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First-lap crash in IndyCar opener eliminates multiple contenders at Barber

Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton, and Rinus VeeKay are involved in the Lap 1 chaos during the IndyCar Series opener at Barber Motorsports Park.

A crash on the opening lap of the NTT IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsports Park was costly for many of the series’ big names.

The six-car incident started with an uncharacteristic mistake by two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, who spun in the middle of the pack while cresting the hill in Turn 5.

The No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet’s wreck also collected the cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Rinus VeeKay (who managed to avoid the damage of the other cars).

Jimmie Johnson, who started 21st in his IndyCar debut, slammed on the brakes and skirted the wreckage without affecting his No. 48 Dallara-Honda.

“I got loose coming over the hill, I just got loose in the wake,” Newgarden, who leads IndyCar with three victories at Barber, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “I thought I had the car and then touched the grass. Once I touched the grass, that pitched me sideways.

“I feel really bad for anyone that got involved in that. Obviously, my mess created a bigger mess. So any of the cars that got involved I’m real sorry because obviously, it was us that tipped it off.

“Shame, I felt we had a really good car. Just needed to file in at the start. But would of, could of, should of. We’ll come back; we just have to bounce back at the next one.”

Chilton and Rosenqvist returned after repairs but were multiple laps down. The crash eliminated Newgarden and Hunter-Reay, and Herta’s team still was working on repairs in the pits after 20 of 90 laps.

“Such a disappointing start,” said Herta, whose team already had repaired the No. 26 Dallara-Honda after a crash in practice Saturday. “Man, that sucks. Just waiting for (Newgarden) to find a direction to spin in, and unfortunately, he just kept going straight.

“I’m ready to get out of here and get going for St. Pete.”

The yellow flew a second time after a single-car spin in Turn 13 on Lap 9 for Johnson, who rolled away unscathed.