INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway officially opened
for the month of May with a chaotic road course race that started with a
wreck, saw James Hinchliffe and the mayor of the city injured by flying
debris, and, finally, Simon Pagenaud celebrate a fuel-mileage victory.
Pagenaud won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday,
the first IndyCar Series race on IMS' road course, by stretching his
fuel the final 29 laps.
The Frenchman was one of several drivers to gamble on gas, and he
took the lead when Oriol Servia had to stop with four laps remaining.
Pagenaud managed to make it to the finish for his third series victory
despite having to keep an eye on his mirrors.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was second and Helio Castroneves third on his 39th birthday.
"Man I didn't know what we were asking for, but we made fuel,"
Pagenaud said in Victory Lane. "The fuel saving was amazing. It was
nerve-wracking. I was worried about RHR coming back, and I didn't know
what Helio was doing here. I don't like racing off throttle."
Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top five.
Hinchcliffe was taken from the track on a stretcher and transported
to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion after he was hit
in the head with debris. A replay appeared to show debris from a car in
front of him flew into his cockpit following a restart.
IndyCar said he'll have to be re-evaluated before he's cleared again
to drive. Preparations begin Sunday for the Indianapolis 500, with
qualifying scheduled to begin next Saturday for the May 25 race.
IndyCar policy in the past has been to hold a driver with a concussion out of the car a minimum of seven days.
Andretti Autosport said EJ Viso will be the standby driver for Hinchcliffe.
"I'm a little stiff and sore and I'd love to be back in the car
tomorrow, but I suppose I should probably let the doctors make that
decision," Hinchcliffe said in a statement.
Hunter-Reay said he drove by Hinchcliffe's car and couldn't figure out what happened.
"I was actually next to him on track and all of a sudden debris went
everywhere and he slowed up," Hunter-Reay said about his teammate. "It
was something that happened in front of him and he was hit."
The race began with a violent wreck when pole-sitter Sebastian
Saavedra stalled on the standing start. He was hit by multiple cars, and
debris struck Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard as he waved the green
Saavedra's car simply didn't go when the lights went out and, after
Hunter-Reay frantically darted around him, Saavedra was clipped by
Carlos Munoz and then hit hard from behind by Mikhail Aleshin.
"We just followed protocol at the start," Saavedra said. "As soon as I
released the clutch, it went from 11,000 rpm to zero. This should not
have happened, unfortunately."
The initial hit from Munoz didn't seem too bad, but Aleshin's direct
hit sprayed debris all over the track, sending spectators and track
workers standing along the wall scrambling for cover. Saavedra was seen
in his cockpit with his arms in the air anticipating a potential
collision as cars tried to weave their way around his stalled KV Racing
car. He was visibly upset after the accident as he talked to his team on
his pit stand. He had won the first pole of his career -- in part
because Hunter-Reay had his two fastest laps disallowed for causing a
caution in Friday's qualifying -- and was looking for a strong finish at
the famed race track.
"Man, we had an opportunity to be at the front of the pack in this
amazing place. We wanted to bring it home in the same place," he said.
"To not even get a chance because of a freaking electrical thing ..."
It had many drivers complaining about the standing starts, which have
been problematic since IndyCar began using them at some tracks last
season. The incident damaged several cars one day before teams begin
practice for the May 25 Indianapolis 500.
"I think IndyCar has had like two good standing starts since we
started them last year," said driver/owner Ed Carpenter, who saw Mike
Conway have to take his car to the garage for repairs after the
accident. "Haven't been a fan, still not a fan."
Drivers also grumbled about the way race control was restarting the
races, with the leader having to use a late restart zone. Graham Rahal
said he was victimized when he was run into from behind by Juan Pablo
"These restarts are pretty stupid. You can't see back there because
the rear wings are so big, and the officials, we need to work with them
to try to change this because there's going to be a lot of accidents,"
Rahal said. "I said the restart before, I said to my dad, 'Somebody's
going to get hurt out here because you can't see.'
"They need to let the leader go earlier. Right now, the way it is,
they're trying to be like NASACAR and this isn't NASCAR. We can't just
bump-draft each other."