26 May 2014
Carpenter lashes out at Hinchcliffe over Indy 500 crash
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 looked like it was coming down to a two-man race between Ed Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay - until Carpenter crashed out.
Ed Carpenter had come into the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a quiet assurance after picking up his second consecutive pole position start for the event. That gave him the knowledge and confidence to know what he needed to do to have a better time of it in the race itself than he did 12 months ago, and he was putting that expertise to good use as the climax approached.
With 25 laps to go, Carpenter took a late restart in second place to long-time leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, but before he could make a move on the man in front he found himself swamped by cars to the left and right of him: Townsend Bell tried going around the outside, while James Hinchcliffe was on the low side. Carpenter was pinched in the middle, contact was made, and the #20 took off to the outside wall where Carpenter's race ended.
"Hinch tried to make three wide in turn one with 25 laps to go,' Carpenter fumes. "Not a smart move. It wrecked both of our races. I told him if he didn't have a concussion last week that I would have punched him in the face.
"It wasn't a green-white-chequered situation," he pointed out, referring to NASCAR's way of finishing a race rather than under a caution. "Of all of the guys out there, I wouldn't have thought it would be Hinch. I am pretty good friends with him and those guys at Andretti. I think he just didn't use his head right then."
For his part, Hinchcliffe defended his right to make the move while acknowledging how bad he felt for Carpenter who had been the blameless part for the accident, which also ended Hinchcliffe's day.
"You know, it could have been the last restart and you have to go for it. Ed gave me the room initially. I honestly don't think Townsend knew we were three-wide," he said. "From what I saw Townsend came down into Ed, who came down into me. I was the last guy there, so I have to take a portion of the blame for sure.
"I feel bad for Ed," Hinchcliffe admitted. "I knew Townsend had popped out, but I honestly didn't think he'd hold the outside. You just can't do that here. Partially my fault. Partially Townsend's fault. 100 per cent not Ed's fault."
Bell confirmed that he had no idea that Hinchcliffe had gone underneath Carpenter at the same time as he himself had been making a move on the outside.
"I thought I was side-by-side with just Ed in turn one," he said. "I didn't realise someone else, I think it was Hinch maybe, had forced three-wide, which is pretty optimistic. I haven't seen a replay but I would guess Ed didn't have anywhere to go. I was giving him room for one car, I didn't know there was a third one that had ducked in."
For Carpenter, it was a bitter end to the day in which victory had been tantalisingly close after overcoming earlier problems with blistered tyres mid-race.
"I totally believe we were right in the mix with Ryan, Helio and Marco. I was running with Ryan right then and we had swapped the lead a few times, he said. "We were able to hold off the leaders then when the yellow came out. I was back up front and the car felt good. We were just trying to figure out how to set a guy up for the last lap of the race. It just stinks."
Of the three men involved in the incident, Bell was the only one to escape largely unscathed - but the #6 KV Racing Technology ended up in a hard hit with the wall just a few minutes later, in an accident that caused a red flag to be shown with ten laps remaining.
"I got hit in that three-wide on the restart in the left rear," Bell explained. "And earlier in the race with (Tony) Kanaan when I was inside of him and he was squeezing me, I clipped the wall with the left rear. It just knocked it too much out of toe. It was loose all race.
"Unfortunately the left rear just took too much pounding during the day to make it work and it got away from me," he added. "I hate to end that way. That was a pretty good hit - I'll be pretty sore."
The accident also had consequences for Justin Wilson who was up in the top ten behind Sebastien Bourdais and passing through turn 2 when Bell crashed.
"It's right at that point that he's coming back across so at that point I had to dive the other way and it was just a complete debris field," Wilson recalled. "And you can't change directions so I hit the engine cover and it broke the front wing and the mirror right before the cockpit opening, so I'm pretty lucky."
After a record-setting 150-lap green flag opening stint to the 2014 Indy 500, the final quarter of the race also saw two other cars hit the wall, with Charlie Kimball spinning out first and then his team mate Scott Dixon having a hard hit into the wall on lap 167.
"I think we were having a fairly decent race. We just kept digging for it, trying to make the car a little better. We might have gotten a little too aggressive as the track progressively heated up. It was too bad for Chip Ganassi Racing," said Kimball of his incident, explaining that the cause of the accident had been a broken left front spindle. "It happened in the incident when I brushed the wall. The thing just rotated."
"All of a sudden, it just started to slide," said Dixon of the crash that took out the #9 car. "I tried to catch it and there was no catching it. I feel really bad for the guys. We had a pretty strong car all day. I think Ed really looked like the one to be beat. He crashed too, so it could be anybody."
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