A Trying Week

This week has been one of the most stressful weeks as a race fan that I can remember. It seems like nothing has gone right. Five ugly accidents, rain, rule changes, fans bickering, despondency in the paddock, and a general sense of unease has swept through Indycar since Helio Castroneves's car took flight Wednesday, it seems like one thing after another after another happens in Indycar.

After Helio's crash, every fan with a computer became an engineer. While it was annoying to have 15,000 different opinions clashing, it was apparent (even though I didn't think it at first) that something was wrong with the new aero kits put on the cars. Something on the car was causing the cars to take flight. Later on in the day, Pippa Mann had herself a bad shunt, hitting the inside wall out of turn four and then the pit lane divider. She thankfully walked away with just a bad limp.

The car driven by Helio Castroneves is airborne after hitting the wall in the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500. (AP)
What a frightening image (Photo: AP)

One day later, Josef Newgarden had himself a violent crash. Many connected the dots; Helio and Josef were both running Chevy aero kits, so it must be something Chevrolet doing. Like Helio, Josef walked away unscathed.

Day one of qualifying was set to be one of the best qualifying sessions we had ever seen. Speeds were going to be high and, maybe, an attempt would get close to the 237 MPH mark that Arie Luyendyk set in 1996. Unfortunately, it rained and rained and rained. This day was lost, and qualifying would be packed into one day.

An early practice Sunday morning saw Ed Carpenter with a heavy accident. His crash led the car to clip the catch fencing, but thankfully, nothing violent occurred after contact with the fence. Three times, again by a Chevrolet car, in a handful of days is a terrible coincidence. This latest incident sent waves of changes throughout the paddock: each driver would get one and only one attempt to qualify, no points would be awarded, more downforce would be added, and boost would be taken off that was added for qualifying. Qualifying got in, and no one wrecked (thankfully). It wasn't a great show by any means, but it served its purpose.

Ed Carpenter (20) of CHF Racing hits the wall coming
Carpenter walked away from this one (Photo: Tom Figura / Indy Star)

Mercifully, I thought we had made it through some of the worst of it. Then, in a practice session today, James Hinchcliffe suffered a mechanical failure, launching the car into the turn three wall at an incredibly harsh angle. Hinch was extricated from the car and taken to a local hospital, where he remains in stable condition. This incident adds to what has been a terrible week of Indycar practice at IMS.

So, what are my thoughts? I've been pretty quiet on Twitter. I've been sitting back as a sponge and I was just trying to absorb all of the incidents and thoughts that everyone had. So, here I go:

Thought 1) I am incredibly grateful that the five incidents that have happened haven't resulted in fatal injuries. The impacts sustained by Newgarden and Hinchcliffe could have easily been fatal hits two decades ago. The safety innovations from Dallara, as well as the SAFER barrier and the HANS device, may have saved a couple of lives this weekend. I am thankful that no driver lost their life.

Thought 2) I still don't know shit about aerodynamics so I won't pander to a crowd of people on Twitter acting like I know what I'm talking about. It would be like a blind person leading a bunch of blind people. I can't tell you why the cars keep flipping so I won't pretend like I know what I'm saying.

Thought 3) Indycar is playing a dangerous game. Qualifying on Sunday was something out of the old IR-03/07 cars: just hold your foot down and do your best. The increase in downforce slowed things down and, in race conditions, would bunch cars up. Does that sound familiar to anyone? This could lead to another terrible tragedy come race time at a banked track. Indycar needs to figure this out by time Indycar heads to Texas on June 6th.

Thought 4) RACING IS DANGEROUS. There is no way to ever prevent crashes. From mechanical failures, to drivers pushing the ragged edge, to miscommunications, to shit happens, crashes are going to happen.

Thought 5) Given that there have been five huge crashes in as many days, I am a tad bit nervous for the race. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely jacked to go to the race and see my fourth Indianapolis 500, but the week leading up to this race has been pretty brutal.

Let me know what you all think!

-Matthew Hickey