Let the flyaways begin.
Robert Wickens has led calls for IndyCar to stop racing at the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania after a terrible first-lap crash in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500.
It all started when Takuma Sato turned in on Alexander Rossi on the back straight, causing Rossi to collide with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was on the inside. Rossi was in the middle, with Sato on his outside and Hunter-Reay on his inside. James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist were also involved, driving straight into the scene of the accident. None of the five drivers was seriously injured, but Rosenqvist was hospitalised as a precaution.
This was the seventh time IndyCar had raced at Pocono since it returned to the so-called ‘Tricky Triangle’ in 2013. In three of those seven races there has been a severe accident.
In 2015 Justin Wilson was involved in a fatal accident after he was struck by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which had just crashed at Turn 1. Last year Robert Wickens was left paralysed after being sent into the catch fencing because of contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Wickens asked on Twitter, “How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono”.
How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) August 18, 2019
Sage Karam also waded into the debate on Twitter, saying, “[Pocono’s] just not meant for IndyCars. We need to be smart and move on and go to tracks that fit these cars”.
However, race winner Will Power said in a post-race interview, “I really hope we come back, I do. It’s hard for us to find good ovals that suit our cars”.
Despite this fair comment from the Australian, something is clearly wrong here. While some belligerent character on Twitter have said that it’s the drivers who cause these accidents and not the track itself, I still think Pocono is enough of an influence in these disasters for it to be withdrawn from the calendar. After all, the drivers’ opinions should be taken into consideration above all else.
The track is to a certain extent conducive to causing accidents. It allows up to seven cars to go side by side on the main straight before expecting them to filter into two-wide through the corners. There aren’t any run-off areas and the catch fencing is behind a tyre barrier, which doesn’t help much in terms of stopping an accident.
There is currently no deal for IndyCar to race at Pocono next year. We’ll have to wait and see whether the comments made by Wickens and Karam have an influence on the decision.
As for the race itself, it was abandoned with 72 laps to go due to rain and lightning. Power won, with Kiwi Scott Dixon in second and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud completing the podium. With three races to go this season, Josef Newgarden has extended his championship lead to 35 points over Alexander Rossi, who was involved in the first-lap crash.
Similar problems at Pocono stopped IndyCar racing here in 1989. Thirty years on, history could be about to repeat itself.