Multiple IndyCar drivers were collected in a huge lap 1 crash at Pocono on Sunday when Takuma Sato sideswiped Alexander Rossi as the field headed into the second corner.
Sato went three wide with Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay got collected into the accident. Sato and Hunter-Reay then bounced off the inside wall and into oncoming traffic as James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist got collected.
Sato’s car ended up coming to a stop almost completely upside down and Rosenqvist’s came to a stop after it rode the top of the wall and ripped the catchfence. The race was red-flagged for 45 minutes so the fence could be repaired.
It was the second time in two seasons a driver had ripped the turn 2 catchfence apart. In 2018, Robert Wickens’ car went flying into the catchfence after contact from Hunter-Reay.
Every driver involved in Sunday’s accident was able to walk away from the scene, though Rosenqvist was treated and released at a local hospital.
Wickens wasn’t so lucky in 2018. He suffered multiple injuries, including back fractures, and has been re-learning how to walk as part of his post-crash rehabilitation.
Following Sunday’s crash, Wickens chimed in on Twitter with the idea that IndyCar shouldn’t race at Pocono any longer.
How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) August 18, 2019
Other drivers rightly agreed.
Glad to see everyone is ok. Never a good feeling when you see something like that especially when it’s your brothers. Think the answer is clear that we should not be here. In my opinion that question was answered awhile ago.— Sage Karam (@SageKaram) August 18, 2019
Maybe the teams can all come together and instead of paying crash damage at Pocono can just put into a fund to pay sanctioning fee for a Watkins Glen return. Easily $1.5-2M in crash damage after 2 turns of the race.... Relax, I’m mostly joking 🤷♂️🙄— Stefan Wilson (@stef_wilson) August 18, 2019
So glad to see everyone walk away from that one.— M A X Chilton (@maxchilton) August 18, 2019
They shouldn’t be there anyway. pic.twitter.com/TLrmHafGFV
IndyCar has raced at Pocono for the past seven seasons and does not have a deal to return to Pocono for 2020 at the moment. And that potential return should simply not happen.
In addition to the wreck that paralyzed Wickens and the crash that happened Sunday, Pocono was also the site of Justin Wilson’s death in 2015. Wilson was hit in the head by a piece of flying debris from Karam’s crashed car and died days after the accident. There are simply too many scary and tragic things that have happened at the track in the last five years for IndyCar to keep racing at it.
Oval racing will always have its place in IndyCar because of the Indianapolis 500. And the 500, one of the most prestigious races on the world racing calendar, can’t be the only oval race on the IndyCar schedule. But the IndyCar Series can certainly find better places to race at than Pocono.
IndyCar has made significant steps in the name of safety and is set to make a really significant one with increased head protection for drivers in 2020. While increased head protection could have saved Wilson’s life in 2015, it wouldn’t have had any impact in Wickens’ crash last year and especially on Sunday. While Sato is getting a lot of the blame for chopping Rossi to start the wreck, the close proximity of the inside wall in turn 2 helped exacerbate the crash as Sato and Hunter-Reay quickly bounced into traffic.
Another significant step would be to ditch Pocono. Yeah, IndyCar racing will always be dangerous. But the danger can also be minimized. And racing at Pocono — a site of three significant incidents in five seasons — is not minimizing danger. IndyCar stopped racing at Las Vegas after Dan Wheldon’s death for a reason. And it’s no longer racing at Houston, where Dario Franchitti’s car flew into the catchfence.
As Sunday showed, Pocono deserves the same fate. There are plenty of other worthy racing facilities for IndyCar to race at instead of the 2.5-mile triangle that carry less risk. Or, at the very least, don’t have the troubled recent history that Pocono does. This should be an easy decision. We’ll see if IndyCar makes it.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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