Indy 500 test spins have drivers and officials hunting a reason for lack of pit lane grip


INDIANAPOLIS – An odd phenomenon developed with three spins during the opening day of Indy 500 testing that left NTT IndyCar Series drivers and officials puzzled while searching for a reason Wednesday.

Three experienced veterans, with six victories and a combined 546 laps led in the Indianapolis 500, were involved in separate crashes on the warmup lane, an access road that connects pit lane with the entry onto the track in Turn 2.

It all started at 12:30 p.m. ET when 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport spun after exiting pit road on his slow-speed installation lap. The incident drew some bewildered looks as many believed cold temperatures combined with early morning rain led Rossi to hit the throttle too hard for the conditions.

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The next four hours on the 2.5-mile oval were conducted mostly without incident. That all changed after the clock struck 5.

Four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who has led a whopping 325 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, spun on the pit access road, slid across the grass strip that separates the road for the race track and slammed into the Turn 2 wall with his right front at 5:11 p.m.

“I didn’t do anything strange; I wasn’t even pushing, and the car just spun out,” Castroneves said. “It was a very odd situation unfortunately. It was very strange. The temperatures are a little cooler, but I’ve run in colder conditions than that.

“I wasn’t even pushing. I wasn’t even trying. The car felt good. My reaction was, ‘What happened?’ I wasn’t trying anything different. It’s just strange what happened.”

Though Castroneves won’t return for the second day of testing, he was optimistic Meyer Shank Racing could repair the car that won last year’s Indy 500.

Shortly after the track returned to green, 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power lost it on the access road and zipped up the track toward Turn 1, directly into the path of a long line of cars running in a pack.

Colton Herta tried to avoid Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, spun and headed toward the infield wall in the south short chute area of the track between Turns 1 and 2. Marcus Ericsson, who had to avoid Castroneves’s car a few minutes earlier, barely made it between Herta’s Honda and the infield wall in the third and final incident of the day.

That occurred at 5:32 p.m. ET, and the track never returned to green despite 30 minutes left of running time as series and track officials elected to investigate the problem after consultation with Firestone.

IndyCar race director Kyle Novak along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway director of track operations Jason Pennix surveyed the surface in the pit access area. They were soon joined by IndyCar president Jay Frye and technical director Kevin Blanch.

“The first thing I said all day was I thought the warmup lanes felt slick,” Ed Carpenter Racing driver Conor Daly said. “I didn’t know if I was just being a bit of a weirdo, but then I saw Alex spinning, so it made sense.”

According to IndyCar, track crews began the process of dragging tires on the track and pressure washing the warmup lane. It’s the same group that applied a Rapid Penetrating Emulsion (RPE) treatment on the track in 2018 to seal the surface. The pit warmup lane had that treatment applied over the offseason.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles told the Indy Star later Wednesday night that the application of the sealer last fall likely had caused a lack of grip. IndyCar officials still had been hopeful of an on-time start of 10 a.m. ET for Thursday’s session, which will be televised live on Peacock, but inclement weather had the test on hold Thursday morning.

The drivers remained completely stunned they had lost control of their racing machines. Power said “it’s my worst nightmare. It’s something you always think about as drivers because you’ve seen it.

“Man, it just lit up,” Power said. “I didn’t have much lateral (steering wheel) in it. I was full throttle in second gear, but it has a very tall second gear. I had already done a lap to get rear tire temp, or so I thought. It scared the absolute daylights out of me. The situation where you come up on the track, and there is a whole pack coming at those speeds.

“I feel terrible for Colton. He crashed because I spun. I had zero warning. Zero! Before going out again, I told the engineers, ‘Look at the video; we’ve got to understand what happened there.’ I don’t understand what happened.

“When I spun and I’m going up the track. I thought this was it. This is going to be bad. It grabbed the rear and it headed back in and then I saw Colton crash and I’m causing other people to have wrecks. Scary, scary.”

For the brief moments Power was in his spin, it brought back memories of the horrifying wreck in September 2021 in Germany in which Alex Zanardi lost his legs.

“You saw what happened to Alex Zanardi in 2001, and it’s something you are aware of and you’re cautious of during practice and I can’t believe it caught me out,” Power said.

It was a similar situation that happened to Scott Dixon on Lap 52 of the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017 when Jay Howard hit the Turn 1 wall, ricocheted across the track, and Dixon’s Honda slammed into the disabled car. That sent Dixon’s Honda sailing airborne in the worst crash in his career.

“I think any situation like that is not great,” Dixon said. “I think Will was extremely lucky there that the car didn’t roll back any further because it would have been massive.”

Marco Andretti, who is back in an Indy car for the first time since the 2021 Indianapolis 500, believes grinding the track combined with higher temperatures on Thursday should improve the situation.

“If they could grind the track, that would be perfect,” Andretti said. “I don’t know how long something like that takes, what a process that is. I would feel a lot better with that, for sure.

“That’s the scariest part of our business. They probably weren’t pushing until then, right? That’s why they didn’t feel it. I felt it on my first run because I get a lot of feel for that going out of the pits. I said, ‘This is going to claim somebody today. I didn’t know it would claim three or four.’ Hopefully they find a remedy.”

Daly believes it’s a similar situation to last month at Texas Motor Speedway, where an extra practice session was held to work in rubber on the upper lane for more grip.

“I think it’s also cold and it’s Day One,” Daly said. “Just tell everyone, ‘Hey, I think it’s more important for us to get on the track and just continue to keep doing laps.’ Every lap that people are leaving the pits, it’s probably going to get better.”

Power, one of the most experienced drivers in the field, just wanted answers on why he car snapped on him. He advocated a deeper look at the video and a track inspection.

“It was a bad situation,” the Team Penske driver said. “I want to know what I did wrong because I never want that to happen again. I wanted to see if it was something on the track because it felt like water. As soon as I finished spinning, I wondered if there was water there.

“It was such a shock to me. I’ve been out of that pit lane hundreds of times. I had been super careful because Rossi spun. I had been taking it easy on the aprons for that reason. It’s just testing, and you never want to risk going quick on the apron when other cars are at speed. It just surprised me. Normally, you’re ready for that stuff. You’ve had a whole career of this sort of thing, and you get a warning.”

Power understands where all the bumps are located on any given race course. That’s what racers do, and they know where to put their car and use those bumps to their advantage. He noticed something different, though, on Wednesday.

“One thing I have noticed there is more of a bump where you go over the road course,” Power said. “I’m wondering if it just got a spike of boost or something like that.

“It was a surprise to me. I said, ‘We’ve got to understand this. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this. Or for anything to happen to anybody else or anybody to get hurt because of it.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500