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What happened at Pocono and why does it have to change?



GIF: Motorsport on NBC (YouTube)

On Sunday, August 18, another heavy crash at the Pocono Raceway in the first round of the IndyCar race was associated with five cars, causing a long red flag and saw a driver taken to the hospital to investigate a non-lethal injury. Let's summarize what happened and why.

As soon as the green flag blew at Pocono, an almost field-wide battle began for the position of the notoriously wide tri-oval. While Simon Pagenaud left the field quickly, second-placed Alexander Rossi slowed down and slipped back some positions. Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay both retired to take advantage of Rossi's misstep.

Hunter-Reay took the inside line while Sato moved outside Rossi as they entered Turn 2. At this point it is controversial.

The video of the incident shows Sato moving down to pin Rossi off ̵

1; and not to stab Scott Dixon – but Sato was not sure yet. Rossi took evasive maneuvers to stay clear – but Hunter-Reay got in the way. All three came together and slipped inside out.

James Hinchcliffe, who closely followed the trio at the time, had never had anything to offer. He crashed directly into chaos.

Felix Rosenqvist was also overtaken. Although he managed to avoid the sort of frontal collision that displaced Hinchcliffe from the competition, he cut the wreck anyway. That was enough to get his car into the safety fence, where it drove several meters before finally slowing down.

The dust cleared. The cars of Hunter-Reay and Sato had tangled with Sato on the head. Hinchcliffe and Rossi had tangled nearby. Rosenqvist's car had traveled the distance so far that it took several minutes for security vehicles to reach it.

Rossi, Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay were able to get out of their cars unaided. Sato needed help because his car was upside down. All four drivers were immediately released from the medical center. Rosenqvist also needed support to get out of the car. Later, he was taken by ambulance to a hospital for a preliminary examination and medically cleaned.

In the following years pictures appeared, which showed repairs, in which a replacement gate with a zipper key was closed the damaged fence. The intercom reported that photographers near the scene were helping to get carbon fiber out of the fence.

The reaction of fans and drivers was fast.

Max Chilton, an IndyCar rider who said goodbye to the oval race for the remainder of this season, was one of the first to denounce the track. Then there was Robert Wickens, who spoke out against Pocono for the first time since the accident, when he suffered severe spinal injuries. Former IndyCar driver Sage Karam suggested it was time to finish the races in Pocono – what would be his home track if he was still racing?

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On the track itself, James Hinchcliffe has voiced fierce criticism (well, strong within the context of normally petty racing drivers) after being released from the medical center:

I'm mad on IndyCar. I do not think they are doing well at all in this race.

The race resumed after a long 50-minute red flag, but many viewers found it difficult to do so comfortably: [194559003]

In the last five years there were at Pocono Three heavy crashes: one in 2015, when Justin Wilson died, one in 2018, in which Wickens was life-threatening injured, and the last one last weekend. That's a very, very bad record.

There is only one big problem. Many people do not understand why this is a problem.

A fairly large contingent of racing fans sees nothing really wrong with continuing to drive in Pocono. These accidents are just coincidences that could happen anywhere, they argue. It's no Pocono problem it's an all-around problem – and if we stop driving at Pocono because it's dangerous then we just have to keep going and stop driving . Overall, it is an incident caused by excessive driving and can not be blamed on the track.

I do not agree with this contingent at all.

Yes, excessive driving is a feature of motorsport – a dangerous one at that. Yes, this type of driving can cause serious injury and even death. However, both the train and the line involved in these dangerous accidents need to be critically analyzed to understand how they can work better. Accidents of this kind – and the consequences of serious injuries and ridiculous repairs – must be a wake-up call to allow more work to be done. The answer should be to work harder not to become complacent.

I have not made it a secret that I think more needs to be done to make Oval racing safer – and that means Pocono in a very special way. Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gateway, Fontana, whatever you call it – they all had their dangerous moments, but there's a reason you do not hear a protest today. This is because these routes have either responded to dangerous incidents by improving route safety or simply are no longer on the schedule.

I have participated in the IndyCar race in Pocono every year for the past five years. I saw Wilson die. I saw Wicken's accident. I saw the accident last night. I also saw how IndyCar responded unbelievably slow with a kind of head protection or dirt repellency. I saw Pocono fixing her track with old gates that were just lying around. Honestly, I could not believe that the fans, the series and the track were so complacent that the same bad repairs could be repeated after the crash, that we should just swallow the excess risk, because that's our duty as race fans.

Next year, IndyCar will introduce a sleek Aeroscreen – a reaction to the Formula One bill – to protect drivers. Pocono is currently not confirmed on the 2020 plan, rumored with Richmond Raceway as a replacement. These are two positive steps that assure both drivers and fans that IndyCar does not have to be so dangerous. Innovation as well. If we want to commend IndyCar's long history of safety improvement beyond many other racing series, we must demand from IndyCar that it continue to do more to preserve this legacy.


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