UPDATE: Colton Herta cleared to drive after terrifying airborne wreck in final Indy 500 practice
INDIANAPOLIS -- Colton Herta was uninjured and walked away after his car flipped over in a scary crash Friday during final practice for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
An IndyCar spokesman confirmed that Herta was cleared to drive in Sunday’s race (11 a.m. ET, NBC) after being re-evaluated Saturday afternoon.
The Andretti Autosport driver, who won the GMR Grand Prix two weeks ago at IMS, lost control of his No. 26 Dallara-Honda while exiting Turn 1 with 25 minutes left in the Carb Day session. After making right-rear contact with the SAFER barrier, the front of the car went airborne and landed upside down.
“We’re all good,” Herta radioed his team even before the car came to a stop after sliding for a few hundred feet down the chute between the first two turns.
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Herta’s father, Bryan, talked him through waiting on the AMR safety team, which arrived last than 10 seconds after the car came to rest while upside down.
“Everybody’s backing down you’re safe now,” Bryan Herta radioed. “Just wait for safety to get here. Just stay strapped in. Safety is here now. Just stay strapped in. Don’t unstrap, you’ll fall out the bottom.”
“Yep, copy,” Colton Herta said. “Sorry about that.”
It was the first major crash at IMS in which a car landed upside down since the advent of the aeroscreen, the cockpit safety device that was introduced to the NTT IndyCar Series two years ago.
“Yeah, a little bit of sadness for that race car,” Herta told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “It sucks. It seemed like it was OK. We were really loose that whole session. I think I was just going a little bit too fast for that corner. Wiggled and the air got underneath it. But yeah, I’m all good. I’m fine.
“Thankful for a lot of things. I guess the aeroscreen is part of that. But more so the AMR safety crew and the durability of the sidepods and all the side structure of the cars because that was a big hit from the side. And yeah for the safety crews, they were very fast to flip me back over.”
Dr. Geoffrey Billows, the IndyCar director of medical services, said Herta “initially” been cleared to drive, but the series still was determining if additional testing was needed.
“Colton is fine,” Dr. Billows told Burns outside the track’s infield care center. “He was speaking with his team on the radio before the AMR safety team even got there. He arrived at the infield care center, walked in himself.
“He’s been evaluated and initially cleared. Has passed his initial concussion screen with flying colors. IndyCar has a policy if accelerometer data on the car reaches a certain threshold, we’d do more thorough testing, and we’re just waiting to get that accelerometer data and then I’ll suspect he’ll be walking out that door.”
As of late Friday night, the Indy Star’s Nathan Brown said there remained no confirmation whether Herta had been cleared to drive for Sunday.
Though Herta was fine, his car wasn’t. NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee said the team would prepare a backup with parts salvaged from the wrecked vehicle.
“I think we were loose because it just rained, and the track was green,” said Herta, who had qualified 25th for the 106th Indy 500. “I think the biggest thing was this session we weren’t going to make any huge revelations in the car. We weren’t going to go from a terrible car to a winning car.
“We might have made small steps, but it was all about just getting the last little bits of balance right. Making sure everybody is OK for pit stops and everybody is happy with how the fuel tank was.
“It was our last chance, and we did get to do a lot of that stuff, so I’m thankful for that. Yeah, I’m not too worried for the race. I think the car will be fine.”
Per IndyCar rules, Herta will maintain his starting position despite going to a backup car.
There was one other incident in practice. About 20 minutes before Herta’ wreck, David Malukas cut a tire and spun into the Turn 1 wall after cutting a tire from contact with the No. 23 of Santino Ferrucci, whom he had tried to pass on the inside.
“I came out with just a small bruise,” Malukas told Burns. “For some reason he turned back down. I just held my line to go straight, and obviously him hitting me there, my tire went flat. You can’t really do much with a flat tire going at that speed.
“Two laps previously, I made that same move with (Dalton) Kellett, and both went through quite cleanly. Definitely was a little on the late side, but those late moves are going to be there for the race. I’m not so sure maybe he didn’t even have spotters or something, but if you hear somebody (say), ‘Inside, inside,’ I definitely wouldn’t be turning in. So I don’t think it was anything wrong from my end.
“I still feel very confident. The car was very quick. The car felt very good.”
Ferrucci took the blame for the incident with the No. 18, which he drove in 2020 for Dale Coyne Racing.
“I’m glad he’s OK,” Ferrucci told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “That was a big hit. He was coming, I knew he was coming. I could hear him (from) the spotters. It was a really late pass coming down to the line. I just came out to turn in because we were past the turn-in point for me. I just checked up and thought I timed it really well, and clearly I didn’t.
“That’s my mistake. Is what it is. I’m sorry for those guys I know well from two years ago, so I’m really bummed they’ve got to build a race car. So I’m really sorry. There’s not really much else I could have done there. Just a mistake on my part. Just misjudged.”
Tony Kanaan turned the fastest lap (227.114 mph) in final practice as Chip Ganassi Racing took four of the top seven speeds with Marcus Ericsson (second, 227.004), Scott Dixon (third, 226.696) and Jimmie Johnson (seventh, 225.974).
In the Ruoff Mortgage Pit Stop Challenge, Josef Newgarden’s team defeated Dixon’s.