Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lap One Incidents Since 1979

The Month of May is a historic time for Indycar. Indycar teams assemble for two (used to be three weeks) of practice to prepare for the biggest race in the world. So, you can imagine how dismal it is when a driver wrecks on the first lap, throwing all of that time, effort, and money right out the window less than a minute into the race. Here are all lap one crashes that have occurred since 1979, most of which have ended in heartbreak:

1982 Indianapolis 500
This is one of the most bizzarre starts in the history of the Indy 500. Before they even got past the yard of bricks, Kevin Cogan from P2 on the grid swereved and spun right and hit the pit wall, collecting Mario Andretti, who was rightfully pissed off. Cogan also hit AJ Foyt before swerving, but Foyt continued. Roger Mears and Dale Whittington were also collected in the crash.


1987 Indianapolis 500
Josele Garza and Pancho Carter came together in the first turn on the first lap in 1987. Garza spun it on his own and was missed by many cars, but Carter could not avoid him, making contact with his suspension and ending both of their chances to win. Both cars did receive minor damage but nothing malicious.


1988 Indianapolis 500
Scott Brayton lost control of the car in turn two, collecting Roberto Guerrero. Both made heavy contact with the wall but walked away. Tony Bettenhausen Jr. also was collected, meaning that three efforts all went down the drain in a matter of seconds.


1991 Indianapolis 500
Gary Bettenhausen nearly lost control of the car on the apron in turn one, but saved it. As he was saving it, Buddy Lazier lost control of the car and hit nose first into the turn one wall, ending his race. A relatively minor incident as far as damage though.


1995 Indianapolis 500
Perhaps the most frigthening first lap incident in recent memory happened in 1995. Stan Fox came into turn one and lost control, turning sharply to the right head on for the wall. Fox collected Eddie Cheever Jr. before slamming the wall. The car was flung into the car, coming back down to the ground with entire front of the car gone. Fox's legs were visible when the car came to a stop. Thankfully, no one was fatally hurt from the accident. Fox suffered head injuries but no injuries to his legs, and he was released several months later. It was the last start of Fox's career. Fox, Cheever, Scott Sharp, Gil de Ferran, Eric Bachelart, Lyn St. James, and Carlos Guerrero all were victims of this accident.

Stan Fox
Fox and Cheever in a terrible accident (Photo credit not listed)

1997 Indianapolis 500
As the field was getting ready to take the green flag, Stephane Gregoire, Kenny Brack, and Affonso Giaffone collided in turn four, bringing out the yellow. Conclusive replay evidence wasn't shown, but Giaffone and Gregoire blamed Brack's inexperience on how to handle the start for the crash.


1998 Indianapolis 500
Rookie J.J. Yeley spun heading into turn one, but he did not touch the wall or anyone else. Yeley spun as a result of slowing cars in front of him. It was a pretty spectacular save on his part, and he continued in the race.


2001 Indianapolis 500
One of the more well known first lap incidents in Indianapolis 500 occured when Scott Sharp went into turn, lost control on the low slide and came back up the track and hit the wall. Just a crazy incident. Robby Gordon was incredibly lucky on the outside of the first row not to get collected. But man, poor Scott Sharp...


2009 Indianapolis 500
This is one of the real headscratchers of the first lap incident list. Mario Moraes moved up the track on Marco Andretti and caused both of them to retire (Marco ran later in the race to gain points). It was a total shame for Marco because Mario, who had all the room he could have ever wanted on the bottom of the track, moved up on Marco for no reason. Both drivers argued that the other was at fault, when all of the racing world knew Mario was wrong. Marco was quoted as saying, "The kid doesn't get it, he never will. He's just clueless out there."


2010 Indianapolis 500
Davey Hamilton made hard contact with the wall on the infield of turn two. Davey looked a bit perplexed when Tomas Scheckter stormed on the outside, taking the space that Davey was expecting to use on the exit of the turn. He corrected his sterring to avoid him, causing him to crash. Davey said after the crash, "It's the first lap of the Indy 500 and Tomas Scheckter is an idiot."


2015 Indianapolis 500
Heading into turn one, Takuma Sato went on the high side of Sage Karam, making it three wide. Karam, who had Ryan Hunter-Reay below him, had no where to go, and Sato did not back out, hooking Karam into the wall. Ryan Briscoe also spun, but he continued. Sato had damage but he finished the race. Karam was the only victim of the incident. He said after the race, "Didn't even order Japanese takeout and still got it."

Sato and Karam binned it on lap one (Photo: Motorsport.com)

Here's a recap of the years and drivers involved in lap one accidents at the Indianapolis 500 (since 1979):
1982 - Mario Andretti, Kevin Cogan, AJ Foyt, Rick Mears, and Dale Whittington
1987 - Pancho Carter and Josele Garza
1988 - Tony Bettenhausen Jr., Scott Brayton, and Roberto Guerrero
1991 - Buddy Lazier 
1995 - Eric Bachelart, Eddie Cheever Jr., Gil de Ferran, Carlos Guerrero, Scott Sharp, and Lyn St. James
1997 - Kenny Brack, Affonso Giaffone, and Stephane Gregoire
1998 - JJ Yeley
2001 - Scott Sharp
2009 - Marco Andretti and Mario Moraes
2010 - Davey Hamilton
2015 - Sage Karam and Takuma Sato

Note to drivers: you can't win the race on lap one! Don't ruin your chance to win the 100th Indianapolis 500 by being an idiot on the first lap!

Which incident stands out the most to you?! Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

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