IndyCar drivers believe it’s up to them to prevent crashes


MADISON, Illinois – As the NTT IndyCar Series arrived in the St. Louis area for Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500, it’s a chance to flip the script and focus on a short oval after surviving last Sunday’s superspeedway race at Pocono.

The 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway classifies as a “short oval” although it is over one-mile in length. But with its tight turns and relatively flat surface, it will feature a more traditional style of racing than the high-speed, high-risk superspeedway formula.

“It’s typical short track racing,” Power told NBC “You have to be able to get through traffic. It’s pretty tough there. It’s such a pity we can’t open that second lane because it is there. The only reason it doesn’t open is everyone falls in line at the start and the inside line gets rubber and the outside lane gets the marbles and that destroys the lane. If everyone went the second lane during the first stint of the race, it would come in and you would have a fantastic race.

“It’s really difficult to pass so you have to be quite aggressive to pass and somebody is always going to be the loser in that and get up in the marbles. A multiple lane, short oval track, there is nothing better. Iowa is like that and it creates great racing. We can have great short oval racing if we somehow create a second lane.”

Although the shorter oval with slower speeds doesn’t eliminate the risk, it lessens it to a degree because of the reduction in speed and impact if a car hits the SAFER Barrier.

Power, who won last Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, believes with all of the safety innovations that have been instituted by INDYCAR in recent years, the greatest safety measure remains the person behind the steering wheel.

Last Sunday’s race at Pocono was marred for the second-straight year by a massive crash on the first lap that damaged the fence, sent one driver to the hospital for evaluation and created days’ worth of dialogue from the drivers involved.

Power is among those that believe a driver can impact safety the most by making the right decision at a moment of high risk.

“That’s true, there’s no question it’s up to the drivers,” Power said. “The formula the series mandates, they are very much on top of these days to make it good racing, safer and more about the driver. It just blows me away that in a 500-mile race that people do that. I understand it’s hard when you have a run on someone and can make up a couple easy positions, it’s hard to sit back. It was hard to pass last year, but this year was a little easier.

“There just has to be a higher level of respect when you are racing at a superspeedway. You have to be willing to back out of a move unless you are 100 percent it is going to come up. I lift unless there are 10 laps to go. Then, you are very respectful of the speed on a superspeedway.

“I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard yellow after another big crash in Turn 2. I thought after last year, everyone would have chilled out. It was three cars in a tight spot, too close together at very high speed.”

With so many veteran drivers in a series that features some outstanding young talent, Power was asked if the more experienced drivers need to play a role in speaking out to help prevent crashes before they occur.

Ironically, last Sunday’s crash featured four talented veteran drivers including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe. Rookie Felix Rosenqvist’s car was sent into the fence after it ran into Sato’s car after it rebounded from the initial crash.

“Look at the crash last year between Hunter-Reay and Wickens, same deal,” Power explained. “If that had been 10 to go, Hunter-Reay would have expected Wickens to stay there and Wickens would have expected Hunter-Reay to stay there. But on the first lap, there is a bit of uncertainty there, so someone has to be willing to back out.

“It’s tough. We are all out there racing and everyone wants wins these days. If you can get a position, you will.

“It’s definitely on the drivers. We all back bad decisions at times but on a superspeedway, I really feel like stepping back and being willing to back out. Simon Pagenaud and I were side-by-side down the backstretch and I was even a little ahead, but it was really early, and I decided to back down and tuck behind him.

“It was way early.”

Power believes there is no one single driver that should bear the responsibility of last Sunday’s crash, although it appears obvious Sato played the biggest role.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens“The first lap is double-file, and everyone was packed up,” Power said. “I don’t see it as anyone’s fault, it was just unfortunate. I feel bad for Pocono these accidents happen. I would not say that accident was overly aggressive driving. It wasn’t.

“It was just three guys going straight that were just too close together.”

What was most concerning to some was it was the second year in a row that a major crash happened at the start of the IndyCar Series race at Pocono. After dealing with last year’s crash that left Robert Wickens paralyzed from the waist down, drivers didn’t need to be reminded of the risks versus reward of daring moves at the start of the race.

“That’s why a lot of people keep doing the same thing they do, they don’t think about what they did last time, so it continues to happen,” five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon told NBC “That’s the first sign of insanity, isn’t it?

“It’s not so easy to self-police because it becomes paybacks and you can’t do that. For all of us, we just have to be glad that everybody in that crash is OK.”

Hunter-Reay indicated the drivers need to have a little more self-respect for each other and take care of each other better in risky situations.

“As a group, we need to realize we need to take care of each other, especially on the first lap of a 500-mile race,” Hunter-Reay told NBC “Everybody races hard, no doubt about it. We need to focus on higher percentage moves on a superspeedway. If this happened on a road course, nobody is talking about that because the consequences aren’t as severe.

“We can have a discussion among ourselves and address that, everybody is going to race hard and we are racing inches apart and sometimes these things are going to happen. I think as a group we can discuss that.

“I don’t know about policing, as much as the drivers need to have mutual respect.

“I love Pocono. I won there. I really enjoy the race track. It’s very challenging. It’s a superspeedway unlike any other. It’s unfortunate these things have happened, but they could have happened elsewhere.”

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).