Wrecks aren’t anything new in auto racing, they are an inherent danger that drivers understand each time they get behind the wheel. And, yes, fans are enamored with them.
But spectacular crashes have dominated the build-up going into arguably the biggest race in motorsports — Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 — and there are plenty of questions regarding safety going into the race.
Two drivers made an appearance at Texas Motor Speedway on Tuesday and said they aren’t overly concerned. Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson each gave an affirmative nod and “yeah” when asked if they’re comfortable taking the green flag Sunday.
“Crashing at Indianapolis is not a new thing,” said Dixon, who won the 2008 Indy 500. “We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to see our friends get hurt. But once you get in the car, your frame of mind changes and you drive it to be fast and quick and try to win the race.”
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Wilson agreed, saying wrecks are the last thing on a drivers’ mind on the track.
“Once you put that helmet on, put the visor down and start the engine, you don’t think about anything other than winning,” Wilson said. “We know that IndyCar is about as safe as any motorsport in the world.”
There’s no question safety ranks as the top priority for any racing circuit, but some have to wonder about IndyCar and the new aero kits at this point.
Four of its drivers have been involved in notable accidents over the past week. That includes the best-known driver and three-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves, who got airborne and flipped during practice May 13.
The next day, Thursday, American Josef Newgarden went airborne after hitting a wall. And then on Sunday two-time Indy 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter became the third driver to go airborne.
The latest wreck was the most worrisome, though. James Hinchcliffe didn’t get airborne, instead seeing his back end go up in flames during a hard crash Monday. He suffered a punctured upper left thigh and required immediate surgery to curtail bleeding from a damaged artery. He remains in intensive care and the IndyCar Series announced he is in stable condition.
Dixon and Wilson both said their thoughts were with Hinchcliffe and hoped for a speedy recovery. However, wrecks are not going to deter them from competing in a race as prestigious as the Indy 500.
As Dixon said, all four wrecks happened for different reasons and it isn’t a consistent problem for each car.
“It’s nothing you want to see,” Dixon said. “You do realize it is part of the sport.”
Added Wilson: “You never like to see the worst. It is racing. Anything can happen. Like any driver, we believe it’s not going to be us.”
Dixon on the 500
Dixon started from the pole in his lone Indy 500 victory in 2008. He hopes to have similar luck this time around.
“It’s been a smooth month, which was very similar to 2008,” Dixon said. “We’re confident as a team. Obviously, the goal is to stay in the spot we are.”
Dixon has had a solid season, winning last month’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.).
Wilson and reading
Dixon and Wilson made the trip to Fort Worth to entertain thousands of students and faculty members from six of seven Fort Worth and Denton-area schools participating in Texas Motor Speedway’s Speeding To Read program.
It’s a cause that touches Wilson personally. He was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and remembers the struggles it caused him.
“There’s so many children and adults who have dyslexia and it’s not an illness. It’s just you learn things different, you see things differently,” Wilson said. “The more awareness for dyslexia, the better. … What these kids do and how many books they’ve read, I’ve just found it amazing.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760