Tristan Vautier’s car was lying in a crumpled heap – minus the entire right-side suspension, its gearbox shattered along with a damaged tub and Honda engine – a promising night of running up front wiped out in seconds. A few feet away sat teammate Ed Jones’ Dallara – its left-side suspension and bodywork wadded up.
“One car totaled and another one crashed all because of one guy driving like an idiot,” a Dale Coyne mechanic said, referring to Tony Kanaan, who Coyne confronted during the red flag following the carnage.
Outside the Texas Motor Speedway garage the Schmidt Peterson crew had just finished loading the battered machines of James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin – both spattered into the wall when T.K. got into Hinchcliffe to trigger the melee.
“Gearboxes, headers, exhausts, all the wings and maybe the engine on one of them,” said one of the crewmembers. “A lot of money.”
About 100 yards away the Andretti Autosport crew was assessing the damage to Takuma Sato’s car. The 2017 Indy 500 winner was running third when he clipped the grass and spun into second-place Scott Dixon on Lap 244 – putting them both in the wall and also collecting Max Chilton and Conor Daly.
Three of the four corners on Sato’s car were written off – almost identical to the wounds of Alexander Rossi’s Honda after the 2016 Indy winner said he was squeezed into Kanaan and then the wall by Dixon on Lap 37.
“The bodywork alone on Rossi is probably $30,000 and they’re both hurt pretty bad,” said a mechanic for Ryan-Hunter Reay, whose driver was put into the wall during the biggest wreck of the Texas crashfest. But the DHL Special was only moderately wounded compared to most.
Even the race winners, Team Penske, came out in the red because Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden both crashed hard in separate incidents that virtually destroyed the three-time Indy winner’s car after the right front tire went down on Lap 91 and hit the outside and inside walls.
“Can’t say for sure yet but it’s pretty bad,” one Penske crewman replied when asked to access Castroneves’ damage.
With 12 of 22 starters eliminated by accidents on the high-speed oval it had to be one of the most costly races ever in terms of monetary damage. RACER, with input from Dallara and some team managers, conservatively estimates the amount to be $1.8 million.
So besides Will Power, the real winners on Saturday night were Dallara, Xtrac, Aerodine Composites, Cosworth, Honda and Chevrolet because they will sell all the replacement parts to the IndyCar teams.
“We had a few teams approach us after the race to tell us what they needed and we haven’t heard yet from Andretti and Carpenter but they wanted to make sure our truck was back on Monday morning so they could come over,” said Sam Garrett, the quality control leader for Dallara.
“We saw a lot of sidepod and suspension damage and a bunch of radiator inlet ducts plus the main planes and under-wings. And when you have a lot of right-side sidepod damage it usually means electrical boxes and harnesses are also damaged. I know Dale had some tub damage so we’ll work with Aerodine on that and it looked like several gearboxes took big hits.”
While it’s impossible for RACER to pinpoint the exact total crash damage, here’s some CliffsNotes to help, thanks to Garrett and the team managers. Dallara sells an underwing for $9,500; the front and rear main planes (wings) go for $7,000 but with all the additional widgets hanging off it that comes to $25,000; uprights run $5,000 apiece; radiator inlet ducts cost $2,700; and wishbones (upper and lower) are $2,500 apiece. Honda and Chevy sell sidepods, end plates and wheel guards – basically the aero kit is $80,000 if bought complete but more expensive if pieced together. An Xtrac gearbox could be as much as $80,000 if backed into the wall and destroyed but not quite that costly if some of the internal parts can be salvaged.
The electrical system is roughly $100,000, with harnesses going for $25,000; Cosworth sells them but Honda is thought to try and repair damaged ones for its teams.
And if you back your engine into a wall then it goes back to the manufacturer and you get billed for whatever components were broken in the accident.
“Scott’s crash wasn’t too bad but it was still $100,000,” said Mike Hull, the managing director for Chip Ganassi Racing. “The bigger ones like Helio and Vautier had to be at least $300,000 and obviously it was a very expensive night.”
Everyone but Ganassi (who is sending two cars to Watkins Glen) was originally scheduled for an open test on Wednesday at Road America, but now there will only be six or seven cars there.
“You don’t plan for giant crashes and I’m a little nervous we have all the parts we need but I think we’ll be OK,” Garrett said. “The good news is that we have two weeks before the next race.”