Penske Racing president Tim Cindric says he expects changes to the Infineon Raceway turn in which two drivers were seriously injured last week, but he refused to blame the IndyCar Series or the track for the circumstances that led to the crash.
Cindric acknowledged that the track's full-course yellow lights did not illuminate until after Penske driver Will Power struck Nelson Philippe's disabled car during a practice session Aug. 22. He also acknowledged that Team Penske had a spotter in the corner and that the corner workers may have been in poor positions for visibility, but he said the team has been working with series and track officials to determine what can be done to prevent a similar accident.
“It's not Brian Barnhart's fault or Will Power's fault or Philippe's fault or the spotter's fault – it's one big process, I think, and we watch it evolve,” Cindric said Saturday before the start of the Peak Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. “There was a time when a driver wouldn't have survived that accident. Obviously, that corner is going to be improved in the future. We probably won't see a situation like that at that track, which is progress.”
Power is recovering at home in Indianapolis from fractures of two vertebrae and a concussion. Philippe sustained a compound fracture of his left leg. The accident occurred after Philippe's car spun and stopped on the track at the exit of Turn 3a, a slight right-hander at the crest of a hill. Unaware that Philippe's car was stopped ahead of him and unable to see it until it was too late to avoid it, Power slammed into Philippe's car at high speed.
“Will didn't have any indication that there was anything wrong, and that's the bottom line,” Cindric said. “You've got to be careful not to point fingers to the point that people don't want to be a part of making it better.”
The light at the corner was moved closer to the apex of the turn before the race in response to complaints that it was in a bad position. Criticism also was leveled at the positioning of the corner worker just behind the crest of the hill at the inside of the turn.
Cindric said avoiding future accidents is a process of cooperation among the teams, the sanctioning body, the safety workers and track officials.
“It's not the first time we've raced at that track,” Cindric said. “That's not a new corner for us. While everybody is talking about how the flagmen and the lights should have been different, it's not our first time there. Either we should have been more vocal about it and more demanding of it, or nobody really realized it until something happened. We're all part of this situation.”
Scott Dixon said he didn't think many of the proposals to address the issue – like moving the corner workers – would make the corner safer.
“Crashes happen, man,” he said. “Even going into the first practice, we talked about having accidents there. Before you know it, you've got an issue at that spot. … If you move the flagman, how is he going to see over the hill to see if someone has spun out? We're going to have similar issues at Barber with that, especially coming out of the last corner. You could say they should push the wall back and have more runoff there, but even in that scenario, you could have someone spin and sit in the middle of the track, like Philippe did. There's no good fix for it, unless you take the elevation out of the track.”
Meanwhile, Cindric also said he'll continue to try to keep Power employed at Penske Racing in 2010. In just six races, initially as a fill-in for Helio Castroneves, Power won once, finished among the top-five four times, and won two poles.
“It's our intention to do everything we can to get Will back in a Penske car next year,” Cindric said.