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:
|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.