On tap this week:
- Hinch to miss Indy 500
- Aerokit trouble slows Indy 500 qualifying
- The skinny on Indy 500 winners
- Making F1 cars faster
- Quote of the Week: Denny Hamlin saves for his kid’s education
- Drivers go for the double at CTMP
Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe will miss Sunday's Indianapolis 500 after a devastating accident in practice Monday left him in intensive care following emergency surgery.
Hinchcliffe, from Oakville, Ont., crashed heavily about 50 minutes into the practice session when his Schmidt Peterson racer suddenly went straight into the wall about halfway through Turn 3. Flames shot from the car upon impact as the right side of the IndyCar disintegrated before Hinchcliffe's stricken vehicle spun once as it slid down the track and almost flipped before righting itself and stopping near the exit of Turn 4.
Hinchcliffe did not lose consciousness in the accident and was taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital where he underwent surgery to remove a piece of the car that pierced his upper left thigh. The likely culprit was either a section of a broken steering column or a piece of the car's suspension.
The 28-year-old was awake after surgery Monday night, but remained in intensive care as doctors monitored his recovery. He will miss the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and is likely doubtful for his home race in Toronto on June 14.
The replay of the accident showed a puff of smoke from under the back of Hinchcliffe's car just before it veered into the wall caused by the Schmidt Peterson racer bottoming out due to a broken right front suspension. From that point on, Hinchcliffe was a helpless passenger as the car careened into the wall at somewhere around 290 km/h.
"You never want to see that happen, especially after a mechanical failure like that," said Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball, who had Hinchcliffe officiate at his wedding last year.
Hinchcliffe's accident leaves only one Canadian in the field for the Indianapolis 500, Alex Tagliani, who qualified 22nd. Tagliani who is driving a one-off for Foyt Racing, had little time in the car to prepare for qualifying but is feeling confident for the race following Monday's practice.
"I think we have a decent car, we just have to fix the balance and make sure that we have good tire pressure in the run," Tagliani said.
"Managing that is going to be key, and we'll see what we get. We have another hour [of practice] on Carb Day (Friday) and we'll try to make it work for Sunday."
Random Thoughts: So much for the "wow factor" the series hoped to deliver in the Indianapolis 500 with the new aero kits – custom front and rear wings and other bits to help airflow – that were supposed to make the cars more slippery and faster. After Ed Carpenter became the third driver to flip in practice on Sunday morning, the series ordered the teams to ditch their faster qualification package and run their higher downforce race settings on the cars. IndyCar also mandated a lower turbo boost, which robbed the engines of about 40 horsepower. "There were a lot of unknowns so they had to make an on-point decision," said Ganassi driver Scott Dixon, whose pole speed ended up being about 4 mph slower than last year. "With a toss of the hat, I think it was the best decision."
By the Numbers: There have been 63 different winners of the 99 Indianapolis 500s, with only 18 drivers winning more than once. A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser Sr. are the only four-time winners, and Helio Castroneves is the sole active driver who can tie that mark on Sunday. Eight rookies have won the famed race, with the last being Castroneves. Outside the United States, the country with the most wins is Great Britain with eight, followed by Brazil with seven. The only Canadian to drink the milk is 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in 1995 – although many still contend that Paul Tracy is the true winner of the controversial 2002 race.
Technically Speaking: The Formula One Strategy Group raised eyebrows last week when it announced its intention to have the cars be five to six seconds quicker per lap in 2017, without increasing costs. But with refuelling also returning in 2017, making the cars faster over one lap may simply be a question of bigger, stickier tires. Fans might recall that Michael Schumacher's pole time in a Ferrari at the 2000 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal was 1 minute 18.439 seconds. With the Bridgestone-Michelin tire wars raging a year later, Schumacher sliced 2.657 seconds from his 2000 pole time at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, while Juan Pablo Montoya put up a best lap in 2002 qualifying of 1 minute 12.836 seconds, 5.603 seconds faster than two years before.
Quote of the Week: "Well, I've got a little daughter at home that would like to go college, so let's save that for the college fund."
– NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin on what he will do with the $1-million (U.S.) prize he took home for winning Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The Last Word: NASCAR Canadian Tires Series rookie Gary Klutt started from the pole and got a bit of luck to score his maiden win in the season opener. As the 22-year-old from Halton Hills, Ont., watched from third place, Andrew Ranger and Scott Steckly tangled in the last two corners on the 51st and final lap, which allowed him to slip past and take the chequered flag in the Pinty's presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP). In other series racing at CTMP during its traditional Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend, Chris Green swept the two rounds of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, Michael Adams won both the Toyo Tires F1600 Series races, and Johnny O'Connell also doubled up on wins in the Pirelli World Challenge GT3 while Lorenzo Trefethen did the same in GTC Class.
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