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Racing

Photo-Op On Indy 500 Race Track Nearly Ends In Disaster

Herta skirting the outside wall to avoid mayhem.
Screenshot: NBC Sports/YouTube

Now, I have never raced anything faster than a bicycle, but in my amateur opinion, a good time to take a commemorative photo of you and your boys driving your cars really slow is probably not during a practice lap where everyone else is driving their cars really fast. Unfortunately, this is what happened Thursday at Indianapolis 500 practice, and it nearly caused a potentially devastating crash between Colton Herta, seen here barreling around the outside, and Scott McLaughlin, seen here being barreled into:

Herta had to wing it around the outside corner and partially into McLaughlin because Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, and Santino Ferrucci from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing all slowed down to 100 MPH and fanned out across the track in order to position themselves for a photo-op in front of the Yard of Bricks finish during the first lap of Indy 500 practice. McLaughlin and Simona De Silvestro were the first drivers to spot the trio, and they braked to 170 MPH. Herta, however, was around the corner from the three RLL cars, and since it was impossible for him to miss McLaughlin’s car given their relative speeds, he had to scrape both McLaughlin’s car and the outside wall in an attempt to avoid an even bigger crash. Naturally, Herta was pissed.

“It turns out going three-wide for a photo op during IndyCar practice isn’t an ideal situation,” he told IndyCar Radio shortly after the crash. “They’re going 100 MPH on the front straight while guys are running 220. Whoever is in charge of that at Rahal is a complete idiot and just risking everybody’s life out there for the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen […] I’m not mad at Scott and Simona. It’s those Rahal guys that completely ruined everything. It’s crazy.”

IndyCar announced that the three RLL drivers would be penalized for the incident by being held out for the first 30 minutes of Friday’s full practice. RLL boss Bob Rahal was pissed about this, and he complained that Roger Penske’s team hadn’t been penalized for a somewhat similar photo-op, even though the Penske photo was taken during a time when the track was specifically open only for non-competitive laps. “We’re going to miss 30 minutes of practice, you mean for what Roger did the day before?” he said. “We were at the start-finish line when it all happened and from what I understand, the Penske guys were going slower, so they didn’t have a problem with it. I’m disappointed with it and I’ll talk to IndyCar about it.”

Rahal’s day got even worse shortly after the whoopsie when Ferrucci spun out on his own, crashed at a higher speed, was hospitalized with a leg injury, though he was released with “no significant” injuries.

Both McLaughlin and Herta were unhurt following the initial crash, and though Herta initially called McLaughlin and De Silvestro “idiots,” everyone got on good terms quickly once they figured out the whole situation. Also, neither car suffered lasting mechanical damage. “The most important thing is this is our main car,” Herta said. “It’s the car we’ve prepped for Indy. It’s our fast car. And it didn’t get hurt too bad.”