Spins abound in Indy 500 test as Colton Herta averts disaster; Helio Castroneves hits wall


INDIANAPOLIS — Three Indy 500 winners had spins coming out of the pits Wednesday during an open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and four-time race champion Helio Castroneves hit the Turn 2 wall with about 80 minutes left in an unusually chaotic session.

Castroneves was taken to the track’s infield medical center where he was checked and cleared to drive shortly after the crash. The Brazilian won last year’s race in the same car that hit the wall.

“Very strange,” Castroneves said. “I wasn’t pushing, I wasn’t even trying. It was very unusual. I don’t know if you guys saw but I was like I can’t believe what just happened.”

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The testing session was delayed early in the day for about 90 minutes following rain. After the track dried, temperatures were in the high 40s (and eventually warmed up into the low 60s) as drivers took to the track.

Castroneves wasn’t the only veteran who had trouble with the chilly, breezy conditions.

Alexander Rossi, who won the Indy 500 in 2016, and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power also spun in the warmup lane.

While neither hit the wall, Colton Herta looped his car through the first turn to avoid Power.

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Herta brushed the wall but averted major damage to his No. 26 Dallara-Honda while also missing Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson, who barely avoided hitting the Andretti Autosport driver as he came to a stop.

Power couldn’t explain it, either.

“It scared the absolute daylights out of me,” Power said. “I feel terrible for Colton because he (spun) because of me. But I had zero warning. Zero. It felt like water.”

Shortly after the third incident, series officials halted testing for the day so they could give the track a more thorough inspection. IMS, IndyCar and Firestone, the tire supplier for the series, said they were working to evaluate the warmup lane in turns one and two.

The test was scheduled to continue at 10 a.m. ET Thursday (with six hours of coverage on Peacock Premium). Inclement weather had the test on hold Thursday morning.

Herta, 22, quickly was released from the infield medical center and cleared to drive.

“I wasn’t sure how far up the track Will was, but I had to go wide,” Herta said. “I was close to having nowhere to go.”

Six-time series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing posted the fastest lap of the day at 227.187 mph. Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing was second at 226.985, and rookie Callum Ilot of Juncos Hollinger Racing was third at 226.308.

“The first thing I said was the warmup lane felt slick and then I saw Alex spinning so it made sense,” Daly said. “I think the more we go, it will get better. It’s unfortunate but I think we can run if we’re just a little bit cautious with it.”

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, driving with a surgically repaired hand in his first IndyCar season driving ovals, was 25th overall at 218.785 mph after recording the eighth-fastest non-tow speed in the first of the three two-hour windows.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change