After a glorious weekend in Florida where he scored back-to-back victories on his debut in the Firestone Indy Lights championship, Junior Strous saw the other side of life in the IndyCar feeder series after an early retirement in Long Beach.
Starting twelfth in the Winners Circle Group Dallara, the Dutchman maintained his position on an opening lap that saw the first three rows take off and the remainder of the field take the green in single file. However, as he exited turn five second time around, the #8 machine slowed and Strous quickly pulled to the inside of the track as flames shot out of the engine cowling.
“I was on the second lap when the error lights started flashing,” Strous reported, “The lights on the dash were flashing on and off, so I knew something was wrong. Then the engine started to cut out. I looked out the back and saw the smoke and flames, and first thought it was coming out of the exhaust and maybe we had blown the engine. But I'm really not certain what caused the fire.”
A safety vehicle was quickly on the scene and extinguished the flames, ensuring the car lived to contest another weekend, while Strous was unhurt save for nursing a major cut in his points advantage. The consistent Jonathan Summerton, with fourth places in each of the three rounds to date, now trails by only three points, with Long Beach winner JR Hildebrand just four further back.
“After experiencing the highs of winning races in St Pete, this is obviously a major disappointment,” team director Paul Diatlovich admitted before the chequered flag had even fallen, “The car is still out on the track and, until we get it back to the transporter to inspect it, there is no way of knowing what exactly went caused the fire. Also, we won't have any idea of the extent of the damage - we'll just have to wait and see.”
Should the Dallara be salvageable, the PDM-run team faces a tight turnaround ahead of this weekend's race, when Strous will be making his oval-racing debut. He has only limited experience of the format, having tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February.