Hunter-Reay speaks out about incidents that led up to Pocono crash

0 Comments

Ryan Hunter-Reay was so dumbfounded that some thought he triggered the first-lap crash at Pocono on Sunday, the 2012 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner showed his own video to prove that the crash happened without his involvement.

Hunter-Reay used an NBC Sports video of the crash shot from Turn 2 that showed Sato and Alexander Rossi already crashing with Hunter-Reay’s car in its own lane. He sent that video out on Twitter.

The Lap 1 crash was the second year in a row that the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono had to be stopped because of a massive crash at the start of the contest. Last year in the same portion of the track, Robert Wickens’ car ran over the back of Hunter-Reay’s and was launched into the fence. Wickens suffered serious injuries and remains paralyzed from the waist down.

This year, it was driver Felix Rosenqvist that ended up in the fence in the aftermath of the Sato incident that also included Alexander Rossi.

On Tuesday, Sato had released an onboard video shot from his Honda that showed his hands did not move on the steering wheel. That created a brief Twitter storm where some actually accused Hunter-Reay of initiating the contact.

The NBC Sports video clearly shows that he did not. But with three cars running three-abreast entering Turn 2 at Pocono Raceway, there was zero room for error.

“Takuma was third man in, he was the aggressor on that,” Hunter-Reay told NBC Sports.com Wednesday. “I gave Alex plenty of room. I think from the time you exit Turn 1 as you are going into Turn 2, we take our natural line we take on any lap which is you exit up by the wall, come down to the left and then arc it back up to the right to set up for the corner.

“But as Takuma said in his interview immediately after the accident when you get the clearest, most unbiased response from drivers, he said he thought he was clear. He was coming down and it looked that way, too. Maybe his spotter told him he was clear, or he misjudged it and thought he was clear.”

Hunter-Reay said steering wheel inputs do not indicate the movement of the car because steering loads are adjusted by each driver and crew. Also, an onboard camera shows a very narrow view, where the Turn 2 camera shows a much wider view of the entire field.

“You wouldn’t even be able to see the hand movement and the car will move,” Hunter-Reay said. “The angle from Turn 2 to Turn 1, the one that I posted, it shows everything. Alex and I at the time of the incident are driving straight, we aren’t moving unpredictably or squeezing each other.

“Taku joined the party, he was the third man in, he came across Alex’s nose because he thought he was clear.

“Like I said on my Tweet, I find it hard to believe people are actually debating this. It’s unfortunate it happened; it’s racing, and it was a misjudgment.”

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hunter-Reay said there are some seams in the asphalt at Pocono that can grab a car’s tires, but he believes Sato was trying to gradually get into Scott Dixon’s draft, he thought he was clear, and tried to pull in front of Rossi, but Rossi’s Honda was still there.

NBC Sports.com attempted to get an additional comment from Alexander Rossi, but he declined, saying he “is focused ahead on the race this weekend and the championship ahead and is not concerned about the incident any longer.”

Sato and Hunter-Reay were teammates at Andretti Autosport in 2017 when Sato won the 101stIndianapolis 500. Hunter-Reay said the two drivers remain friends, but he wanted to clear up the misconception that Hunter-Reay somehow started the incident.

“You have to look at all angles to determine what happened,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s a sensitive subject because it’s Pocono. We have had some pretty big incidents there, and that doesn’t have to do with Pocono or not.

“That’s why this has had so much more focus on it.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds