Marcus Ericsson wins the IndyCar season opener as a massive two-car aerial crash in St. Petersburg

The NTT IndyCar Series 2023 season kicked off with a bang — or rather, a crash — Sunday at the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg

In a race that saw Andretti Autosport teammates Devlin DeFrancesco and Kyle Kirkwood both airborne in a huge separate crash that ended DeFrancesco’s day and included nearly half of the 27-car field, the season opener was a day of attrition.

In the end, it was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner, who took the checkered flag at the track in St. Petersburg, Florida, for his IndyCar career victory.

Swedish course, agent no. 8 Honda, runner Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Racing Chevrolet held off by 2.4113 seconds. Scott Dixon, Ericsson’s teammate and six-time IndyCar Series champion, finished third in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

What kind of behavior is it?

Lap 1 incident included nine cars, ending in five days

IndyCar race control was forced to throw out the red flag on Lap 1 of the IndyCar season opener after a pileup that involved nearly a third of the 27-car field and sent second-year Andretti Autosport driver Devlin DeFrancesco airborne.

Things were kicked off by Felice Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon, who took 8th and 9th, respectively, competing for position in Turn 1 after the green flag. Dixon said on NBC’s Red Flag broadcast that he thought he only had a “small rub” as he held onto the inside position between the drivers’ right and left fronts.

“My friend is happy, man. I feel really sad,” Dixon said on the NBC broadcast. “We got into the exit of Turn 2 and into 3 like a funnel. I thought I was clear, but you saw in the mirror that he backed up, and it was a big blow to him.”

Devlin DeFrancesco went airborne on lap 1 of the IndyCar season opener at St. Pete.

Devlin DeFrancesco went airborne on lap 1 of the IndyCar season opener at St. Pete.

For Rosenqvist, and much of the field, it turned out far worse.

“He felt like he didn’t see that I was there, and when the wall went back to the left, I never expected him to deviate outside the normal course line,” Rosenqvist told NBC. “I wasn’t really going out. I was just trying to get through the first two turns. He was in the red, so he was probably going to get to me anyway. I was just hanging there, but I don’t know if he knew I was there.

Dixon’s hip-check then sent Rosenqvist into the wall, damaging his car enough to continue down the track and slowing him down. Behind him, cars began to crash into the rocks in reaction, forcing a multi-car pileup between Turns 3 and 4 that closed the course and prompted a red flag.

The chain reaction started when Santino Ferrucci dug the back of Helio Castroneves. With Castroneves in the middle of the track, Andretti Autosport’s Devlin DeFrancesco was going nowhere, although Jack Harvey made little contact with him as he navigated the incident. Sting Ray Robb couldn’t manage to avoid hitting DeFrancesco with his front wing.

The biggest contact came as AJ Foyt Racing rookie Benjamin Pedersen flew into the frame and ran square into DeFrancesco’s side and sent him airborne and 180 degrees around.

Devlin DeFrancesco went airborne on lap 1 of the IndyCar season opener at St. Pete.

Devlin DeFrancesco went airborne on lap 1 of the IndyCar season opener at St. Pete.

“I’m fine, but it was really hard to beat and it’s not the way you want to start the season,” DeFrancesco said. “I saw Helios spinning in front of me, and I got up in the blocks but there was nowhere to go. And when I saw him coming, I thought, ‘Oh no, he’s going to be great.’ They just suited up and got him ready. The ride was fierce.”

Towards the end Simon Pagenaud also couldn’t avoid a pileup and ended up in the wall. He told NBC he thought he could navigate the incident, but his window closed just as Robb shot out in front of him. He told the NBC broadcast that he had “a minute finger issue” but was otherwise “OK.”

“I kind of expected it to be honest,” Pagenaud said, “because it’s a tricky area all weekend. I thought I did it. That’s my strong case, to avoid those crashes.”

Castroneves got out of his car with a noticeable limp in his right leg and told NBC that an X-ray was obtained on his right knee in IndyCar’s New Medical Unit mobile unit, but he came back all clear.

“Everything’s fine. Like when you hit your mouth funny, you’re like, ‘Ahh, it hurts!'” Castroneves said. “I just put ice on it so everything’s fine.”

“I just got hit from behind, and then I knew, I saw a car passing over me. I’m so lucky that for the amount of crash we had from everyone there, we didn’t have an exit.”

