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Mechanical Failure Caused Hinchcliffe Crash

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 19 2015
James Hinchcliffe will not be celebrating in Indy this coming weekend.

James Hinchcliffe will not be celebrating in Indy this coming weekend.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The crash that sent Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe to an Indianapolis hospital Monday was triggered by a broken right front suspension piece on his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

bugindy500A Honda spokesperson cited the broken part in the Daily Trackside Report issued several hours after Hinchcliffe, a 28-year-old native of Toronto, crashed less than one hour into the post-qualifying practice around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda, crashed hard into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3. A four-time Indy 500 starter, Hinchcliffe was transported by ground to IU Health Methodist Hospital. Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR medical director, reported that Hinchcliffe underwent surgery for an injury to his left upper thigh. He later was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit and was reported to be in stable condition.

“Obviously, we’re relieved that James is awake and out of surgery,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “That’s the most important thing on our minds right now, and we will do absolutely everything required to ensure a complete recovery.”

Hinchcliffe had qualified the car 24th Sunday with a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 223.519 mph. Additional updates on Hinchcliffe’s condition, and SPM’s race-day plans, will be released when available.

“Pretty frustrating, because we ran 225s in practice,” Hinchcliffe said after his qualifying run. “The wind unfortunately picked up and caught us off-guard a little bit. It’s a shame for the guys. Everybody here at Schmidt Peterson put such a big effort in to making these cars prepped for qualifying and try to go for those big speeds. We had them this morning, and it just didn’t happen this afternoon.

“It’s frustrating. It’s kind of Russian Roulette a little bit. It all depends on what the wind decides to do during your run. A gust of a couple miles an hour difference can make a huge effect on lap times. It’s a bit of a bummer. But at the end of the day, Ryan (Hunter-Reay) won this (race) from the mid-teens (19th) last year. We’ve just got to stay clean on Sunday.”

Unfortunately, “Hinch” never got past Monday.

Practice was halted for track repairs and for INDYCAR sanctioning body officials to investigate the cause of the crash. Teams were given 105 minutes of practice time later in the afternoon.

“It was another interesting and unexpected day at the Speedway,” said owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who crashed his primary No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet during Sunday morning’s practice. “That was a bad accident; we’re still just thinking about Hinch and hoping he’s OK.”

Tony Kanaan, fifth-fastest on Monday at 225.969 mph in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, said it is sobering anytime a fellow-competitor is injured.

“I’m sorry about what happened to Hinch,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion and the series champ on 2004. “The accident was a mechanical failure and completely unrelated to anything else that’s happened here this last week. Safety is always important and this series does a great job at it.

“We have to understand that this is motor racing, and that there are accepted risks we take. I’m willing to take those risks. That’s what separates us from ‘normal people.’ That’s why there’s only 33 of us here that do this. The day I think it’s unsafe and I feel scared is the day you see me on the other side of the camera. I’m a racer, and I want to race Sunday. This is for the Indianapolis 500. This is for the tough guys.”

Hinchcliffe’s crash was the fourth of the Month of May on the famed IMS oval, but the first involving a car fitted with Honda’s new superspeedway aero it. Both Chevrolet and Honda marked the debuts of their superspeedway aero kits at IMS this month as complements to their 2.2-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection V-6 engines.

The manufacturers ran the first five races of 2015 with their new road-course/street and short-oval aero packages. Hinchcliffe won Round 2 of the series at NOLA Motorsports Park outside New Orleans on March 12.

In addition to Carpenter, Chevrolet drivers Helio Castroneves of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing also crashed this week when their cars got airborne. Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 champion. Carpenter had qualified on-pole for the Indy 500 in 2013-14.

“Incidents are going to happen here in INDYCAR,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Century CFH Racing Chevrolet, who scored his first series victory on the Barber Motorsports Park road-course on April 26. “With any high-speed motorsport, it’s going to happen. They’re very safe cars, though. You think about the people that do walk away from big hits like that and I think Dallara and INDYCAR do as best a job as they can. They’re always trying to improve safety and continuing to make it better.

“You’re going to have those crashes and things that come up, but your job is to get back in the car and make the most of it. CFH Racing has had a couple moments that have knocked us back this month, but we’ve kept on our program. We have built two new cars, but the team’s just been incredible. It’s been really rock-solid. No letting up from us; it’s business as usual and now we’re full steam ahead for the 500.”

As a result of Carpenter’s crash, INDYCAR officials announced a series of specification changes prior to time trials on Sunday. Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and IMS, issued the following changes:

– Turbocharger boost level, which was increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa for “Fast Friday” practice May 15 and scheduled qualifications over the weekend, was returned to 130 kPa. That related to about a 40 horsepower reduction to the Chevrolet and Honda engines. The boost level was at 130 kPa for Monday’s practice, and will be in effect for Coors Light Carb Day’s one-hour practice starting at 11 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, as well as for the 200-lap race on Sunday. NBC Sports Network will air Carb Day live on Friday, while ABC’s live coverage of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will start at 11 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday.

– The aerodynamic bodywork package that the Chevrolet- and Honda-aligned entries qualified with must be utilized during the race. Downforce was increased on the superspeedway platforms for added stability.

Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion and a three-time series champion, qualified his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on-pole with an average speed of 226.760 mph under the revised rules package.

Meanwhile, hot-lapping in race trim was the theme of Monday’s practice. Chip Ganassi Racing Teams drivers Sage Karam and Dixon paced the day with best laps of 227.831 mph and 226.542 mph, respectively, followed by CFH Racing’s JR Hildebrand at 226.308 mph to give Chevrolet-powered entries the top three spots on the time chart.

“After yesterday’s qualifying, it feels good to be up at the top of today’s practice session,” said Karam, driver of the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet, who qualified 23rd. “My car has been so fast all month and yesterday just didn’t show it at all. We have a lot of good data and a good setup for the race on Sunday.”

James Davison, who stepped back into the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing entry after Tristan Vautier had qualified the car for him a day earlier, emerged as the fastest Honda driver in fourth overall at 226.109 mph. Davison practiced in the car last week before exiting the cockpit so he could drive in a sports car event in Canada. He flew back to Indianapolis late Sunday night.

“I’m obviously pleased with the job that Tristan did to put the car in the show,” said Davison, a 28-year-old Australian who made his first Indianapolis 500 start in 2014. “He did the professional job that I knew he was hired to do. No surprises there, but great to know everything was fully executed and he was able to look after the car like I was confident he would.”

TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition entries have been confirmed for later this week. The final rounds are scheduled to take place during Coors Light Carb Day Friday following the Indy 500 practice session.

Selected to compete are the following cars and crews: No. 1 Team Penske (driver Will Power), No. 2 Team Penske (Juan Pablo Montoya), No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (driver to be determined), No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Jakes), No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (Scott Dixon), No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Takuma Sato), No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal), No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing (Townsend Bell), No. 27 Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti), No. 41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Jack Hawksworth), No. 48 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Alex Tagliani) and No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (Charlie Kimball).

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 19 2015
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