Wild Finish Leaves Drivers Fuming At INDYCAR

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 14 2011

Tony Kanaan wrecks and flips during Sunday's rain- and controversy-marred IndyCar Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

LOUDON, N.H. – Tempers flared and sparks flew Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as Ryan Hunter-Reay was declared the winner of a wild IZOD IndyCar Series race cut short by a wet track and a controversial restart.

A misty rain, like the one which had caused a stretch of 33 laps under caution midway through the race, brought out the sixth yellow flag of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 just 20 laps from the end with Hunter-Reay holding a narrow lead over Oriol Servia.

IndyCar officials, obviously attempting to get the race finished under green for the sparse crowd on hand and a national television audience on ABC, decided to put the green flag back out with eight laps to go and very suspect track conditions.

The leaders didn’t even get to the flagstand before the crashing started on the treacherous 1.058-mile oval.

Danica Patrick slid sideways igniting a melee that took over the cars of championship contender Will Power, Takuma Sato and several others.

In the aftermath, a furious Power leaped from the cockpit of his Team Penske car and stalked across the

A wreck caused by Danica Patrick occurs on the final attempt at a restart at New Hampshire. In the foreground, it appears Oriol Servia in blue car has the lead and Ryan Hunter-Reay in yellow car is second. However, officials ruled the wreck aborted the restart and gave the race victory to Hunter-Reay. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

track and the pit lane. As he strode angrily toward the Penske haulers, Power turned and flashed an obscene gesture toward the control tower where Brian Barnhart, vice president of competition for IndyCar, made the decision to restart the race.

“I was begging him, please do not go green, it’s too slippery,’’ Power said after cooling down for a few minutes. “From what (Penske team president) Tim Cindric was saying, so was everyone else. Everyone was saying it.

“There’s no use. He makes such bad calls all the time, this is going to be it. They cannot have this guy running the show because that was a decision that put a lot of drivers in danger. You saw how many people crashed on the front straight and it was no condition to race in. Shame on him.’’

Team owner Michael Andretti, who fields the cars driven by Hunter-Reay and Patrick, was equally adamant that the decision to restart the race was the wrong one.

“This is the worst officiating I’ve ever seen,’’ Andretti said. “It was wetter than when they threw the yellow (on lap 206). You just don’t do that.’’

“It’s a good thing that we didn’t make it to turn one or everybody would have crashed,’’ Hunter-Reay said.

Minutes after the race was red-flagged following the big crash, Barnhart agreed that restarting the race was the wrong thing to do.

“The official result will be the positioning order prior to the last attempted restart,’’ he said. “That’s going to be an aborted restart. Obviously the track conditions were not in a position that was safe for us to run. … It’s a mistake on race control’s part.’’

Barnhart said the reports he and his staff got from track observers and safety personnel was that the track was in “raceable condition.’’

“Obviously, that was not the case,’’ Barnhart said. “So it was a mistake on race control’s part and the only right thing to do and the fair thing to do is to go back to the running order prior to that restart because we ended up tearing up some race cars we shouldn’t have.’’

The checkered flag is displayed to an empty track, signaling the official end of the IndyCar race at New Hampshire but not to the controversy. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

In the end, the field was credited with finishing 215 of the 225 schedule laps.

Servia, driving for Newman/Haas Racing, finished second, followed by Scott Dixon, rookie James Hinchcliff, Power, Patrick and Sato, the last driver on the lead lap.

Hunter-Reay, awarded the fifth open-wheel victory of his career, has had a strange season. He didn’t finish better than 14th through the first six races of 2011, but has only one finish outside the top 10 in his last seven starts.

He was just relieved that the aborted restart didn’t ruin his race.

“I couldn’t even warm the tires it was so wet,’’ Hunter-Reay said. “I couldn’t put the power down in second or third (gear). But I’ll take it after the year we’ve had.’’

The finish might have been considerably different if not for another controversial incident on a restart on lap 119 when points leader Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato, restarting in second, collided, relegating Franchitti to a 20th-place finish.

Franchitti, trying to nail down his third straight title and fourth in five years, dominated the race, building leads of as much as 11 seconds before the crash.

An angry Franchitti, whose series lead over Power was cut from 63 points to 47 with four races remaining, blamed Sato, saying the Japanese driver was too close on the restart.

Sato agreed, saying, “It was my fault. I was too close to Dario. There was debris (in the air) and I had tears in my eyes.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Results Sunday of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.025-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

Note: Tentative – subject to resolution of any protests or appeals.

1. (5) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

2. (2) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

3. (7) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

4. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

5. (13) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

6. (15) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

7. (8) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 215, Running

8. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 214, Running

9. (10) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 213, Running

10. (19) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 212, Running

11. (25) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 212, Running

12. (17) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 212, Running

13. (14) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 211, Running

14. (21) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 210, Running

15. (24) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Honda, 210, Running

16. (26) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 209, Running

17. (9) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 202, Running

18. (20) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 176, Mechanical

19. (16) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 137, Mechanical

20. (1) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 118, Contact

21. (11) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 118, Contact

22. (3) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 109, Contact

23. (18) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 109, Contact

24. (22) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 109, Contact

25. (12) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 0, Contact

26. (23) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 0, Contact

27. (27) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda,0, Did Not Start

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 112.030

Time of Race: 01:58:01.5843

Margin of victory: Under caution

Cautions: 6 Cautions for 66 Laps

Lead changes: 7 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Franchitti 1 – 72

Briscoe 73 – 74

Franchitti 75 – 117

Hunter-Reay 118 – 164

Dixon 165 – 166

Power 167 – 178

Sato 179 – 191

Hunter-Reay 192 – 215

Point Standings: Franchitti 443, Power 396, Dixon 370, Servia 308, Kanaan 295, Briscoe 277, Andretti 270, Hunter-Reay 261, Rahal 240, Sato 238

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 14 2011
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