By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
5:54 PM EDT, September 1, 2012
The outcome of Sunday's races could come down to how the drivers negotiate the chicane that officials initially removed after last year's inaugural event, then decided to put back late Friday night.
The Pratt Street chicane is designed to slow drivers down as they barrel over the light rail tracks, but several drivers failed to properly make it around the barrier Saturday and found themselves — and their cars — going in many different directions.
"If you're following another car into that chicane, you're going to be blinded where the curb is," three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti said. "That could go wrong pretty quickly. Not sure how many cars we've lost yet, but it's been an expensive day for a lot of teams."
Some, like Ed Carpenter, the only owner-driver in the Indy Car Series race, briefly went airborne before coming out unscathed. Six other Indy Car drivers, including Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti, hit the wall after failing to get through the area cleanly.
Sage Karam, whose Star Mazda Series car had moved into second place Saturday after falling back to 15th when his car bumped Gabby Chavez's during the start, hit the same wall and was knocked out of the race.
Jack Hawksworth, who won the race, could see "the carnage" behind him caused by the chicane. But Hawksworth said after his single-season record tying seventh victory that the sudden presence of the old-new chichane shouldn't be blamed for the chaos that unfolded.
"It's part of being a good racing driver, you have to adapt at what's thrown at you," Hawksworth said. "That's one of the main skills of being a racing driver."
Said Connor DePhillippi, who finished second, "If they put a ring of fire out there for you to drive through, that's what you have to do."
The chicane has raised concerns among the drivers going into Sunday's featured Grand Prix of Baltimore.
"It's just a quick thing that was put in," Franchitti said "Everything is risk we do. [Driver James] Hinchcliffe said it's a lottery. When you land, it's a lottery. I think the whole place is a risk. That's more a lottery as to where you land and how you land."
After a drivers' meeting late Saturday afternoon, Indy Car officials announced that they are considering restoring short stacks of tires on top of the outline of the chicanes as they had done earlier in the week. They are also considering changing the angle of the restraining wall in order to soften any possible impacts of cars that crash there.
Defending champion Will Power, who will have the pole Sunday, said the change in the course with the chicane is not a big problem.
"The way they built it, it was very easy to pick up," Power said. "I suggested that they put tires on the inside, so you can't just run over them. You feel obligated to because other people are. You feel like if you want to get through each round, you've got to attack that bloody chicane, take a risk."
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun