INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar owner Roger Penske said he has several series officials investigating what caused a tire to come off during a crash at the Indianapolis 500 and sail into the fence and grandstands. never hit a parked car.
“We’ve been without a tire for a long time,” Penske said. “We were very lucky that we didn’t have a bad accident.”
Vehicles must have a tether that will keep the tire in place even if there is a breakdown. But when Felix Rosenqvist hit the wall between Turns 1 and 2 in Sunday’s closing laps and Kyle Kirkwood launched the back of his car into the wall, the tire flew over the fence and into the corner of the left grandstand. still landed in the parking lot. .
The wheel traveled about 350 yards before smashing into the front of a parked Chevrolet fan. With a crowd of more than 300,000 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a full grandstand in Turns 1 and 2, luckily no one was seriously injured.
“I saw what happened, I saw it bounce off the top of a building and go and hit a car there, which is obviously very worrying,” said Penske, whose driver Josef Newgarden won the race, giving Team Penske its 19th Indy 500 victory.
Penske closed on the purchase of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway about three years ago.
“We had tethers on the tires, and it was a rear tire that came out,” Penske said after celebrating Sunday’s win, “and I’m sure the IndyCar guys are going to look at it, find out if what really happened.”
During the 1987 Indianapolis 500, a fan was killed when a tire flew over the top row of the grandstands. It exited Tony Bettenhausen’s car and bounced in front of Roberto Guerrero’s car before landing among the fans.
During a 1998 race at Michigan International Speedway involving CART, which later became part of IndyCar, Adrian Fernandez crashed and a tire and other parts flew into the stands. Three fans died and six others were injured that day.
The following year, three fans were killed and eight were injured at Charlotte Motor Speedway when a tire and other debris flew into the stands during an Indy Racing League event. The race was canceled, and IndyCar never returned to speed.
Those incidents resulted in the development of tethers that were supposed to hold the wheels in place.
The owner of the Chevrolet that sustained major damage on Sunday was Robin Matthews, a race fan from Indianapolis. His car, which he calls “Snowball,” had to be towed because of the damage. He was treated to a kiss on the brickyard, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles gave him a lift home.
IndyCar said one person was hit by other debris from the crash but was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
“I’m in this turn,” Tweet John Green, an author from Indianapolis. “It was a great relief to see that everything was OK. Watching a tire fly past my friends at 150 miles per hour is not an experience I want to repeat.”
Rosenqvist and Kirkwood were also uninjured in the wreck, although the latter was riding. Kirkwood went airborne after contact and landed on a wall, flying several hundred yards as sparks flew from his vehicle.
“That’s the scary part,” Kirkwood said. “You’re upside down and you’re kind of stuck at that point.”