Roger Penske Says IndyCar Will Investigate Crash That Sent Wheel Soaring Over Fans

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There was a lot to discuss about this year’s Indianapolis 500. However, one of the biggest talking points was the terrifying crash that sent a wheel flying over the iconic track’s catch fence and into a nearby parking lot.

The incident occurred with just 14 laps to go in what had been otherwise fairly clean race. Arrown McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist hit the wall between Turns 1 and 2. He then slid back down the track where Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood was unable to avoid clipping him. This sent Kirkwood into the wall and flipped him upside down. Meanwhile his left-rear tire shot over the catch and appeared to fly over fans’ heads.

The incident was concerning. Especially given how scary a piece of debris — especially as heavy as a wheel — flying into the crowd is. Luckily, the wheel only damaged a parked car, though it’s estimated to have traveled 350 yards before coming to rest.

“We haven’t had a wheel come off in a long time,” Roger Penske, the owner of both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Team Penske, said. “We were very fortunate we didn’t have a bad accident.

“I saw what happened, saw it bounced on top of a building and went and hit a car over there, which obviously is very concerning,” he. continued, per ESPN.

“We have tethers on the wheels, and it was a rear wheel that came off, and I’m sure the guys at IndyCar will look at it, will determine what really happened.”

Kyle Kirkwood Indy 500 crash
Andretti Autosport driver Kyle Kirkwood slides along the outside wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at his year’s Indianapolis 500. His left rear tire was in a nearby parking lot at the time. (© Jef Richards/For IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Similar Incidents Have Occurred In IndyCar Before

IndyCar has had similar incidents before. A fan was killed during the Indy 500 in 1987 when a tire off of driver Tony Bettenhausen car went into the stands. In 1999, another incident in North Carolina sent a tire into the crowd and left three spectators dead.

According to Indianapolis’ WRTV, IndyCar has mandated that cars feature wheel tethers to prevent this from happening. However, they report that IndyCar denies Sunday’s incident occurred because of a faulty tether. It didn’t elaborate on what led to the wheel coming off of Kirkwood’s car.

Ahead of this season, IndyCar implemented a slew of new safety features including stronger rear-wheel tethers.

“As a series known for innovation, for the last 24 years, INDYCAR has mandated a wheel suspension tether (energy management system), which uses high-performance Zylon material. It can withstand a force of over 22,000 pounds. INDYCAR said was the first sanctioning body in the United States to require its use,” a statement released Monday by IndyCar said.

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Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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