Published May 24, 2009
The scariest moments in auto racing are often at the start of the Indianapolis 500, when the green flag sends all 33 starters accelerating toward the narrow first turn.
Crashes have occurred on the first lap on six occasions in the past 23 years. That includes 2001, when pole-starter Scott Sharp hit the wall just seconds after the start. In 2006, teammates P.J. Chesson and Jeff Bucknum collided on the second lap and went into the wall.
"Some segments of the race are about position, but the first turn of the first lap isn't one of them," Indy Racing League president Brian Barnhart said Saturday at the drivers meeting along the straightaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Let's get off to a safe start."
It's a warning he gives the drivers every year.
"The start here is unique," Barnhart said of the three-abreast lineup on a track that is only 50 feet wide. "The key to a successful start is patience. Don't crowd the drivers around you. ... As you have heard a hundred times, you can't win the race on the first lap.
"Let the race come to you," he told the drivers. "Concentration is vital all day long. Put yourself in position to compete for the win at the end. Control your own destiny with good decisions."
Crashes sidelined 10 drivers in last year's race, the first on the 37th lap by then-rookie Graham Rahal.