Maybe it was the full moon. Maybe it was the fact that 13 years had passed since Indycars last raced at the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But the Izod IndyCar Series put on an action-packed race at the track with fierce competition and passing galore as well as a wild, much-disputed finish.
Ryan Hunter-Reay scored his first win of the year in Sunday’s race. He beat Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon, while championship rivals Dario Franchitti and Will Power were eliminated in separate accidents on restarts. Franchitti qualified on pole and dominated the first half of the race, running away on his own before he was hit by Takuma Sato on a restart, spinning into the wall. Sato later apologised to Franchitti, admitting he got too close to Dario (below) because he had some debris and tears in one eye.
Power was eliminated after Danica Patrick spun in front of him on a late-race restart in slippery conditions and registered his disgust with IndyCar officials by waving his arms and a pair of raised fingers at them. A gaggle of cars were involved in the collision, leading to a red flag. After a delay the stewards set the results to before the final restart, handing Hunter Reay the win. Power’s gesture was just a small part of a gale of disgruntled drivers and team owners seething in the pitlane at the end of the race. Servia and the Newman/Haas team disputed Hunter-Reay’s win, while everyone questioned the wisdom of the final, disastrous restart.
Third-placed Dixon said: “Obviously everybody’s a little confused with what went on during the day, but the racing was good. There was lots of passing. For me, at about lap 200 it felt like we were 500 miles in already. I thought it was a hell of a race.”
Hunter-Reay agreed: “Man, the racing was so difficult with the traffic. You had to time it just perfect. This track is a lot of fun. If I had it my way we’d be coming back here for many years to come. All the drivers really respect this place. They’ll tell you this is one of the toughest ovals they’ve been on in their life.”
IndyCar’s president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart (below) admitted he had erred in calling for the final restart. You have to tip your cap to Barnhart for his uncommon candour, remarkably unlike anything one might hear from the FIA.
“It was a challenging day for us from the get-go with the late start we had for television and knowing we had bad weather coming in,” said Barnhart. “Then we had to make some difficult calls from a race control point of view, when you have indecisiveness about what the weather is doing and whether you have safe conditions to continue racing. When it rains hard your decision is a pretty easy one to make, but when you have light moisture like we had today it’s tough to make that call.
“Obviously, towards the end of the race with the attempted restart we made the wrong one. It just makes you feel sick to your stomach because you know after the fact that you chose poorly. It was clearly my fault.”
A messy day then, but without doubt an old-fashioned motor race of the first order.