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Ryan Hunter-Reay says IndyCar aeroscreen ‘likely saved my life’ during crash at Barber

IndyCar Hunter-Reay aeroscreen crash

Another camera angle gave Ryan Hunter-Reay a new perspective -- literally and figuratively -- of the aeroscreen after a crash on the opening lap Sunday of the NTT IndyCar Series season opener at Barber Motorsports Park.

The 2012 series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner posted photos and video to social media platforms Monday that showed the right front wheel of Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet get airborne over Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda. Because of the aeroscreen (the cockpit safety device implemented last year by IndyCar), the wheel harmlessly deflected away instead of striking Hunter-Reay’s helmet.

Hunter-Reay posted on Instagram: “Unlucky or lucky? I’d say I’m extremely fortunate to have the IndyCar aeroscreen here. Thank you to all involved for making this safety innovation a reality.”

He also posted on Twitter that he was “extremely grateful for the IndyCar Aeroscreen. Likely saved my life.”

In a Zoom news conference Wednesday, IndyCar president Jay Frye said the series has been studying the crash “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.”

Sunday’s crash began when Newgarden lost control of his car in the middle of traffic in the fifth turn. The Team Penske driver and Andretti failed to complete a lap after the wreck, which also impacted Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist and Max Chilton.

Herta was involved in a similar airborne wreck last year when his car got airborne over the cockpit of Rinus VeeKay in a restart incident at Iowa Speedway. VeeKay credited being unhurt in the crash to the aeroscreen, which has been hailed often as a major safety advancement by drivers.

“Man, I can’t thank IndyCar enough for everything they’ve done safety-wise with the aeroscreen and halo inside the aeroscreen,” VeeKay said.

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 crash last year.

In the wake of Hunter-Reay’s crash, Power said Friday to The Associated Press at St. Petersburg that the aeroscreen would have saved 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.”

IndyCar will return to action Sunday with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (noon ET, NBC).