SBD/October 8, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Positioning Of Grandstand, Course Setup Questioned Following Houston IndyCar Wreck



Positioning of the grandstand came under fire after the crash
IndyCar driver Will Power "questioned the bumpy track surface and the position of the grandstand in the area of the street circuit involved" in Sunday's final-lap crash at the Shell-Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, according to Jeff Olson of USA TODAY. Power said, "Next year they'll have to grind that section of the track down (to make it more smooth)." Olson notes debris from the wreck as well as a piece of the catchfence entered the grandstand. The grandstand's positioning -- "on the outside of a high-speed, sweeping turn -- also came under fire after the incident." Power said, "You would never expect a grandstand outside a big sweeping corner like that." IndyCar, which returned open-wheel racing to Houston for the first time since '07, "had problems with the course starting Friday when the doubleheader race schedule was delayed after a large bump in Turn 1 delayed practice sessions as track and IndyCar officials erected a temporary tire chicane." Race promoter Mike Lanigan following the Friday delay "noted the short time he and his crew had to set up the course" because of the Seahawks-Texans game Sept. 29 at nearby Reliant Stadium. Meanwhile, Power "praised the fence and the car for preventing a larger catastrophe." While a section of the fence "did end up in the crowd, Power noted that it effectively sent" driver Dario Franchitti's car "back onto the circuit and not into the grandstand" (USA TODAY, 10/8).

SAFETY CONCERNS:'s Michael Pearson wrote the issue of fan safety has "long been on IndyCar's agenda." The issue was "amplified two years ago, when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died after his car struck a fence support" during IndyCar's season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. An IndyCar consultant last year said that it was "committed to investigating ways to better design barriers to prevent crash debris from reaching fans" (, 10/7). NBC's Brian Williams said Franchitti's "frightening crash ... shook up the world of auto racing.” SI Senior Editor Richard O'Brien said of safety at tracks, "It's impossible to completely protect the spectators using the catch fencing as it exists now because it's something you can see through" ("Nightly News," NBC, 10/7).

: The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote almost a year after the Hulman & Co. BOD ousted CEO Randy Bernard, "little progress has been made with IndyCar." Fryer: "In fact, some might argue the series has taken a step or two backward." The BOD elevated Mark Miles in late November to CEO, but "not much has been accomplished so far under his watch beyond the recently announced road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway." The Baltimore Grand Prix is "falling off the schedule after three years," and there "appears to be questions about the future of the event in Brazil" with the '14 schedule yet to be released. Series title sponsor Izod is "leaving at the end of the season, and Miles has yet to fill the role of head of IndyCar and IMS' commercial division -- the person who would likely be trying to replace Izod." So it is "fitting, really," that Franchitti's crash is "the one thing this season that has gotten IndyCar some mainstream attention." The accident was "replayed on television stations across the country and even made a morning show or two" yesterday. It came "with a hitch, though: At least one network mistakenly referred to IndyCar as NASCAR, and instead of recognizing Franchitti for his impressive racing resume, more than a few chose to identify him as the ex-husband of actress Ashley Judd" (AP, 10/7).
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