Added Ferrucci: “I’m fine, but I’m worried for AJ Foyt Racing. It’s one of those things where, with a consensus and a performance like that, you can’t do anything. Everyone’s depressed, and I was just smoking. I went straight to the back of Helio. it was going to be fine, but the way he was coming then, he hit my right column and killed our kind.”

When the red flag was thrown, the race was halted for about 20 minutes as the AMR Safety Team cleared the cars and wreckage. The race returned to green on lap 5. DeFrancesco, Ferrucci, Pedersen, Pagenaud and Castroneves were all seen and released from the medical center. Those five car drivers were all too injured to continue in Sunday’s 100-lap race, while Arrow Rosenqvist’s McLaren crew drove their No. 6 Chevy returned to the garage hoping to make up for the team’s several laps before IndyCar’s four-week break. ahead of Race No. 2 at Texas.

Lap 41: Kirkwood sails into the top two cars

One lap after the race to the green following Conor Daly’s spin and resulting in a stall at Turn 9 on lap 36, the chaos soon turned one off the track, resulting in a pileup in the group 1. Rinus VeeKay was trying to make himself 4 and couldn’t avoid the tire block outside the wall. Running just behind him, Jack Harvey couldn’t avoid Ed Carpenter Racing’s car and barreled into his side. After two and 17 runs at the time, Kyle Kirkwood squared into the back of Harvey’s No. 30 Honda ran and went fully air.

VeeKay got out of the car without the child, but Harvey’s exit clearly worked. He was seen leaning over while sitting on the back of the AMR Safety Team truck surrounded by security personnel. Kirkwood managed to navigate his car to the pits, where the No. 27 Honda regained its first horn and dropped it with two laps.

“It’s just a bit tricky there. I’m glad I’m fine, but I hope Jack’s cause appears to be a bit painful,” VeeKay told NBC Sports. “Josef was inside, and I was like a finger (off-line), and there you are going out of hand and you can do nothing. I am really bummed, because I really wanted to finish the first race. of the moment and carry that moment.

IndyCar announced Harvey was taken to a local hospital for evaluation as a precaution.

5 lap: Power sends Herta to the wall

As the race went back to green on lap 50, things continued to go from bad to worse for Andretti Autosport, as Will Power and Colton Herta took turns 5-8. Herta held the edge to enter Turn 8, though he’d been forced off-line, and he ended up in the tires. Power was sent to the back of the field for his role in the incident, and the day was Herta, becoming the eighth car eliminated from the field (Rosenqvist was able to return on-track, 40 laps, after his lap 1 crash).

“I thought I was far ahead (of Power), but I felt a tag on the left rear,” Herta told NBC Sports of the incident. “He wanted to use the next state to get out there. I don’t know what I can do there except hit the wall.

“He’s unfortunate. What an (expletive).”

Lap 72: Race leaders McLaughlin, Grosjean crash wide

Romain Grosjean hasn’t won a race of any kind in 12 years when he gets into his car on Sunday at St. Pete, and he knows it.

So with that in mind, the Swiss-born Frenchman, under contract for the year with Andretti Autosport, tried everything and caught Scott McLaughlin on Lap 72 as the pair drag-raced down the straight from Turn 3. With neither wanting. Budge – McLaughlin on the inside and Grosjean hoping to wink the Penske driver and allow him to fly around the outside – knocking a pair of wheels and both ended up crashing into the barrier that just minutes earlier had collected Harvey, VeeKay’s Kyle Kirkwood.

McLaughlin was able to stay in the pitlane after the repairs, but received a penalty for an avoidable incident. Grosjean’s birthday was the 18th.

“I think what happened was pretty obvious on TV, so I didn’t work on it,” Grosjean told NBC Sports. “I am very disappointed, and I hope that the rules will be established. I am afraid I will trouble you to speak to me while the race is going on.”

Grosjean led the first 31 laps of the race until he made the first green flag pitstop, handing the lead to McLaughlin, who then crashed on lap 35. When Conor Daly did the yellow on lap 36 as leader Scott Dixon pulled over. Pits McLaughlin held Grosjean’s lead.

The Andretti Autosport driver shadowed McLaughlin at the next stint, hanging around just under 1-second back until the slush on lap 70. McLaughlin then followed suit on the next lap and kicked a shot out of the pits just ahead of Grosjean. Their race in Round 4 was led by Pato O’Ward.

This article first appeared in the Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: Marcus Ericsson St. Petersburg wins the race dominated by the fall

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