IndyCar: Severe looking start line crash just after launch takes out several cars

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The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis launched from a standing start, but featured a scary looking accident involving four cars.

Sebastian Saavedra stalled from pole position and while most of the field was able to avoid him, fellow Colombian countryman Carlos Munoz speared Saavedra’s left rear bodywork. The debris field also caught out Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who then crashed into the pair of stalled, wrecked Colombians.

Saavedra, who mercifully emerged from his car after the accident, told ABC’s Dr. Jerry Punch shortly thereafter that his car lost drive when he released the clutch.

“We just followed protocol on the start,” he said. “I don’t know if it was heat soak or what. As soon as I released the clutch, it went from 11,000 rpm to zero. I’m very sad because we did an amazing job. Everyone on the team had very high expectations. I’m really disappointed and we need to see what happened. This should not have happened.

“I don’t know if it was the temperature, more grip in the tires. We just followed protocal and it didn’t got the way we expected it. We just have to be talking to you so early. We really had a car to put it up front.”

“We had the opportunity to be in the front of the pack in this amazing place. We wanted to bring it home in the same place. To not even get a chance because of a frickin’ electrical thing or something…Pisses me off.”

Saavedra wasn’t the only Colombian stalled as well; Juan Pablo Montoya stalled on the outside of the circuit but the field was able to avoid him.

Mike Conway also suffered damage in the incident from debris, and went to Gasoline Alley for repairs. Per team owner Ed Carpenter to ABC, Conway suffered right rear corner and upright damage.

“We’ve had two good ones since INDYCAR launched these… I haven’t been a fan, still not a fan,” Carpenter said of standing starts.

After the fracas, Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead from Jack Hawksworth, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.