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Callum Ilott is latest IndyCar driver to give thanks for aeroscreen after Texas incident

Callum Ilott aeroscreen IndyCar

Mar 20, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Juncos Hollinger Racing driver Callum Ilott (77) of United Kingdom is introduced before the start of the NTT IndyCar Series XPEL 375 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Callum Ilott is the latest NTT IndyCar Series driver to credit the aeroscreen for helping avoid a potentially serious injury or worse.

IndyCar president Jay Frye tweeted out video Wednesday night from Ilott’s close call with a part that flew off Jack Harvey’s car during his practice crash March 19 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“This incredibly high tech/game changer did its job again,” Frye posted on Twitter. “Thanks again for (an) incredible effort to all involved getting it done.”

The cockpit safety device implemented in 2020 by IndyCar deflected what Ilott described as a pushrod that flew down the backstretch from Harvey’s wreck while Ilott appeared to be slowing down from a top speed that typically is well in excess of 200mph on the 1.5-mile oval.

Ilott also tweeted his gratitude to IndyCar for the aeroscreen -- echoing the sentiment of Ryan Hunter-Reay last season.

After a crash on the opening lap of the 2021 season opener at Barber Motorsports Park, Hunter-Reay said the aeroscreen “likely saved my life” while posting photos and videos to social media of the crash.

The right-front wheel of Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet get airborne over Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda in the incident, but the wheel harmlessly deflected away because of the aeroscreen instead of hitting Hunter-Reay’s helmet.

Frye later told reporters that IndyCar had studied the crash involving Hunter-Reay “very thoroughly. The aeroscreen did an amazing job. It did what it was designed to do.

“I think if you look at the magnitude of what happened, and the condition that the current screen is in, it basically was untouched. There was some marks on the tearoffs, there was a wicker that goes down the front that was sheared off. Other than that it was basically unscathed.”

The aeroscreen worked during a similar airborne wreck in the July 17, 2020 race at Iowa Speedway involving Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay during a restart incident at Iowa Speedway. VeeKay credited being unhurt in the crash to the aeroscreen.

Will Power also was protected from a loose left-front wheel that was jarred loose and went flying over his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet in a 2020 crash. Last year after the crash involving Hunter-Reay, Power told The Associated Press at St. Petersburg that the aeroscreen would have avoided the past two IndyCar driver fatalities: Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011 and Justin Wilson at Pocono Raceway in 2015.

“To me, it would have prevented the last two deaths,” Power said. “I’m pretty sure for Justin, it would have bounced off (the aeroscreen) and Dan would have ricocheted off (the fence). You can’t say for sure, but it’s a huge advancement. Huge.”

Callum Ilott - XPEL 375_LargeImageWithoutWatermark_m53013

Callum Ilott (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Ilott, 23, finished 16th of 27 cars at Texas in his racing debut on an oval the day after the crash involving Harvey (who missed the race because of concussion protocol). The Cambridge, England, native began racing in IndyCar last year after finishing runner-up in the 2020 F2 points standings as a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Ilott is part of IndyCar’s six-driver rookie class in the 2022 season. He is ranked 16th in points through the first two races this year.

The Juncos Hollinger Racing driver also noted the aeroscreen of his No. 77 Dallara-Chevrolet sustained hardly any damage in the high-velocity impact with the part.

The IndyCar Series will be returning to the streets of Long Beach, California this weekend for the Acura Grand Prix (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock)