Airborne wreck causes red flag on the first lap of 2023 IndyCar opener at St. Pete (VIDEO)


ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Devlin DeFrancesco went airborne but was injured during a wild eight-car wreck on the opening lap of the NTT IndyCar season opener.

DeFrancesco’s No. 29 Dallara-Honda went skyward (watch the video above or click here) with a lazy half-spin after being hit at full speed by the No. 55 Dallara-Chevrolet of rookie Benjamin Pedersen during the opening minute of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I’m fine, but it was a really hard knock,” DeFrancesco, who started 18th of a track-record 27 cars, told NBC Sports after the Andretti Autosport was checked out at the care center. “Not the way we wanted to start the season. I saw Helio (Castroneves) spinning, and there was no way I could get through it, then I saw Pedersen coming at me. I said, ‘Yeah, this is going to be a big one.’

“Just braced up and got ready for it. It was a wild ride.”

No drivers seriously were hurt in the incident, which caused a red flag for 19 minutes and 25 seconds.

After gingerly climbing from his No. 06 Dallara-Honda, Castroneves limped over to check on Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud, but the four-time Indy 500 winner told NBC Sports that X-rays were negative on his right leg.

Castroneves was icing his right hand, and Pagenaud said he suffered “a little finger issue” in the crash.

“I saw (the cars ahead slow down), and I kind of expected it to be honest,” Pagenaud, who started 25th, told NBC Sports. “It’s been such a tricky area all weekend. I’m on the brakes into that corner and turning right so hard.

“I thought I went through, man. I thought I made it. That’s my strong suit avoiding crashes.  We’ll regroup. We had a fast car.”

Santino Ferrucci and Sting Ray Robb also were involved in the crash.

The pileup started in Turn 3 because drivers were slowing for an incident several cars ahead when six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon squeezed Felix Rosenqvist (his former teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing) into the wall.

“Felix is my best friend, man,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “I feel really sad that we made contact there.  I thought I was clear. I feel really bad for Felix.”

Rosenqvist said he wasn’t expecting Dixon to take him so wide.

“I was just trying to get through the first couple of turns,” the Arrow McLaren driver said. “I think he didn’t know I was there. It sucks. We had a good chance today. Really bummed about it. Not the way we want to start.

“Maybe it’s something we have to talk about, but it’s hard racing in IndyCar, and it can go that way pretty quickly through those first few corners.”

The chaos continued when the race restarted shortly before 1 p.m.

After Rinus VeeKay spun into the Turn 4 tire barrier on Lap 41, Kyle Kirkwood launched into the air from contact with the rear of Jack Harvey’s car.

With help from medical personnel, Harvey exited the cockpit, but he appeared to still be in pain while sitting on the back step of an ambulance.

According to IndyCar medical director Dr. Julia Vaizer, Harvey was in stable condition but was been taken to a local hospital for further evaluation “out of an abundance of caution.”

Harvey missed last year’s race at Texas Motor Speedway after suffering a concussion in a practice crash.

Eli Tomac wins Seattle Supercross, ties Cooper Webb in championship points


In the past two weeks, Eli Tomac lost his momentum and with it the Monster Energy Supercross red plate to Cooper Webb, but a gutsy performance in Seattle gave him a sixth win of the season as he and the series heads into an off week tied. Tomac is currently tied in the points with Webb.

With this win, Tomac also ties James Stewart for second on the all-time wins list at 50 with six rounds remaining in 2023.

“I needed that bounce back,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “It was almost like I was in a little bit of a slump in the past couple of weeks; just a little bit off. I’m feeling much better now. That track raced really cool. There were a lot of different lines out there.

“It was obviously very dicey early on. I got passed and then had to make those passes back.”

