IndyCar Team Punished for 'Idiot' Group Photo Attempt That Caused Crash in Indy 500 Practice
Yes, let's obstruct a hot track for a photo op. No way that could go wrong.
IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has been penalized for blocking the front straight to stage a rolling photoshoot that caused a near-disastrous crash during a live practice for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, according to AP.
Just after the start of Thursday's practice session, RLL had its drivers to snap into formation for the cameras at the exit of turn four. Santino Ferrucci, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato slowed to around 100 mph and drew alongside each other, blocking most of the pit straight and forcing their competitors immediately behind them to abort their practice laps. Simona de Silvestro and Scott McLaughlin were able to slow down, but Colton Herta's spotter was unable to relay a warning in time. The Andretti Autosport driver came through Turn 4 at 220 mph and somehow squeezed through the shrinking gap between McLaughlin's car and the wall, making light contact with the barrier.
It could have been so, so much worse. Herta mercifully escaped without injury or serious damage to the car, and reportedly returned to the track within an hour of the incident. He was, however, irate with the cause of the crash—not McLaughlin, who was avoiding a hazard himself, but the RLL cars that blocked the track.
"They're going 100 mph on the front straight while guys are running 220. Whoever is in charge of that at Rahal is a complete idiot and just risking everybody's life out there for the stupidest thing I've ever seen," remarked Herta to IndyCar Radio. "I'm not mad at Scott and Simona. It's those Rahal guys that completely ruined everything."
As a consequence for blocking the track, IndyCar denied all three RLL drivers 30 minutes of practice time on "Fast Friday," the final day session and the first session with maximum qualifying power available. Despite his team nearly causing a horrendous, weekend-ruining disaster, Bob Rahal was not happy about that, pointing to Penske staging a similar shoot on Tuesday, though the AP reports Penske took its photos during a five-minute period allotted only to installation laps.
"We were several hundred yards ahead of some other cars. It was a pit stop session and it was the first lap,” Rahal vented on Thursday. “I think maybe some people shouldn’t be in such a rush and the spotters maybe should have done a better job. It’s disappointing something that happened a quarter-mile behind us or thereabouts and we’ve got to pay a price for it.”
"We’re going to miss 30 minutes of practice, you mean for what Roger did the day before, or Roger’s team I should say? We were at the start-finish line when it all happened and from what I understand, the Penske guys were going slower, so they didn’t have a problem with it. I’m disappointed with it and I’ll talk to IndyCar about it.”
A hard lesson on photo timing for sure, should it cost any of its drivers a qualification slot for the 500, it's one RLL certainly won't forget. Of course, the same could be said for causing a completely avoidable, potentially deadly crash during practice for one of the most famous races in the world. We're just thankful we don't have to report on that.
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h/t Road and Track