Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage defended his track’s fire crew in how it handled a fiery crash early in Saturday’s DXC Technology 600.
Matheus Leist, a 19-year-old Brazilian who drives the No. 4 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, had his power go out between Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 7. Flames engulfed his car and he escaped in less than five seconds.
But it took TMS fire vehicles more than 30 seconds to reach Leist’s car, which had essentially burned up by then.
Fans questioned on social media why it took so long for track officials to respond and Gossage defended his crew when asked about it by the Star-Telegram.
“The fire crew was ready, but they can’t move until they are dispatched by the control tower,” Gossage said. “You’re going to have to ask [IndyCar].”
An IndyCar official said it simply had to do with the circumstances of the incident. The nearest safety vehicle is located between Turns 1 and 2, and the car stopped between Turns 3 and 4.
Additionally, IndyCar has to ensure the track is suitable for the emergency vehicles to enter to avoid incidents with the other cars on the track.
“That’s rarely a spot where we see a car stop,” the IndyCar official said. “Our safety personnel wants to reach those incidents as quickly as possible, but we still have to wait for cars to go around and slow down before we dispatch them.”
This is a touchy subject with TMS because of the 2010 IndyCar race. IndyCar officials blamed TMS’ safety crew for not following its own procedures in a fiery crash that involved driver Simona de Silvestro.
De Silvestro ended up sustaining minor burns on a finger on her right hand as it took more than 21 seconds from the time the first truck arrived to extricate the driver.
An IndyCar official said that number should have been cut in half.
But Gossage reiterated his belief Saturday that the track’s crew is among the best in the business.
“The crew is excellent and they train year round,” Gossage said. “There isn’t a better fire crew in the sport. IndyCar makes the calls from the control tower. The fire crew can’t move until IndyCar dispatches them.
“Part of that is for their safety because you don’t send a truck onto a track with cars running 220 mph. When a car is on fire, they can never get there fast enough. But you can’t take issue with the fire crew tonight.”