INDIANAPOLIS — Many fans held their collective breath, with one fan reporting a minor injury and another seeing his car in a damaged track parking lot after a crash in the Indianapolis 500 sent a tire spinning on the grandstands.
“I didn’t see it go down,” said Robin Matthews, an Indianapolis motor racing fan and the owner of the parked car hit by the tire that came off Kyle Kirkwood’s car. “I got out and they said ‘Robin, this is your car!’ I thought, ‘No.’ I thought someone was playing a joke on me.
“It’s a car. It’s good.”
A spokesperson for IMS told IndyStar that a spectator presented to the on-field medical center with minor injuries related to flying debris in the stands on Sunday.
The spokesperson said no injuries were reported from the tire itself. The debris-injured spectator was seen and released from the on-pitch care facility.
Indy 500: Loose tire flies over fencing, fans after end of race crash
Felix Rosenqvist, who was racing in the top 5 late in the race, lost the air from his front nose after being passed by Josef Newgarden in Turn 1 and slid into the wall. Once the car made contact with the outside wall, it slid down the track and was clipped by Kyle Kirkwood.
‘It’s a miracle’: Fans react after tire flies off Indy 500 car and above spectators
Kirkwood, winner earlier this season at Long Beach, tried to avoid Rosenqvist’s spinning car, but Kirkwood’s No. 27 contacted Rosenqvist’s No. 6 and threw Kirkwood into the wall at Turn 2. When the Andretti Autosport driver crashed into the wall at Turn 2, the car flew off, flipping and sliding down the rear stretch.
As Kirkwood’s car was rolling, a tire came loose and heaved over the catch fence. Fans in the Turn 2 grandstand reported that the tire sailed several feet above them, landing in a parking area between the grandstand and the aftermath of Turn 2. The tire first struck the car of Matthews, before bouncing on a golf cart.
No injuries were reported as the tires landed, only debris flying into the crowd. Fans in the area told IndyStar that at no time did they see emergency medical personnel entering the stands.
“I was on that bend,” tweeted Indianapolis author John Green. “Extremely relieved, everyone seems to be fine. Watching a wheel fly over my friends at 150 miles per hour is not an experience I look forward to repeating.
‘I was in this bend’: Author John Green tweets about an Indianapolis 500 tire flying above the crowd
The crash at the track ended on Sunday for Rosenqvist and Kirkwood, contenders deeply committed to racing before the incident.
It was the first of a series of messy crashes that disrupted the end of a relatively clean race so far. Sunday’s 500 did not see a yellow flag until lap 91. In the first 150 laps there were only two yellows, but the accident involving Rosenqvist and Kirkwood was the first of three to cause a red flag stoppage in the final 15 laps of the race.
The sight of Kirkwood’s wheel cruising towards the crowd evoked chilling memories for longtime 500 fans. The race’s last spectator fatality came in 1987, when a wheel from the #56 car of Tony Bettenhausen struck and killed Lyle Kurtenbach of Rothschild, Wisconsin, sitting in the grandstand at Turn 3.
Fear of debris from crashes entering crowds has long been a concern in motor racing. IndyCar introduced wheel ties, intended to secure wheels to cars even in the event of a crash, in 1999. These ties were reinforced in December, particularly in the rear assemblies of cars, with regulations also reducing their life authorized from three to two years.
In Sunday’s wreckage, Kirkwood’s car appeared to crush Rosenqvist just at the wheel well, ripping off his left rear tire and throwing him into the crowd.
“It’s very worrying,” said IMS and IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske, who saw one of his drivers, Newgarden, claim victory on Sunday. “We have ties on the wheels. I know it’s a rear wheel that came off, and I’m sure the IndyCar guys are going to look at it, figure out what really happened. We don’t. haven’t seen a wheel come off in a long time.
“We have high fences here, but we were very lucky not to have had a serious accident.”
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Newgarden won’t be the only one leaving the 107th edition of this legendary event with an indelible memory. Matthews, who said he’s attended multiple Indy 500s in his life, comes away with a remarkable, if somewhat unwanted, story.
His car suffered damage to the left front side, near the headlight. But Matthews said she was just thankful no one was seriously hurt.
“It’s good,” she said. “It’s just a vehicle. Something we can replace.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indy 500 tire dodges fans after crash hits parked car