Ed Carpenter
Accidents at Indy raise safety concerns
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Chris Symeon - Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Indianapolis 500 has long been one of the biggest auto racing events in the world, but this year's race is being surrounded by safety concerns following several major crashes that have happened during practice.

Within the past week, five major accidents have occurred at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as teams have been preparing for the 99th running of the Indy 500, scheduled for Sunday.

James Hinchcliffe was seriously injured during Monday's practice session when his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda slammed hard right-side into the SAFER barrier in turn 3 and then spun down the track before it briefly rolled on to its side and came to rest on its wheels. His car experienced suspension failure, causing it to shoot up the track and into the barrier.

Hinchcliffe, a 28-year-old Toronto native, was immediately taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he underwent emergency surgery on his upper left thigh to repair an artery. According to multiple reports, Hinchcliffe suffered massive blood loss when a piece of the front suspension from his car pierced through his thigh.

On Tuesday, Hinchcliffe remained in stable condition and was undergoing further evaluation in the intensive care unit. He will not compete in the Indy 500. Hinchcliffe has been ruled out of IndyCar competition for the foreseeable future. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports did not immediately announce a replacement driver for him.

"Words can't describe how thankful I am to the Holmatro Safety Team," Hinchcliffe said in a team statement. "Those guys, in addition to the doctors and staff at the hospital, are my heroes. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from IndyCar fans, my family and fellow drivers. We are all one big family, and it feels like that today."

Prior to Hinchcliffe's wreck, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter were each involved in a spectacular crash in which their car went airborne after running at speeds of more than 220 mph. In another accident, Pippa Mann spun out while exiting turn 4 and made hard contact with the inside wall near pit lane. Neither Castroneves, Newgarden, Carpenter nor Mann were injured in their wrecks.

Castroneves and Mann's accidents occurred on May 13, while Newgarden's crash happened on the following day. Carpenter wrecked in the early minutes of practice last Sunday, which was held prior to Indy 500 qualifying.

Due to the seriousness of these crashes, IndyCar officials were forced to make modifications to the cars to make them slower, including reduction in horsepower and changes to the aerodynamic bodywork package.

When IndyCar announced its changes to the cars and the qualifying format for the Indy 500 during a press conference, Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president of competition and operations, said, "We've got a situation and we're trying to learn as quick as we can and at the same time put on a competitive race with basically two different configurations, two different car designs. It's quite a complex issue."

This year, the Chevrolet and Honda cars have new aero kits. The first five races in IndyCar this season have been contested on road/street courses, including the May 9 event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The Indy 500 is the first oval race of the season.

IndyCar teams have just become familiar with the aero kits for superspeedways (oval tracks two miles or more in length). Teams started testing those cars at IMS at the beginning of this month.

Each of the major crashes here at this famed 2.5-mile track has been caused by something different. Hinchcliffe's incident was not related to the new aero kit.

Even though IndyCar has made changes to the cars in hopes of making them safer, there are still big concerns about the Indy 500 race.

Are drivers going to be at grave risk while in race conditions?

"Safety is always important, and this series does a great job at it," Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan said on Monday following Hinchcliffe's crash. "We have to understand that this is motor racing, and there are accepted risks we take. I'm willing to take those risks. That's what separates us from normal people. That's why there's only 33 of us here that do this.

"The day I think it's unsafe and I feel scared is the day you see me on the other side of the camera. I'm a racer and I want to race Sunday. This is for the Indianapolis 500. This is for the tough guys."

In October 2011, IndyCar endured its darkest moment when Dan Wheldon, a two- time Indy 500 winner and former series champion, suffered a non-survivable head injury during a horrifying 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. IndyCar has feverishly worked on safety initiatives for both the cars and its sanctioned tracks, particularly the ovals, since Wheldon's death.

"Every time we hop in that race car, we don't know if we're going to come out of it, if you're going to come out of it in one piece, if something is going to happen to you," Kanaan said. "It's never easy to see a friend of yours get hurt or lose a friend of yours. But this is the sport that we chose. Accidents happen. We hate them, but it's part of our job."

Roughly three hours after Hinchcliffe's accident, Indy 500 practice resumed, which was incident-free. A final one-hour practice for this race is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Friday.

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