Beekhuis offers clarity on Hinchcliffe crash, concern about what could happen in Indy 500


Jon Beekhuis knows fairly well what happened to IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe in Monday’s practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as best as possible given the circumstances.

Beekhuis, who serves as a pit reporter for both ABC and NBCSN’s Verizon IndyCar Series coverage, spoke to the Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin on Tuesday’s edition of “Trackside” on 1070 the Fan radio in Indianapolis and provided further insight.

The full 14-minute interview is worth a listen, but here are a few excerpts of note.

Beekhuis offered his viewpoint as a former driver (he is the 1988 Indy Lights champion and raced portions of four years in CART), and addressed a point in his own career where he had an accident at Michigan International Speedway more than 20 years ago that was similar to Hinchcliffe’s.

“We’re certainly well aware that it was a suspension failure,” Beekhuis told Cavin about what caused Hinchcliffe’s wreck.

“I’ve had the very same thing happen – it was a push rod as opposed to a rocker (arm), but it’s the same dynamic. I was at Michigan, 230 mph turning into Turn 3, and it just popped. Almost an identical situation. The car drops on the ground, you have no steering, no brakes, you have very little time to think about it.

“Essentially, at these kinds of G forces, it’s like being a rock at the end of a string. You spin it around until you get to the G force level, and if one of those suspension components breaks, it’s essentially like the string breaks. Nothing is holding you, you’re just straight up to the wall.

“The impact in my case, and I think Eddie (Cheever) has had something similar, and of course the really sad part for Hinch was just the angle that he hit at punched that wishbone up through the tub.

“Still, it’s amazing with the safety technology that you can survive that, but he would have obviously survived that much better had not the puncture wound (occurred). It was very scary.”

Hinchcliffe crashed during practice Monday and suffered injuries that left him in critical condition when he was admitted to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

He underwent surgery shortly after the crash. After two days in the Intensive Care Unit, Hinchcliffe, 28, was transferred out on Wednesday, is listed in stable condition and is expected to make a complete recovery.

MORE: James Hinchcliffe transferred out of ICU, full recovery expected

Up to this point, there have been no reports that Hinchcliffe lost consciousness after the crash. But Beekhuis has an interesting perspective on that.

“I was in a similar situation,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I was unconscious for some period of time. They asked me in the emergency room if I was unconscious, and I said, ‘Well, not that I know of,’ and they found that humorous, some emergency room humor.

“But of course a driver always answers that because you know if you’ve had a concussion, that you’re out (of competition). That’s much different in Hinch’s case because it was extremely serious. In my case, I was hoping to get back in a car, but I had a broken hand, so that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

“At least from what I’ve read, and I haven’t spoken to the medical team, but it sounds like he was conscious. But I would imagine with that kind of lick, he certainly would have some concussive injury, one would think.”

While hoping for the best that Sunday’s race is incident-free – or if there are incidents, that they are minor in nature – Beekhuis admits he’s concerned about what may happen in the 500.

“We’re always concerned,” he said. “Even without aero kits, before any Speedway event, we all know that in real-world environments, strange things can happen. We’re always concerned going into events like this.

“We need to hope and pray that the race downforce, that the weather conditions of the day are going to keep people where they need to be and that it’s going to be safe.”

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Will Power says IndyCar field toughest in world: ‘F1’s a joke as far as competition’


DETROIT – With the 2023 Formula One season turning into a Red Bull runaway, Will Power believes the NTT IndyCar Series deserves respect as the world’s most difficult single-seater racing series.

“It’s so tough, an amazing field, the toughest field in the world, and people need to know it, especially compared to Formula One,” the defending IndyCar champion told NBC Sports during a media luncheon a few days ahead of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. “Formula One’s a joke as far as competition, but not as far as drivers. They have amazing drivers. And I feel sorry for them that they don’t get to experience the satisfaction we do with our racing because that is the top level of open-wheel motorsport.

“I think Formula One would be so much better if they had a formula like IndyCar. I love the technology and the manufacturer side of it. I think that’s awesome. But from a spectator watching, man, how cool would it be if everyone had a Red Bull (car)?”

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It probably would look a lot different than this season, which has been dominated by two-time defending F1 champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman won Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from the pole position by 24 seconds over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. It’s the fifth victory in seven races for Verstappen, whose 40 career wins are one shy of tying late three-time champion Aryton Senna.

Along with being a virtual lock to tie Senna’s mark for titles, Verstappen is poised to break his own record for single-season victories (15) that he set last year.

“You simply know Max is going to win every race if something doesn’t go wrong,” Power said. “Imagine being a guy coming out as a rookie, and you probably could win a race. It would be really cool to see. But you know that would never happen with the politics over there.”

Verstappen’s F1 dominance has been a stark contrast to IndyCar, where Josef Newgarden just became the first repeat winner through six races this season with his Indy 500 victory.

