DiZinno: Indy 500’s 2015 “Fast Friday” dawns with more questions than answers after spate of crashes


As the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares for the final day of practice before qualifying, the week has felt like days gone by – not necessarily in a good way, albeit with good endings from a safety standpoint thus far.

It used to be the case going back 20 or 25 years ago, at least, that you’d have both a speed report and an incident report coming out of the day’s practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What has followed over the last 15 or so years, where more spec parts and spec cars have ruled the way, has been largely incident-free days.

If a big accident or engine failure happened, it wasn’t to the degree or volume of what we’ve seen this week.

“I think it’s too early to say what is happening or if there is anything happening out of the ordinary,” Derrick Walker, INDYCAR’s president of competition and operations, told USA Today Sports.

That may be true, but it’s been a far from ordinary week for the series in comparison to recent practice weeks at IMS the last few years.

Tuesday witnessed Simona de Silvestro’s fuel leak-induced fire, and two further mechanical issues for other Honda-powered cars, driven by James Jakes and Justin Wilson.

On Wednesday, Helio Castroneves’ car went airborne after slight wall contact and turning around completely backwards. He was unharmed, but the mere pictures of flight were enough to put a scare into folks.

Then yesterday, Josef Newgarden’s car also went airborne, following heavier wall contact, the left sidepod digging in (similar to past accidents with the Dallara DW12 chassis from 2012 to 2014) and rolling up on its side, before again going airborne from the rear and rolling over onto the airbox. Like the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, Newgarden too emerged unscathed.

Not to be overlooked too was another hard impact, this one for Pippa Mann on Wednesday, but a more conventional if you will accident of spinning off Turn 4, into the inside retaining wall and then into the pit lane attenuator at pit-in. And like the other two, she was uninjured if a bit sore following the impacts.

The simple question that must be answered first is what caused the airborne accidents. While some have said it comes down to the new super speedway aero kits – and really the only commonalities between the Castroneves and Newgarden accidents is that both are Chevrolets, and both were on their second laps with the increased side pod ramp in front of the rear wheels (part introduced here) – the greater likelihood is that the giant floor, or underwing, has been a greater cause of the accidents. The cars lift off once that amount of air gets underneath and with the higher surface area, it’s helped propel the cars into the air. This year’s floor features a hole new for this year. How much of a correlation there is between the floor in tandem with the new aero kits is yet to be officially determined.

Beyond that, in the midst of the accidents has come a case of confusion over what has or hasn’t been said, by whom, and to whom.

Thursday seemed a day in sleuthing and as both RACER.com’s Marshall Pruett and Trackside Online’s Steve Wittich discovered on site, it seemed the answers were harder to pursue.

Prior to Newgarden’s accident, INDYCAR released a statement that the centerline wicker would be made an optional part for both manufacturers. Following that, Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell released a statement that phrased it as, “After discussions with the Series, we have decided to remove the centerline wicker on all of our cars.”

What this doesn’t properly answer is whether INDYCAR asked Chevrolet to remove the wicker first – a story which was reported by Motorsport.com’s Anne Proffit – or whether Chevrolet acted on its own accord.

Pruett added to the Chevrolet story with his report on RACER.com that, “According to multiple sources, Chevy teams were given instructions to remove the wickers around 11:30 a.m – 30 minutes before the start of practice – and the directive was made without an explanation as to why they were being removed.”

The next variable comes into play with Wittich’s reporting for Trackside Online on Honda’s status. There, a Honda spokesperson told TSO that the wicker was mandatory ON for Honda cars, but OFF for Chevrolets.

If this is starting to sound like a mystery novel involving 34 cars going over 230 mph … well it kind of is.

Here’s what we know, for sure, so far:

  • Three drivers have escaped three serious, or serious-looking accidents, largely unharmed. For that, we can thank the Dallara DW12 safety cell, which has protected the driver monocoque.
  • Come Fast Friday, today, the boost level will be increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa for “Fast Friday” practice and this weekend’s qualifications. The change in pressure adds about a 40-horsepower boost to the engines produced by Chevrolet and Honda. The boost level will return to 130 kPa for the remainder of the month starting on Monday.

Beyond those two elements, there needs to be better clarification and communication from the sanctioning body over what was said, what was instructed and how that information was disseminated to teams and manufacturers.

And ideally, today needs to be a trouble-free “Fast Friday” where speeds, not accidents, emerge as the predominant talking point.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage