again should be applauded.

    1. Well, while i certainly wouldn’t want me or anyone else to get injured or worse while attending a race meeting, when i last time looked at the back of my ticket it did say that the organizers are unable to guarantee that i will not be injured and that by attending i understand the risks involved. While i appreciate all the safety measures and precautions in place and encourage any future advances in that field, i am fully aware that being near fast moving cars is inherently dangerous and that unpredictable stuff can happen regardless of all the precautions put in place. However, i am willing to take this risk for my own entertainment and regularly go attend races in person.

      So yes, a spectator is many orders of magnitude safer than a driver, but the danger will never be eliminated 100%. If you want to be 100% safe stay at home and watch TV.

      1. Aman, Radoye!
        I go to basketball games. Anyone can get hit by a flying ball and no one should expect it can’t happen to them. A player can also crash into people in the front rows seats, which is not rare to see. Things happen in the real world.

  2. They made that upgrade quickly which is very good. Everyone was so lucky that wheel didn’t hit anyone, which was pretty much a miracle at a race with 300,000 people!

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