Drivers ponder why cars didn’t go airborne during the Indianapolis 500


The biggest question about the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 lacked a definitive answer, but the field of 33 drivers certainly didn’t mind being asked about it.

After four crashes involving cars that got airborne or flipped on the 2.5-mile oval during the past two weeks, why weren’t there thankfully any such incidents Sunday?

It certainly wasn’t a lack of accidents. With six caution flags gobbling 47 laps, it was the most laps run under yellow since 61 in 2009, and 10 cars were involved in incidents.

Though several cars, most notably Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 Chevrolet, turned backward at high rates of speed as Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe did in practice and qualifying, none took flight. And aside from a foot contusion for Sebastian Saavedra, there were no injuries (Hinchcliffe is recovering after he lost a massive amount of blood when a part pierced his legs).

“It’s a very unfortunate thing to happen to me, but if I had to prove that we don’t flip cars anymore, here it is for the critics,” said Kanaan, who led 30 laps before his heavy impact on Lap 130.

IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker told The Associated Press that it validated the circuit’s decision to make changes to slow the cars down in qualifying and the race.

“It showed the decision we made in qualifying made a big difference,” Walker said. “We had a great race. That’s the takeaway from today.”

IndyCar will race at Belle Isle in Detroit this weekend before a June 6 race at Texas Motor Speedway’s high-speed oval, where concerns are sure to resurface. Track president Eddie Gossage told Motorsports Talk that he planned to discuss potential changes this week with the series, and reported IndyCar was considering a return to 2014 bodywork.

Some drivers, though, were encouraged the fix might have seemed as simple as slower speeds.

“Most of the people who got airborne were at high speed in qualifying trim,” runner-up Will Power said. “Maybe we should keep it always below 230 (mph).  That might be a lesson.”

That would be in conflict with the series’ goal of promoting an assault next season on the track qualifying record of 236.986 mph set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996, but Sunday’s scintillating finish (a three-way battle between winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Power and Scott Dixon for 15 laps) might change minds.

“We put on a heck of a show,” third-place finisher Charlie Kimball said. “You have to ask yourself what we’re here for. It was one heck of a motor race out there, in beautiful conditions.  I think that showcases what the Verizon IndyCar Series is really about.

Said Graham Rahal (fifth): “I prefer to not understand the crash dynamics and keep the thing pointed straight.”

Power has advocated keeping downforce off the cars at speedways such as Texas, calling that “a massive leap in safety” last week.

“I think you should be lifting at every oval because that makes you a better oval driver,” Power said Sunday. “It should be about the driver, not just a fast car.  I liked the fact today it was hard.  One of the hardest days I’ve had running the track there.  Rarely were you wide open (on the accelerator).  Only at the end when you were leading were you wide open.  That’s how oval racing should be. I think IndyCar needs to make the rules so it is that way.”

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).