Motorsport is inherently dangerous, and fans and drivers alike know that there are crashes in almost every auto race. But the Verizon IndyCar Series has had its fair share of tough incidents this year that go beyond typical problems, from James Hinchcliffe’s season-ending wreck at Indianapolis to the freak accident that killed Justin Wilson earlier this week. Here’s a look back at just how challenging 2015 has been.
This IndyCar season has been vastly different from previous years due to the introduction of new aero kits for both Chevrolet and Honda cars, leaving race teams to learn the new technology and how it reacts on the track. While the first part of the season was fairly quiet, things got very serious in May when Hinchcliffe was seriously injured in a single-car wreck during preparation for the Indianapolis 500.
Part of the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Honda actually speared through Hinchcliffe’s leg, and he lost a tremendous amount of blood as a result of his injuries. Luckily, he survived and after two surgeries and plenty of rehab, has become a regular presence back at IndyCar events and is hoping to return to racing in 2016.
But he wasn’t alone in having problems at Indianapolis. Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter and Helio Castroneves all also crashed before the 500, leading to a meeting between race teams and league officials about driver safety.
In June at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, during what turned out to be the last IndyCar event at that venue, Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay made hard contact in a wreck that sent both spinning across the infield and obliterated the majority of Briscoe’s car. Luckily, both walked away unharmed; ironically, Briscoe was serving as the replacement for the injured Hinchcliffe.
After the race, some drivers – most notably defending series champion Will Power and current points leader Juan Pablo Montoya – were openly critical of what they considered to be dangerous “pack racing” prompted by the additional downforce put into the cars.
Then this past weekend at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, Charlie Kimball had a nail-biting crash in qualifying before a new track record was set for cautions during the race. Championship contenders Graham Rahal and Castroneves were among the many involved in crashes at Pocono, but the race will now forever be known for Sage Karam’s single-car spin that unintentionally claimed the life of Wilson.
Losing one driver and almost losing another is definitely cause for concern. So what’s to blame for this extra danger, and more importantly, what can be done? The increased risk in IndyCar is likely a combination of many factors. It’s not just new aero kits, or certain set-ups mandated by the league, but also a handful of less experienced drivers making risky decisions on the track.
Karam earned the nickname “Danger Boy” from Paul Tracy during Sunday’s NBCSN race broadcast, and has been criticized for his choices by other drivers, most notably Ed Carpenter, which the network turned into a campaign spot.
Others who have been called out include Dale Coyne Racing’s Tristan Vautier, who was chided by Montoya during his post-race press conference Sunday, and KVSH Racing’s Stefano Coletti, who has only one top ten finish and multiple wrecks – some of which have claimed other drivers, like this incident at Belle Isle. The only way situations like those can be avoided is for a driver to learn from their mistakes and gain more experience.
Crashes will always happen in every form of motorsport, but IndyCar drivers, their families and fans have truly put themselves to the test this year with these multiple changes within the league. As the series wraps up the 2015 season this Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, fans will be hoping first and foremost for a safe race.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.