Two days later, GP of Indy’s Turn 1 mess comes under fire (VIDEO)

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Post-race penalties are the norm for 2015 in the Verizon IndyCar Series; penalties have been doled out on the Wednesday after the opening four races of the season in St. Petersburg, New Orleans, Long Beach and Barber.

So it is likely that any penalties handed down in the wake of Saturday’s Turn 1 mess involving several cars to kick off the second Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will also follow on Wednesday.

The interesting thing is, while Helio Castroneves avoided any penalty for avoidable contact in the immediate aftermath of apparently triggering the first of two Turn 1 accidents, he still managed to finish ahead of all other drivers either in the accident or who avoided it to the outside of Turn 1, with the exception of Charlie Kimball – who took the escape road to avoid, but didn’t gain any Lap 1 positions (started 14th, ended Lap 1 14th, ended fifth overall).

Here are two videos of the accident, from two different angles. The top one is the IndyCar footage posted to its YouTube channel; the second is from a fan seated outside in the corner.

Castroneves and Scott Dixon both explained their sides of the incident, via the official IndyCar release:

“I was just trying to make sure I didn’t hit anyone – and that I didn’t get hit – in that first corner,” Castroneves said. “Just wanted to put the No. 3 Verizon Chevy in a good position there. Unfortunately, I clipped (Scott) Dixon in the right rear when he turned into the corner. Obviously him spinning out put me into the grass and we lost many spots. From there it was a great comeback for the team.”

Dixon countered, “Well, we had a great Target car today and I was looking forward to gaining some ground in the points after starting on the front row. There’s not much you can say about the start. We got turned around from behind and then had damage to both front and rear wings, and had to change both. Tough day for the Target car.”

Here was the starting grid (LEFT), and here’s how the field looked at the end of the first lap (RIGHT), with positions gained/lost from the starting grid:

Pos # Driver Pos # Driver Gained/Lost
1 1 Will Power 1 1 Will Power
2 9 Scott Dixon 2 22 Simon Pagenaud +3
3 3 Helio Castroneves 3 11 Sebastien Bourdais +4
4 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 4 20 Luca Filippi +5
5 22 Simon Pagenaud 5 2 Juan Pablo Montoya -1
6 10 Tony Kanaan 6 15 Graham Rahal +11
7 11 Sebastien Bourdais 7 6 JR Hildebrand +8
8 8 Sebastian Saavedra 8 98 Gabby Chaves +8
9 20 Luca Filippi 9 26 Carlos Munoz +12
10 4 Stefano Coletti 10 4 Stefano Coletti
11 41 Jack Hawksworth 11 25 Justin Wilson +7
12 21 Josef Newgarden 12 8 Sebastian Saavedra -4
13 5 James Hinchcliffe 13 14 Takuma Sato +9
14 83 Charlie Kimball 14 83 Charlie Kimball
15 6 JR Hildebrand 15 10 Tony Kanaan -9
16 98 Gabby Chaves 16 5 James Hinchcliffe -3
17 15 Graham Rahal 17 3 Helio Castroneves -14
18 25 Justin Wilson 18 7 James Jakes +2
19 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 19 27 Marco Andretti +5
20 7 James Jakes 20 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay -1
21 26 Carlos Munoz 21 19 Francesco Dracone +4
22 14 Takuma Sato 22 18 Carlos Huertas +11
23 18 Carlos Huertas 23 9 Scott Dixon -21
24 27 Marco Andretti 24 41 Jack Hawksworth -13
25 19 Francesco Dracone 25 21 Josef Newgarden -13

Rahal even addressed the first corner chaos in the post-race press conference, as to how he cleanly gained so many positions.

“Honestly, it played out perfectly,” Rahal said. “Honest to God, I said to my dad before the race, he said, ‘What are you going to do at the start?’ I said, ‘I’m going to go as far left as I can. When they all crash on the inside, I’ll be on the outside, so I will have a great angle to cut to the apex. Worst comes to worst, I’ll have to do the shortcut. Rather than being inside and getting collected in the whole deal, it’s going to be fine.’

“It literally worked perfectly. I saw smoke everywhere, then next I see him. I got Hildebrand going into four. But it kind of just worked. As Juan said, part of this deal is luck. We had the pace, for sure, but that definitely went our way.”

Kanaan, who like his teammate Dixon was caught out in the first turn mess, argued the lack of a decisive call from race control – which is done by a steward committee rather than placing all decision-making on just the Race Director’s shoulders – proved costly.

“Helio divebombed into me and Montoya and then hit Dixon, how he started it,” Kanaan told Indianapolis ABC reporter Dave Furst (full interview here). “I went around and a lot of guys went off the course and gained positions. That was it.

“Track position was so important here today. Once they didn’t reposition the guys that cut the course to get ahead of us, because cutting the chicane you’re much quicker, it was pretty hard. Not getting the penalty on the 3 car, taking Dixon out, it is unacceptable in my opinion. Race control did an extremely bad job.”

Kanaan broke down in words what the above chart does in terms of who gained and lost positions by way of either going through the grass or going around the outside.

“It was avoidable contact… he took Dixon out … he made a big mess through the field. Second mistake of race control? Not actually repositioning the field. You got guys who started in the top six going to 19th, the guys 19th cut the course and got up to fourth. Bad call, but it is what it is.”

The Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin (linked here) and RACER.com’s Robin Miller, who’s also an NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter (linked here) each argued their points, agreeing with the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion in wondering why Castroneves wasn’t called in for a drive-through for avoidable contact. As Miller notes in his piece, the contact is of the same degree that Rahal’s contact of Kimball was in St. Petersburg, but Rahal was issued a drive-through during the race.

The one thing IndyCar can’t be perceived to have is inconsistency or indecision in race control; both of which appeared to re-emerge on Saturday.

Still, figure any post-race penalties would be close to coming down the pike on or before Wednesday.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)