Tomac suffered with a stiff neck in Indianapolis two weeks ago when he lost the red plate to Webb for the first time in 2023. In that race, he scored his worst finish of the season in eighth. He lost more points in Detroit after finishing a distant third behind Chase Sexton and Webb. This is the fifth time this season that Tomac and Webb finished 1-2 in a race. Tomac has won them all, but Webb has been more consistent.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Seattle

Webb was disappointed to lose the ground to Tomac, but he will enter the Glendale, Arizona race with a red plate and a share of the points’ lead.

“It was overall a great night to get up front and get a second was great,” Webb said after the race. “Those few spots where I would get close to Eli and then make a mistake.

“The track was gnarly. It was no joke. It was cat and mouse as to who could ride the cleanest race and pick the line. I got off to a decent start, but Chase and Eli were ahead of me and I had some catchup to play and got into a good position.”

Early in the race, Sexton was indeed ahead of Webb and the remainder of the field. Another costly mistake sent Sexton to the ground. He battled back to finish fifth but is now 22 points out of the lead and in jeopardy of dropping out of championship contention unless Tomac and Webb have problems.

Rounding out the podium was Justin Barcia, who scored the third-place finish on his birthday

“Awesome ride,” Barcia said. “It was a lot of fun. I’m sure we kept the fans on their feet tonight. The track was gnarly. […] We’re searching; we’re so close to having that speed. We want it so badly. We’ll keep pushing hard and going for that win.”

Sexton’s mistake kept the three top points’ earners of 2023 from sharing the podium for the sixth time in 11 rounds, but the trio finished 1-2-3 in Heat 2 with Webb first, Sexton second and Tomac third.

The 250 West contenders were back in action after giving the last four rounds over to the East riders and Jett Lawrence picked up where he left off in Oakland: In Victory Lane. Lawrence scored his fourth win in five 250 West rounds. Last week his brother Hunter Lawrence tied Jett with 10 wins, but everyone knew it would not take long for Jett to regain the advantage.

Between them, the Lawrence brothers have won all but one race each in their respective divisions.

Lawrence rode a patient race in the Main. He settled in behind Stylez Robertson and concentrated on navigating the ruts mistake-free. He could not afford to be patient any longer when Cameron McAdoo caught up to the leaders. Lawrence found a second gear and gapped the battle for second.

An incident in their main made the battle between Lawrence and McAdoo more dramatic. While racing for second, the pair of riders ran out of room in the rhythm section. Both crashed but had a large enough lead over fourth to maintain their positions.

“It was a very eventful day,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’s Daniel Blair, answering a question about the earlier contact. “[…] It’s good to be back racing. It’s been a while. I feel like I’ve had another offseason. Glad to get out in one piece tonight.”

Lawrence now has a 23-point advantage over the field with four rounds remaining.

Click here for full 250 Main Results

RJ Hampshire finished second in his race and is second in the points after a seesaw affair that produced the final pass for position just before the white flag was displayed.

“I felt like I had a pretty good pace going for a little bit,” Hampshire said. “I closed the gap and then had a couple of big mistakes that almost put me on my head. I backed it off a little bit.

“Cam actually gapped me a little more than I would have wanted. I knew I could get a push there at the end. I thought that was the last lap, which is why my pass was a little more aggressive than it should have been, but I’m stoked to be able to close the gap a little bit.”

McAdoo took the final spot on the podium. This is the fourth time in 2023 these three riders have shared the box and if not for a sixth-place finish in Anaheim 2, he would be mounting a much more formidable challenge for the points’ lead.

“The track was really demanding tonight,” McAdoo said. “It did change a lot and the key thing was to get off the rhythms every time. We were swapping back and forth.”

Enzo Lopes in fourth and Max Vohland rounded out the top five.

Robertson had the early lead but when he lost the top spot to Jett he cross rutted on the next lap, crashed hard and failed to finish.

2023 Race Recaps

Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Seattle by the numbers
Dylan Ferrandis may return before SX finale
SMX develops “Leader Lights”
Power Rankings after Detroit
Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan
Results and points after Detroit
Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points