Team Penske (with Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Chip Ganassi Racing (with Palou and Marcus Ericsson) and Andretti Autosport (with Kyle Kirkwood) each have visited victory lane in 2023. Arrow McLaren (which has past winners Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist) is certain to join them at some point.

Meanwhile, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez (two wins) have won every F1 race this season with the two Red Bull cars combining to lead more than 95% of the laps.

The primary differences are in the rulesets for each series.

While F1 teams virtually have complete autonomy to build their high-tech cars from scratch, IndyCar has what is known as a spec series in which the cars have a large degree of standardization.

IndyCar teams all use the Dallara DW12 chassis, which is in its 12th season. The development of the car largely has been maximized, helping put a greater emphasis on driver skill as a differentiator (as well as other human resources such as whip-smart strategists and engineers).

Alex Palou, who will start from the pole position at Detroit, harbors F1 aspirations as a McLaren test driver, but the Spaniard prefers IndyCar for competitiveness because talent can be such a determinant in results.

“Racing-wise, that’s the best you can get,” Palou said a few days before winning the pole for the 107th Indy 500 last month. “That’s pure racing, having chances to win each weekend.”

Of course, F1 is the world’s most popular series, and the 2021 IndyCar champion believes its appeal doesn’t necessarily stem from being competitive.

Though the ’21 championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was epic, F1 has grown its audience in recent years with the help of the “Drive To Survive” docuseries on Netflix that has showcased their stars’ personalities along with the cutthroat decisions of its team principals (IndyCar started its own docuseries this year).

“I don’t think the beauty of F1 is the race itself,” Palou said. “I’d say the beauty is more the development that they have and everything around the races, and that they go different places. But when we talk about pure spectacle, you cannot get better than (IndyCar).

“You can feel it as a driver here when you first come and jump in a car. When I was in Dale Coyne (Racing), we got a podium my rookie year. It wasn’t the best team, but we were able to achieve one of the best cars at Road America (where he finished third in 2020). It’s not that I was driving a slow car. I was driving a really fast car. I think we can see that across all the teams and the drivers.”

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who will start second at Detroit, is in his third season of IndyCar after winning three championships in Supercars.

The New Zealander said recently that IndyCar has been “the most enjoyment I’ve ever had in my career. I had a lot of fun in Supercars, but there were still things like different uprights, engines, all that stuff. (IndyCar) is spec. Really the only things you can change are dampers and the engine differences between Honda and Chevy.

“I have a blast,” McLaughlin said. “Trying to extract pace and winning in this series is better than I’ve ever felt ever. I’m surprised by how satisfied it feels to win an IndyCar race. It’s better than how it ever has felt in my career. I’ve always liked winning, but it’s so satisfying to win here. That’s why it’s so cool. There are no bad drivers. You have to have a perfect day.”

Qualifying might be the best example of the series’ competitiveness tightness. The spread for the Fast Six final round of qualifying on Detroit’s new nine-turn, 1.645-mile downtown layout was nearly eight 10ths of a second – which qualifies as an eternity these days.

Last month, the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course produced a spread of 0.2971 seconds from first to sixth – the fourth-closest Fast Six in IndyCar history since the format was adopted in 2008. Three of the seven closest Fast Six fields have happened this season (with the Grand Prix of Long Beach ranking sixth and the Alabama Grand Prix in seventh).

While the technical ingenuity and innovation might be limited when compared to F1, there’s no arguing that more IndyCar drivers and teams have a chance to win.

“The parity’s great, and no one has an advantage, basically,” Power said. “The two engine manufacturers (Honda and Chevrolet) are always flipping back and forth as they develop, but we’re talking like tenths of a second over a lap. There’s not a bad driver in the field, and there are 20 people all capable of being in the Fast Six every week. Maybe more. It’s incredibly competitive. There isn’t a more competitive series in the world. I’m sure of that.

“If you want the ultimate driver’s series, this is it I’m from a big team that would benefit massively from opening the rules up, but I don’t think (IndyCar officials) should. I think this should always be about the team and driver getting the most out of a piece of equipment that everyone has a chance to do so. That’s the ultimate driver series. Who wants to win a championship when you’re just given the best car? It’s just ridiculous.”

Power believes the talented Verstappen still would be the F1 champion if the equipment were spec, but he also thinks there would be more challengers.

“There’s got to be a bunch of those guys that must just be frustrated,” Power said. “Think about Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, (Fernando) Alonso. Those are some great drivers that don’t get a chance to even win. They’re just extracting the most out of the piece of equipment they have.

“All I can say is if everyone had a Red Bull car, there’s no way that Max would win every race. There are so many guys who would be winning races. It’d just be similar to (IndyCar) and different every week, which it should be that way for the top level of the sport.”