IndyCar did not disappoint on its return to racing in 2023 but there were two big accidents that tainted the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Much anticipation and excitement for the 2023 season was quickly diminished as contact between Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist triggered a multi-car pile-up.
Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Santino Ferrucci got a piece of the crash but it wasn’t until rookie Benjamin Pedersen failed to slow down enough that things really got ugly.
The A.J. Foyt Enterprises machine ploughed into the side of Devlin DeFrancesco sending the Andretti Autosport car into the air and landing on top of Castroneves’ Meyer Shank Racing Honda.
That saw the race halted after just two laps of running but there was more airborne carnage to come.
Just before the halfway mark in the 100-lap event, Rinus VeeKay and Jack Harvey came together and left no way through for Kyle Kirkwood.
The young American attempted to slow down but couldn’t in time and soared over the top of the Dutch Ed Carpenter Racing man.
Eventually, the race settled down despite several drivers not making the chequered flag but IndyCar may have to take a look at these plane crashes before the high-speed circuits and ovals arrive.
Andretti throw it all away
Andretti Autosport began the day with three drivers in the top five and looked the class of the field but, one by one, they fell by the wayside in the attritional season opener.
DeFrancesco was the first to leave the race in that lap one incident and Kirkwood’s race was heavily impacted by his own aerial escapades.
Most frustratingly for the squad, though, was seeing Colton Herta, who started second, shuffled out through the tight section of the lap by Will Power.
The Team Penske driver had been forced wide himself and as he recovered, Herta moved alongside only to be shown the tyre barrier at Turn 8.
“He’s an ass,” Herta said to NBC on the live broadcast after being checked in the medical centre, clearly unhappy with how his race ended.
It all hung on Romain Grosjean to salvage some pride for the organisation but he got hit by Scott McLaughlin while fighting for the lead and went no further.
Marcus Ericsson eventually kept his cool to pass Patricio O’Ward late on and take victory but IndyCar cannot have this many incidents in one race too often as only 12 of the 27 starters reached the flag on the lead lap.
Grand Prix of St Petersburg 2023 – Top 10
|1||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|2||Patricio O’Ward||Arrow McLaren|
|3||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|4||Alexander Rossi||Arrow McLaren|
|5||Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger Racing|
|6||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan|
|7||Will Power||Team Penske|
|8||Alex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|9||Christian Lundgaard||Rahal Letterman Lanigan|
|10||David Malukas||Dale Coyne Racing|