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Hinchcliffe May Owe Life To INDYCAR Safety Team

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 20 2015
James Hinchcliffe had life threatening injuries following his crash at Indy.

James Hinchcliffe had life threatening injuries following his crash at Indy.

FORT WORTH, Texas _ Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe survived “Code 5” life-threatening bleeding injuries in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday thanks primarily to the flawless on-site work of INDYCAR’s Holmatro Safety Team.

Hinchcliffe was taken by ambulance to the IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where he underwent successful surgery to his pelvic area and upper left thigh. The 28-year-old native of Toronto was reported in stable condition Tuesday and undergoing further evaluation in the Intensive Care Unit.

The crash, triggered by a broken right front suspension piece on his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, will keep Hinchcliffe out of Sunday’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 and sidelined for the foreseeable future.

“Words can’t describe how thankful I am to the Holmatro Safety Team,” Hinchcliffe said in a statement on Tuesday. “Those guys, in addition to the doctors and staff at the hospital, are my heroes. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from INDYCAR fans, my family and fellow drivers. We are all one big family and it feels like that today.”

Hinchcliffe’s surgery was performed by Dr. Timothy Pohlman, Senior Staff Trauma Surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital. “He’s stable and improving,” Pohlman said. “His condition was critical upon his arrival and I think the INDYCAR system as a whole needs to be commended for how well they can take care of drivers in this situation.”

Indy 500 pole-sitter Scott Dixon and No. 6 qualifier Justin Wilson addressed the ongoing safety issue during a promotional appearance at Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday in advance of the annual Firestone 600 night race on the 1.5-mile quadoval on June 6.

“I was in the pits (at IMS) and glanced up as I saw the car hit the wall,” said Wilson, who qualified the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda at 225.279 mph after his four-lap/10-mile run Sunday. “I saw the flash on the big screen and that’s when I realized, ‘OK, that was a big one.’  I knew it was a big impact because usually things break at a high load, and in this case, it was right in the middle of Turn 3. I knew it was a bad angle and a big impact and you wait for him to get out and he doesn’t. We take the safety a little bit for granted these days but that’s when you realize this could be bad. We’re just fortunate that James is doing well under the circumstances.

“We’re thinking about James and what he’s going through. It’s tough right now but we know that INDYCAR is about as safe as any motorsport in the world and we’ve got a fantastic safety team. The Holmatro Safety Team is great and they make the difference when it counts. You never like to think the worst; we appreciate it can happen and it’s racing, anything can happen.  Like any driver, you believe it’s not going to be you.”

Dixon, winner of the 2008 Indy 500 from the pole, termed the crash “the unfortunate part of our sport.

“Crashing at Indianapolis is not a new thing. Regarding safety, you kind of take it for granted. Injuries like this are nothing you want to see and hopefully they can implement safety improvements to help it. As far as the mood (among drivers in Gasoline Alley), you do realize it’s part of the sport. The last thing you want to see is something similar to what happened with James; you can’t do anything when the car fails. You’ve got no chance to rectify it.”

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.

Dixon qualified his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on-pole at IMS with four-lap/10-mile average of 226.760 mph under a rules package that was revised following owner/driver Ed Carpenter’s pre-qualifying crash during practice on Sunday morning.

In addition to Carpenter, Chevrolet drivers Helio Castroneves of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing _ Carpenter’s teammate _ also crashed last 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.

“Helio’s crash got our attention but that sort of thing has happened in racing for years, whether it’s sports cars at Le Mans or open-wheel cars on an oval track,” said Wilson, a native of England and winner of the 2012 Firestone 550 here. “Sometimes you get at a certain angle and what holds you down going forward is now lifting you up going backwards. It’s just physics, unfortunately.”

Dixon noted that each crash was different.  “Josef’s was a tire that went down; Helio, I think, the team missed on the aero COP (Center of Pressure), Ed was pretty trimmed-out,” said Dixon, of New Zealand. “There’s a lot of different reasons things happen. If it was the same thing, then we’d have an issue.

“We’ve seen accidents similar to what we’ve seen in the past. There’s nothing really new there. We don’t want to see it; we don’t want to see our friends get hurt. James is a big concern for all of us and hoping that he’s going to be on a speedy recovery. Once you get in the car your mind changes to be as fast and quick and try to win the race.”

As initially reported by racer.com, Hinchcliffe was bleeding profusely after crashing into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3 of the 2.5-mile IMS oval. The impact flattened the right side of the car and pinned Hinchcliffe inside, with one of the suspension wishbones penetrating the Dallara safety cell. Racer.com reported that the steel wishbone entered and exited Hinchcliffe’s right leg and upper left thigh, continuing into his pelvic region. Holmatro Safety Team members had to cut the wishbone from the chassis to free Hinchcliffe from the wreckage.

Hinchcliffe had qualified the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda 24th Sunday with a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 223.519 mph.

Trackside timing and scoring data showed Hinchcliffe was traveling at approximately 228 mph before the suspension failure sent his car into the SAFER Barrier nose-first. The force of impact reportedly was measured at 125 Gs, placing it among the most violent for an open-wheel car at IMS.

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.

Dixon and Wilson began their visit by addressing more than 3,000 enthusiastic students and faculty from six of seven Fort Worth and Denton-area schools participating in TMS’ “Speeding to Read” program. Completing its fourth year, “Speeding to Read” is an incentive-based, motorsports-themed program created to encourage elementary school student to read more frequently during the school year.

“What just occurred was pretty awesome. My ears are still ringing,” Dixon joked after the assembly.

Both drivers expect the speedway aero package to be tweaked before the series heads to TMS, site of “The Original Nighttime IndyCar Series Race.”

“The aero configuration has changed a couple of times,” said Wilson, whose deal with team-owner Michael Andretti currently is only for the Indy 500. “We trimmed right out for qualifying and we put downforce back in (Monday) for more race-running. We’ve put a lot of downforce in for running in traffic earlier last week and yesterday. Right now it feels fine; as a driver you always want more horsepower but you want to be able to drive the cars through the corners and have fun with that. At the end of the day, if my car’s four percent better than everyone else’s I’m going to be happy.”

A three-time IndyCar Series champion, Dixon will be making his 16 start at TMS next month. “Yeah, for the rules package we run….what combination is going to be better for each person, and that’s really hard to tell,” said Dixon, who won the 2008 race here and has eight top-five finishes in Cowtown. “We’ve been through different versions of Indy car racing throughout the years and I think the racing and the show right now is the best in the world. What would make it better or different, it’s hard to tell right now. I think what we have is very good.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 20 2015
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