I usually don’t have a fun title for my posts but was thinking I should step up my game for this post. Well after yesterday’s race I think I will just stick with Pocono. I don’t want to be disrespectful to Robert Wickens while we wait to hear more about his condition.
I always have mixed feeling about Pocono. Each year is a little bit easier but I still put on my Justin Wilson necklace that I wear to races and thought about him a lot as the race approached. I love ovals and the entertainment they provide. I love the speed and side by side racing. I love when accidents happen and front runners are taken out and the race completely changes. I love mishaps in the pits for the same reason. However, when the accidents are as serious as the one we saw yesterday or pit workers are hurt or fans are hit with debris it breaks my heart. There is a dark side to our sport and it can be absolutely gut wrenching. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert Wickens. The report from IndyCar last night is that Robbie is being treated for injuries to his lower extremities, right arm and spine. He also sustained a pulmonary contusion. Today (Monday) he will have an MRI and probably undergo surgery. James Hinchcliffe left the race as soon as he was cleared from the medical center following the accident. James was cleared and released to drive. It appears he has a cut on his hands from debris. James has remained silent on social media and I find myself worrying about him almost as much as I’m worrying about Robbie. No more news has been given.
Ok so before some of you start yelling about my statement saying I like accidents please reread what I wrote and understand that I never ever want the drivers to be hurt. There is a huge difference between the majority of the crashes we see and what happened yesterday.
IndyCar, Dallara and the AMR safety team are amazing and I am so thankful for the safety improvements we’ve seen through the years. I’m so thankful the safety cell did its job and will continue to pray for a full recovery for Robert.
IndyCar Qualifying- NBCSN mixed things up a bit for the qualifying show and I really enjoyed it. Jon Beekhus and Robin Miller joined Leigh Diffey in the booth while Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy worked the pits and driver interviews. Kevin Lee and Katie Hargitt were watching from the stands having the afternoon off. So while I missed Kevin and Katie I loved mixing things up a bit and hearing different perspectives. It was a fun qualifying show. Zach Veach was quite impressive but ultimately it was Will Power who won the pole. Power is now tied with A.J. Foyt in second for the most poles. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins more this season and fully claims the second place spot.
Race Day– The race started with some controversy which was later cleared up. Scott Dixon and others thought perhaps Will Power checked up and slowed his speed during the start of the race. Spencer Pigot spun when he was bumped from behind by Graham Rahal. Others had to make some quick moves to avoid hitting the cars in front of them. It caused a yellow before the race really even started. Will Power would later bring out a copy of the telemetry from his car showing that he kept a constant speed and he was told to do and properly brought the field to the green flag. Any shenanigans that might have happened were from someone else in the field. After the yellow flag we went back to green. Now it was a single file start. Hmm that was disappointing. Perhaps if the start does not make it past turn one we can try a second double file start. That’s what I was thinking at the time anyway. Before the crash.
Lap 7 Ryan Hunter-Reay and Robert Wickens were side by side but Robert couldn’t quite hold on. His front right tire touched RHR’s left rear and it sent RHR into the wall. Unfortunately, Ryan’s car turned out and Robert’s car vaulted over Ryan’s car. That’s where the trouble began. Robert’s car hit the fence, disintegrated and then spun in the air more times than I could count. While spinning he just missed a devastating blow to Ryan’s car, it took the camera off the top of his car. It’s incredibly scary watching the replay. Also involved in the incident were Pietro Fittipaldi, James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato. Everyone except Wickens was evaluated and cleared to drive. The race was red flagged.
Red Flag– The debris field was so extensive that cars could hardly find a path. The AMR SafetyTeam was working on extracting Robert from the car and it was a long terrifying wait for news. Robert was transported by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital. I first saw it tweeted by Jim Ayello that Robbie was awake and alert. It was another 15 minutes or so before we heard from IndyCar that was indeed correct.
The other drivers in the accident slowly made their way from the medical center all stating they were fine and that they were sending good thoughts to Robbie. James Hinchcliffe was the only one who declined speaking to the reporters. He went straight to the hospital to be with Robbie, his long time friend. I stated on Twitter how disappointed I was that Hinch did not speak to reporters. I was told to leave Hinch alone as he was worried about Robbie. I completely understood why Hinch chose to not speak. I was just also worried about him and would have felt better knowing how he was doing. Hinch has still remained silent on social media and it just causes more concern for Robbie’s condition.
Repair work was done on the fence. It looked horrible but that was not the point. I’m no expert but I have to imagine that Pocono Speedway did what needed to be done to make it safe. Sebastian Bourdais was not happy with the job. I’m not sure what he specific concerns were. Thankfully the fence did not get tested and the rest of the race cars stayed on the ground. I’m glad drivers speak out when they feel something is unsafe. It’s something that needs to be done and taken into consideration.
I continued to refresh my Twitter feed and watch for more news and listened to the NBCSN broadcast. I swear it looked to me like Leigh Diffey and Curt Cavin (when he announced Wickens was awake and alert) were holding back tears. Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy didn’t look much better. How these guys can continue doing their jobs so well is a credit to their professionalism. The NBCSN crew provided us five hours of coverage and did not skimp on the post show.
Back to Green Flag Racing – Once the race went back to green it stayed there for the rest of the race. Conor Daly touched the wall but was able to pull into the pits without the yellow coming out. Tony Kanaan had an issue with his car and was out around lap 17. He joined the crew in the booth and was very knowledgeable and insightful. I always enjoy when the current drivers join the booth. Wish they did that every race.
Alexander Rossi built up a 10-12 minute lead and was impressive all race. Will Power was able to shorten up that lead but Rossi was able to keep his position, losing it only once and quickly regaining it when Will Power had a small bobble.
By lap 100 only 15 cars were still running and at the end of the race only four cars were on the lead lap. With five laps to go the TV shot showed all four cars. To anyone just joining you would assume Scott Dixon was leading because he was the first car in the shot followed by Bourdais, Rossi and then Power. Dixon and Bourdais were just barely on the lead lap and trying their hardest to not get lapped by Rossi. Had the race not been almost over I imagine Rossi would have passed them both.
Rossi won and made his way to the victory podium. He did not do donuts, perhaps out of respect to Wickens or perhaps because they didn’t go so well at mid-Ohio. He was a good winner, excited for the win and for the nice jump in championship points but also expressing his concern for Robert. The first place trophy is pretty cool and Alex had a hard time lifting it over his head.
As stated NBCSN provided a nice post show even with the extended race. I love that IndyCar is on the NBC network.
Post Race– After the race there was even more waiting as many fans refreshed twitter and speculated about how Robert was doing. Paul Tracy eventually tweeted that Robert was ok and stated some of his injuries. I have no idea if this was Tracy’s news to tell, if he was given an okay or took it upon himself to tell the general public waiting to hear. If I had to guess where I would have heard news on Roberts condition I would not have thought it would be from Tracy. However, at the time it didn’t matter I was just very grateful to hear some news. Tracy took a lot of backlash on Twitter for divulging the information though. If Tracy wasn’t given permission to speak on Roberts condition then he should have kept his mouth shut but it’s hard for me to be mad about that when I was so desperate for information. So I will give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume he was allowed to share the information he had until I hear otherwise.
So once again I will state I’m not sure how I feel about the racing at Pocono. I love the thrill and excitement of the super speedways but the accidents are terrifying. Continuing to pray for Robbie and his family. Hope for more news soon.