ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jack Harvey was taken to a hospital for observation and Helio Castroneves needed an ice pack and X-rays. A pair of cars went airborne, the leaders crashed into each other and the entire Andretti Autosport fleet was eliminated.
Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, meanwhile, won the IndyCar season-opening race.
Ericsson outlasted the chaos on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg for a surprise victory for Chip Ganassi Racing on a swampy Sunday in Florida. It was the fourth career IndyCar victory for the Swedish former Formula One driver.
“I think people forget us in some conversations when they talk about the championship,” Ericsson said. “We’re here to win. We won the 500. We were leading the championship for a long time. We’re here to win.”
It was supposed to be an Andretti car in victory lane, at least based on the speed the team showed all weekend. Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta started on the front row, but things began to unravel right at the start.
A seven-car accident on the first lap knocked five cars out of the race, including Andretti driver Devlin DeFrancesco, who was sent airborne when rookie Ben Pedersen slammed directly into his stopped car. Castroneves, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, limped away from the accident while his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud clutched his hand.
Castroneves left IndyCar’s new mobile medical care center with an ice pack on his right hand, and a clean X-ray taken on his right knee. Pagenaud said a finger was bruised, but he was fine.
Harvey wasn’t so lucky and was transported to a hospital — IndyCar said it was for an evaluation out of “an abundance of caution” — after Kyle Kirkwood became the second Andretti driver to go airborne and sailed directly over Harvey’s head. Rinus VeeKay had slid into a tire barrier, Harvey ran into the back of VeeKay and Kirkwood launched over both cars.
“It was a pretty disappointing way for our race to go there,” Harvey said later through his team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. “I really couldn’t avoid Rinus and then just had a little bit of pain in both wrists when I was trying to get out of the car. Physically, I’d say it was a tough race but I felt great.”
When Kirkwood launched, Michael Andretti slammed his hand on the pit stand in disgust.
But there was more to come.
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