Rosenqvist surprised car went over wall during frightening Pocono crash

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Felix Rosenqvist admits he doesn’t recall when he got into the fence at Pocono Raceway during Sunday’s first-lap crash that sent him to the hospital because he “had my eyes closed.”

In an NBCSports.com exclusive, Rosenqvist spoke publicly for the first time since he was part of the massive crash at the start of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

The crash started when Takuma Sato’s Honda made contact with Alexander Rossi’s Honda, sending both drivers into Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Honda.  Hunter-Reay was on the low side of the track, three-wide heading into the tricky Turn 2 “Tunnel Turn” on the triangle-shaped oval.

Behind them was Rosenqvist, a rookie driver from Malmo, Sweden, who saw what was taking place in front of him and he immediately slowed. He thought he was safe.

Chaos ensued.

“I saw when the three cars collided, and the first thing you do is lift the throttle because you think it’s going to be a caution and you see a dangerous situation ahead of you,” Rosenqvist told NBCSports.com Wednesday. “I thought I was past everything.

“He hit my left-rear. Then I closed my eyes.

“I didn’t know I was in the catchfence or the wall or anything afterward until Dario Franchitti told me in the Medical Center. I don’t have any good memories, because I didn’t keep my eyes open.”

Sato’s damaged Honda already had crashed into the fence before his car then started to ricochet to the left. That’s when he made contact with Rosenqvist’s Honda, sending it airborne.

“It was very hard contact, because Takuma wasn’t moving very fast at all at the time, and I was still going 160 or 170 mph,” Rosenqvist recalled. “It shot the car like in a flip motion. My impact with the wall wasn’t that big, but my car had a lot of spinning momentum.

“When it smacked the front in the wall, my head flipped around big-time in the car. I felt a big headache afterwards.

“Otherwise, it wasn’t too bad.”

Rosenqvist said it seemed surprisingly easy that his car got over the wall. Some IndyCar drivers think the walls at Pocono Raceway appear lower than other superspeedways, but Rosenqvist doesn’t know that for a fact.

“One part of my car always touched the track before getting up there,” Rosenqvist said. “Robert Wickens ended up in the fence last year, and I ended up there this year. It seems pretty likely the cars end up there somehow. I don’t know why or the technical reason for that.

“I wish the wall was higher because it seems very easy for them to get up there.”

Rosenqvist got a sharp pain in his head and that kept him from opening his eyes while the car was rotating. He admits he was lucky the rear of the car never got above the wall because the G-Forces would have thrown it into the fence and made the crash even more severe.

“Somehow, it was the luckiest of every outcome that happened to me,” Rosenqvist said.

A raging debate has started about whether the NTT IndyCar Series should compete at Pocono Raceway because drivers have been airlifted out of the facility in each of the past four years, including one fatality in 2015 when Justin Wilson was killed.

Robert Wickens also was paralyzed from the waist down after he crashed into the catchfence in Turn 2 at the start of the 2018 Pocono race.

Defenders will point out that it’s also risky to run in the Indianapolis 500, too. High-speed racing is risky, period, and what happened at Pocono can happen elsewhere.

“All three superspeedways we do are the most dangerous tracks you can run, but when you do Indy, you have a lot of practice running with other cars,” Rosenqvist said. “I felt really ready for the race at Indy, but at Pocono I had barely any running in traffic at all before the race started.

“You leave a lot to chance when you come up on the first lap, and you don’t know what racing other cars is like. It’s always different. You leave a lot in the hands of the driver, and that is more of the dangerous thing than the track itself.

“I believe the wall should be higher, but that goes for all of them.”

Rosenqvist has watched the onboard video on his car and the three impacts with the fence took the front wing and then several chunks out of his tub.

“The tub really did its job, so I had no leg injuries,” he said. “Plus, I’m pretty short.

“Physically, I feel almost fully recovered. I still have a light headache, but nothing big. Another one or two nights of sleep, I’ll be completely ready to drive a car again.”

Rosenqvist underwent a series of tests on Tuesday and has been cleared by INDYCAR’S Medical Staff to return to competition. That begins with Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway near St. Louis.

His No. 10 Honda will be sponsored by Monster Energy for the first time.

Rosenqvist has no reservation returning to action.

“I don’t feel any different going into Gateway,” he said. “I was very honest with my feelings at Indy after practice because I lost my confidence. I lost the car and didn’t know how. I thought I had it under control. That is the worst for a driver when you try to figure out what is wrong, and you can’t figure it out.

“But if I get taken out by someone in a freak accident, I’m not going to think any differently going into Gateway. I felt good going into Pocono and have felt good at every oval we have done.

“I think we can do pretty good, to be honest. I expect Gateway to be my best oval because I have done well in testing. Now is the time to get some good results, for sure.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)