MAVTV 500: Despite being nerve-racking to crazy, drivers glad safety won out

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Although it’s been two days since the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, a number of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers are not going to soon forget one of the wildest races the series has seen in a long time.

“That was one of the most nerve-racking races I’ve ever been a part of,” said race runner-up Tony Kanaan.

Third-place finisher Marco Andretti readily agreed with Kanaan’s assessment.

“It’s definitely crazy; pack racing’s always like that,” Andretti said. “You’ve got guys that just don’t want to back off, guys going forward, guys going backward, inside, outside.

“I find it quite fun but it is extremely dangerous, but that’s what we sign up for. We put on a heck of a show for the fans, that’s for sure.”

While it was a heck of a show for the fans both in attendance and those that watched the race on NBCSN, Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud would prefer safety over spectacle.

“I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of this kind of racing,” said Pagenaud, who finished ninth after starting on pole. “We don’t need to run in a pack at over 220 mph. There is so much drafting in those cars, you get lucky if there is a hole. You slice through the hole and you push people out of the draft. It is just not safe racing. That is my personal opinion.”

Added 20-year-old Sage Karam, who earned a career-best fifth-place finish and led a lap (five in total) for the first time in his budding IndyCar career, “It’s a battle and you’re in survival mode.”

Perhaps defending series champion Will Power, who himself was one of those caught up in a wreck Saturday, put it best.

“When you have a pack race like what we had (Saturday), you have to take a lot of risks to gain track position,” Power said. “As exciting as it is, it’s intense at the same time.

“I’m just glad that no one got hurt out there and that everybody is OK.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).