Tony Kanaan says older part, reinforced suspension contributed to Hinchcliffe’s crash and injury

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. – While the focus at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been on keeping cars on the pavement during crashes, Tony Kanaan believes James Hinchcliffe’s Monday wreck offered another important reminder.

Sometimes, there is no preventable solution.

“We’re not going to be able to make a car 100 percent safe,” Kanaan said Tuesday during a news conference at the GoPro Motorplex near Charlotte. “When you hit a wall at 215 mph, and I’m going to tell you that all that happened, he didn’t break a single bone. But he had a suspension (piece) going through your leg. I’m not trying to say it’s not that bad. But it’s really not that bad.

“We’re obviously going to look into if we can prevent more, we already had intrusion panels in the past years, the car is already reinforced and so on. Unfortunately like everywhere, how we learned from it is something has to happen for us to react.”

Hinchcliffe remained at IU Health Methodist Hospital in stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery for an injury to his pelvic area and upper left high. Part of the car’s wishbone reportedly compromised the cockpit from beneath the seat, piercing Hinchliffe’s legs and causing severe bleeding. He is out indefinitely.

Kanaan suffered a similar injury in an April 13, 2003 race at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and managed to return to finish third a month later for the Indianapolis 500. The 2004 series champion said Hinchliffe’s crash was the first involving an IndyCar driver being hurt by a part piercing the car’s tub since the introduction of the DW12 chassis in 2012.

“We never had one since the old car, so how are you going to guess that (is going to happen),” Kanaan said. “I guess we will look into it, but it’s one of those things that sometimes it’s the law of physics. You can’t prevent everything from happening.”

The 2013 Indy 500 winner said teams have reinforced their cars’ suspensions to prevent failures from handling greater loads of downforce, but it also can cause injuries such as Hinchcliffe’s because the parts aren’t as prone to collapsing during a crash. “The suspension that came through his leg didn’t bend,” Kanaan said. “It was a like a saw, straight in and through both legs.”

Hinchcliffe’s crash occurred because of a failure in the right-front suspension. Kanaan said it was an older part than what was being used on his Chip Ganassi Racing car.

“We made sure right after the crash, that’s why we stopped (practice) for so long,” Kanaan said. “All the cars got checked, and I’m pretty sure whoever had the old part, it got replaced.”