Jack Harvey was taken to a hospital and Helio Castroneves needed an ice pack and X-rays. A couple of cars were blown up, the leaders crashed into each other, and the entire Andretti Autosport fleet was wiped out.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson won the IndyCar season-opening race.
Ericsson survived carnage on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg for a surprise victory for Chip Ganassi Racing on a swampy Sunday in Florida. It was the fourth IndyCar race victory for the former Swedish Formula One driver.
«I think people forget about us in some conversations when they talk about the championship,» Ericsson said. «We’re here to win. We won the 500. We’ve been leading the championship for a long time. We’re here to win.»
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It was supposed to be an Andretti car in victory lane, at least based on the speed the team displayed all weekend. Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta started on the front row, but things started to fall apart early on.
A seven-car wreck on the first lap took five cars out of the race, including Andretti driver Devlin DeFrancesco, who went airborne when rookie Ben Pedersen collided directly into his stopped car. Castroneves, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, limped away from the wreck as his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud grabbed his hand.
Castroneves emerged from IndyCar’s new mobile medical care center with an ice pack on his right hand and a clean X-ray on his right knee. Pagenaud said he had a bruised finger but he was fine.
Harvey was not so lucky and was briefly seen at a local hospital after Kyle Kirkwood became the second Andretti pilot to fly directly over Harvey’s head. Rinus VeeKay had slid into a tire barrier, Harvey crashed into the rear of VeeKay, and Kirkwood dove into both cars.
«It was a pretty disappointing way for our career to get there,» Harvey later said through his team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. «I couldn’t really avoid Rinus and then I felt a bit of pain in both wrists when he was trying to get out of the car. Physically, I would say it was a tough race, but it felt really good.»
As Kirkwood launched, Michael Andretti smacked his hand on the pit stall in disgust.
INDYCAR DRIVER DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO FLIES THROUGH AIR IN SCARY ACCIDENT DURING FIRST RACE OF SEASON
But there was more to come.
Herta was sent into a contact tire barrier by reigning IndyCar champion Will Power, who received an avoidable contact penalty, to leave Grosjean as Andretti’s last chance.
But when Grosjean and defending race winner Scott McLaughlin raced alongside each other for position, the two cars collided in what appeared to be a game of chicken heading into a corner. Neither driver lifted and both cars crashed into a tire barrier.
Grosjean was furious, first raising his arms in disgust and then hitting the pile of tires with his fist while yelling. McLaughlin received an avoidable contact penalty. Andretti muttered a curse word and put his head in his hands.
McLaughlin and Power said they would find Grosjean and Herta, respectively, to apologize, and McLaughlin went to Grosjean’s team truck and hugged him. Meanwhile, Scott Dixon has repeatedly apologized for the first-lap contact with Felix Rosenqvist that triggered the biggest crash behind them.
Meanwhile, Ericsson passed Pato O’Ward for the win with three laps remaining when O’Ward suffered a brief loss of power. O’Ward slammed his fist in disgust as Ericsson flew past for Honda’s win.
O’Ward was second in a Chevrolet for McLaren and could barely find words to express his initial disappointment.
«It’s very annoying to give it away like that,» O’Ward said with a sigh. «The team can’t let this happen. We just lost 10 points. We’ll take a look at all the data and make sure that doesn’t happen.»
Ericsson had no problem winning that way.
«That’s running,» he said.
Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion, was third for Ganassi in his 193rd top-five finish, tying Mario Andretti for the most all-time. Dixon’s top-five percentage is 52%.
Alexander Rossi was fourth in his debut race with the new McLaren team.
Callum Ilott finished a career-best fifth for Juncos Hollinger Racing and was followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal and then Power of Team Penske. Ganassi’s Alex Palou was eighth, while RLL driver Christian Lundgaard and David Malukas completed the top 10.
Marcus Armstrong, a rookie who moved from F2 in Europe to driving for Ganassi in IndyCar this season, finished 11th in his series debut to make Ganassi, not Andretti, the team of the day.
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UNTIL NEXT TIME: The next IndyCar races on April 2 at Texas Motor Speedway, where Josef Newgarden is the defending race winner.