Drivers and team personnel debate over red flag situation at 500: “We need to think about the show”

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The IndyCar paddock debates over if the procedure at the end was followed correctly.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Walt Kuhn

In the last 20 laps of the 107th running of the Indy 500, three different red flags were triggered, in an attempt to finish the race under green flag running, a feat that is not uncommon. But the procedure race direction took is being debated, mainly at Chip Ganassi Racing.The first red flag was brought out after Felix Rosenqvist got into Newgarden’s dirty air and touched the wall at turn 1. He could not control his car and his broken Arrow McLaren came up the track as he had no control of the car. Santino Ferrucci and Kyle Kirkwood had to avoid it, with the Andretti driver having no luck doing so. His left-rear tyre made contact with the No. 6 and the tyre flew over the fencing and into a gap between the grandstands.Later it was discovered that the tyre hit a car in the parking lot, and nobody was hurt.

Kirkwood touched the wall at an angle that made his No. 27 flip and go down the track upside down for a few seconds. Neither driver was hurt.

The race was restarted with 9 laps to go, with Josef Newgarden making the jump on race leader Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson. The Mexican tried a move on Marcus at turn three, but the Sweede squeezed him, not leaving a car’s width. The No. 5 touched the grass and Ericsson’s rear tyre. He went into the wall.Behind them, Scott McLaughlin, trying to avoid Callum Ilott, made contact with Simon Pagenaud, and the 2019 Indy 500 winner hit the wall. Trying to avoid that collision, rookie Agustin Canapino lost control of his car and had to retire as well.

The green flag was waved with 4 to go, but it didn’t last a straightaway. As a crash happened between Benjamin Pedersen, Graham Rahal, Ed Carpenter and Christian Lundgaard. But race direction stopped the race with a red flag again, which caused controversy.

“I think when that red came so late, I thought I was a bit too late,” said Marcus Ericsson. “So I thought when the yellow came out with three laps to go, whatever, in my world we don’t restart that race.”It became a one-lap shootout between Ericsson, Newgarden, and Ferrucci. Marcus tried to “unleash the dragon” at the front straightaway, but Newgarden had a great exit of the short chute and was able to make his race-winning move on the Swede.“But no, it is what it is. You have to play with the cards you’re given, and I think we nailed it today. We did everything right. I did everything right.

“You can’t do more than that. Again, I think Josef is a worthy champion, and I congratulate him on that.

“But I just think it’s a bit tough to sort of accept how it ended. That’s my feeling after. But I’m very proud of our efforts and our performance today.”

Unsurprisingly, race winner Josef Newgarden was happy with the decision to go racing again when speaking about it afterwards.

“Well, I’m happy they did it to give a good finish. Obviously if I was in Marcus’ situation, I would have said, yeah, just end it. That’s great. I’ve got to the line and they’re not going to go to a — I’ve also been in a lot of races where you get ahead of somebody like that and the yellow just comes out, and you’re going back to the timing line of Turn 4. And I’m like, what are you talking about? We’ve been sitting here for about five seconds where I’m in front of this person.

“There’s so many different ways that this could have played out and you could have said this is fair or that’s fair. I’ve seen it all. At this point I’m just really thankful they did it the way they did. I’m glad I had the car.

I don’t really care. I’ve seen a lot of situations where it didn’t go our way. Today went our way, and I’ll take it. I’ll take it all day.”Tony Kanaan also gave his opinion. His Indy 500 win in 2013 was under a yellow after he overtook for the lead just before the caution was thrown:“You know, it’s funny because obviously like you have guys like Santino and Marcus that are mad, and you have Josef that’s happy. But we need to think about the show.“The biggest complaint we have every year was we shouldn’t finish a race under the yellow. That’s going to hurt someone. Actually 33 guys are pissed right now and one guy is happy. That’s the reality.

“Could have they called it earlier? Yes. Could have, should have, would have, but we ended under green, and that’s what the fans kept asking us every time.

“I won under yellow, and everybody hated it at some point. Easy for me to say because I’m not in his shoes.”When asked if the drivers were being to aggressive, Kanaan responded:“It’s the Indy 500. Come on. We’ve got to leave it out there. Every red flag, everybody goes, I’m going to pass everybody. It’s tough to pass. It’s the toughest field, the tightest field we ever had here. It was going to happen. We knew it was going to happen.

“I wouldn’t want it any different. We left it all out there. Everybody that was out left it out.”Later in a separate press event, Tim Cindric and Roger Penske were asked about it:“Yeah, I think it’s more of a race control program,” said Team Penske president Tim Cindric. “Obviously you’re sitting there and it’s really hard to determine how that’s all going to play out. Each restart could have played out a different way, and I think Josef, when you look at the fact that we lost the lead on one of the restarts, as well, it can kind of go either way, and that’s kind of the way this place is now.

“I think somebody has got to win and somebody doesn’t. We’ve been on the other side of that, too.”Roger Penske, founder and chairman of Penske Corporation, owner of the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said:“Really I don’t have any thoughts. I had nothing to do with it, obviously. We have a group that is certainly the officials of the track, and to me, we’ve said this before, I think all of you had said, we want to see a checkered flag, not a yellow flag.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Walt Kuhn