IndyCar Debacle: Dominant Dario Taken Out, Disaster Finish in Loudon
From the threat of rain, to the tables turning in the Championship standings, to the unbelievable finish, it was a wild day in Loudon, New Hampshire. The IZOD IndyCar Series was back at the oval track for the first time since 1998.
Dario Franchitti led the first 71 laps of the race, before green flag pit stops began. As drivers cycled through the stops, Ryan Briscoe led two laps. By the time the caution came out on lap 76 for rain drops, the top 15 cars had all made their stops, giving Dario the lead once again.
The race was started about a half hour earlier than what was scheduled, due to the threat of rain. The cars took the green flag at 3:37 pm, but two early caution flags got the race off to a slow start. The first yellow was thrown on the first lap, when Mike Conway lost control of his car and spun, taking out Graham Rahal.
Rahal had one of the best cars all weekend, as they were never outside of the top three in practice, and were only in the back of the field after he had a slip on his qualifying run. He had a car capable of getting to the front and winning the race, but lady luck dealt his team another blow.
After the restart, Helio Castroneves lost control of his machine in the exact same place on track where Conway did. He managed to avoid contact with the other cars, but it was not the way he envisioned his 200th race going.
After running about 30 laps under caution for the light sprinkles, the race was able to resume. After the green flag came back out, all hell broke loose.
Just a few laps after the restart, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and Tomas Sheckter were all trying to go three-wide in the corner, which sent Kanaan and Sheckter into the inside retaining wall. Marco suffered suspension damage, and all three were out of the race.
As the cars were coming to take the green flag for the restart on lap 119, Takuma Sato (running in second) touched tires with race leader Franchitti. Dario had been dominating the race, but coming to the start/finish line, he seemed to veer over into Sato’s lane, although he wasn’t quite clear of him.
Sato and JR Hildebrand suffered cut tires, but Dario ended up against the pit lane wall, ending his day. Dario had gone 43 starts since his last DNF. While watching the replay from his pit stall, Dario insisted that Sato was to blame for the accident. It was fairly obvious that this was 100 percent Dario’s fault.
At one point during the race, Franchitti’s championship lead over Will Power was 98 points. Now after Power’s fifth place finish, the points lead is down to just 47 with five races remaining.
One more caution came out for moisture with just 19 laps to go, with Ryan Hunter-Reay still in the lead. With less than 10 to go, IndyCar officials called for the green flag to be waived. Many drivers, most notably Will Power, were begging and pleading with them to waive off the restart. The drivers were saying they couldn’t even see, and that the track was too wet.
They waived the green flag anyway, and chaos ensued.
Danica Patrick spun her rear tires, which caused her to spin in front of the entire field. Power, Sato, Ana Beatriz, and others were all trying to avoid contact, but all of them ended up wrecking.
Power got out of his car and was furious. He stormed to the infield, trying to find someone to scream at. On his way back to the Penske trailer, he gave the “double bird” to the race officials in the booth.
Team owner Michael Andretti was also livid at the situation that took place. He was upset because not only did three of his cars get taken out of the race, but the one that was in the lead got passed on the restart. He called this the “worst officiating I have ever seen.”
Luckily for Michael, the officials reverted the order of the field back to where it was before the restart, giving Hunter-Reay the lead again. They also called the race due to the rain, despite just five laps remaining. Hunter-Reay was declared the winner, and Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon joined him on the podium.
In the end, it was the right call because so many cars were torn up for no reason. The officials made the mistake of trying to go back to green, when the drivers were all pleading them not to. From the crazy start, to the Dario and Sato incident, to the unbelievable finish, it was a very busy day in New Hampshire.
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