Massive wreck at start eliminates three Andretti cars from Gateway

Leave a comment

A six-car crash on the way to the green flag eliminated three Andretti Autosport drivers before the start of Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at World Wide Technolgy Raceway at Gateway.

Andretti teammates Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach were knocked out by damage from the crash, which seemed to start when several cars slowed off Turn 4 because of a late green flag as pole-sitter Will Power led the field.

Alex Palou pulled out of line and was followed by Simon Pagenaud, who then was hit by Oliver Askew. That started a chain reaction that collected the Andretti cars.

IndyCar officials penalized Palou and Askew for avoidable contact and sent both to the back of the field on the restart.

Veach said he tried to move to the middle lane when the inside lane slowed.

“That’s when I saw Pagenaud sideways,” Veach said on NBCSN. “From that point, everyone jammed on the brakes. We tried to stop the best we could, but it seemed everyone was in the same position. The window closed so quickly, some of us were left without an option.”

The crash, which also took Ed Carpenter out of contention, caused the first 14 of the race’s 200 laps to be run under a yellow flag.

Pagenaud’s team changed a front wing, but he retired after completing 66 laps because he was unable to make minimum speed.

“Think we had a good car today, never even got a chance to really test it for tomorrow,” Pagenaud told NBCSN pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s a little too much excitement at the start of the race from the back of us. Real shame.

“The front slowed, down, and I don’t know if it was the accordion effect. It is what it is. It’s very unfortunate. Need them to be willing to just be a bit more patient.”

The incident continued a miserable season for Rossi, who had crashed Sunday after leading in the Indy 500.

After the Gateway wreck, Rossi climbed from his No. 27 Dallara-Honda, hopped the pit wall and walked directly to teammate Colton Herta’s pit apparently for an explanation of what happened.

“I was trying to go straight,” Rossi told NBCSN pit reporter James Hinchcliffe after watching the replay. “I’m not laying blame. It’s very reminiscent of a Michgan iRacing start at the beginning of the year.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.