Top Stories of 2015; #7: Cars fly, Hinchcliffe cheats death in Month of May chaos

“Who thought it was a good idea that our first oval race is Indy?” said one disgruntled driver after seeing Ed Carpenter make it three flipped cars in five days during practice for the 99th Indianapolis 500.

Top Stories of 2015; #7: Cars fly, Hinchcliffe cheats death in Month of May chaos
Debris after Josef Newgarden's crash
Helio Castroneves flips
Josef Newgarden flip damage
Ed Carpenter, CFH Racing Chevrolet
Simona de Silvestro #29 Andretti Autosport Honda
Debris after Josef Newgarden's crash
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe crash

Some shared this sentiment, but others suggested that with eight straight days of practice, the Speedway was the ideal venue for testing and experimenting with the new-for-2015 aero kits.

That didn’t look so smart once Helio Castroneves (Wednesday), Josef Newgarden (Thursday) and Carpenter (Sunday – qualifying day) had spun and, while traveling backward, flipped upside down.

The other common theme between these shunts was that all three had occurred to Chevrolet-powered cars. One Honda driver, aggravated by Chevy’s pace advantage in the season thus far, suggested that was because the Bowtie brigade were cornering faster. I think he was only joking…

IndyCar delays qualifying on Pole Day, makes changes

Carpenter’s crash prompted IndyCar’s then-president of competition and operations, Derrick Walker, to delay qualifying for a few hours, lower the boost to non-qualifying levels, and regulate that cars must run in race trim. Honda teams were butt-hurt at this, feeling they were being penalized for their rivals’ problems.

“I’m not sure how that was interpreted as unfair – to make it the same for everyone,” Walker told me a couple months later. “You could say that this had only happened to Chevys, so it was up to them to fix it. But we hadn’t seen a Honda in the same circumstances of traveling backward at 200-plus mph. The spins had come because the Chevy was more critical handling-wise when running minimal downforce; but we had nothing to prove that if a driver overstepped the edge in a Honda that it wouldn’t do the same as the Chevy.

“So I made the decision across the board that cars would qualify in race downforce. A big deal was made about us supposedly “robbing” Honda of the chance to go for pole, but since that day in May, we have received the data that showed that had a Honda reached the same angles of yaw as the Chevy, it too could have flipped.…

“We had seen three drivers get out and walk away from flip overs; how long do you keep pushing the odds of, God forbid, hurting a driver?”

Hinchcliffe severely injured

The day after qualifying, one driver, James Hinchcliffe, did get very hurt. In fact, it’s not over-dramatic to say that the prompt reaction of IndyCar’s Holmatro Safety Team saved the life of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver, who had been (to use his own word) ‘kebabed’ by a suspension rod during his violent crash. Hinch’s subsequent recovery and readiness to resume racing in 2016 was one of IndyCar’s blessings.

After such a build up of bad blood and spilled blood, most people were just praying for a safe race on Memorial Day weekend: the fact that the 99th running turned into a classic was a bonus.

But assuredly Juan Pablo Montoya, Roger Penske and Chevrolet were not the only winners at IMS last May.

Top 20 stories so far

#8: Porsche wins Le Mans, ending Audi's streak

#9: 'Push Him Out' scandal rocks DTM

#10 No winners in Kenseth/Logano Chase war

#11: Tony Stewart announces 2016 retirement plan

#12: First-ever Formula E title decided by one point

#13: Montoya and Dixon tie in frantic IndyCar title decider

#14: Renault takes over Lotus F1 Team

#15: Fatal Nordschleife crash prompts safety changes

#16: RedBull/Renault saga

#17: Vettel wins with Ferrari

#18: Alonso suffers mysterious testing crash, misses first GP

#19: Volkswagen emissions scandal

#20: Nissan's radical new LMP1 challenger

shares
comments
Top Stories of 2015; #13: Montoya and Dixon tie in frantic IndyCar title decider

Previous article

Top Stories of 2015; #13: Montoya and Dixon tie in frantic IndyCar title decider

Next article

Hulman Motorsports names new Senior Director of Safety and Security

Hulman Motorsports names new Senior Director of Safety and Security
Load comments
Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history Prime

Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history

Helio Castroneves’ overwhelming vivaciousness outside the cockpit belies a hardcore racer who knows how to plot his moves – and then recall it all for us. A day after his fourth Indy 500 win, Helio explained his tactics to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Jun 2, 2021
How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status Prime

How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status

Helio Castroneves joined AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears with the most Indianapolis 500 wins after sweeping around the outside of Alex Palou on the penultimate lap in a thrilling climax. In one race, he validated Michael Shank's and Jim Meyer's faith in him, and Helio himself discovered there's life after Penske after all.

IndyCar
Jun 1, 2021
Indy 500 preview: Will experience or youth be victorious? Prime

Indy 500 preview: Will experience or youth be victorious?

A quarter of the drivers racing in the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 are former winners - but are they the favourites? The veteran drivers largely impressed in qualifying - but there's also a plethora of young guns looking to secure victory at IndyCar's flagship race...

IndyCar
May 25, 2021
What will it take to get American drivers in Formula 1? Prime

What will it take to get American drivers in Formula 1?

The FIA says it wants American drivers in Formula 1, but would it take an IndyCar driver to transfer or does an American need to join the European junior ladder system to get there? By David Malsher-Lopez.

Formula 1
May 19, 2021
Why IndyCar is satisfying Grosjean’s appetite for his second life Prime

Why IndyCar is satisfying Grosjean’s appetite for his second life

After spending the majority of his 179-race Formula 1 career in middling to tail-end machinery, Romain Grosjean finds himself once again with an underdog team in IndyCar. While not without its challenges, he's relishing the more level playing field that means his Dale Coyne Racing crew can expect to claim a few scalps...

IndyCar
May 14, 2021
Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy Prime

Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy

Tino Belli, IndyCar’s director of aerodynamic development, believes the changes to the underside of the cars will allow them to run closer at Indy and make passes. The moment of truth comes on its biggest stage, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
May 10, 2021
Colton Herta – America's next racing hero Prime

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero

Last Sunday, Colton Herta demolished his IndyCar opposition in the second round of the season. David Malsher-Lopez explains why Andretti Autosport’s youngest ace bears all the hallmarks of becoming the country’s next homegrown motorsport hero.

IndyCar
Apr 29, 2021
How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival? Prime

How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival?

Last Sunday, Alex Palou delivered his first IndyCar victory on his Chip Ganassi Racing debut. Is the young Spaniard going to become his legendary teammate Scott Dixon’s biggest title threat? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Apr 21, 2021