Race Weekend Central

The Scares, Dares & Nightmares of IndyCar

The witching hour is here, as families will parade through their neighborhoods in costumes for some holiday fun and candy gathering. 

Halloween doesn’t usually have a part to play in the NTT IndyCar Series season because, lets face it, there are no more races to air as the year ends and the championship is decided. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t frightening and eerie moments in the top American open-wheel series. 

Below are a list of some of the scariest IndyCar moments which put drivers and fans alike at the edge of their seats, likely somewhere in between panic and sheer emotional overload. 

The Saves

The first thing that comes to mind are the spectacular saves IndyCar drivers can make to prevent some catastrophic end to their race. Looking through some of the most recent #CodeBrown moments, here are some that stand out.

Alexander Rossi has some of the quickest hands in the cockpit. Nothing exemplifies that more than two saves he made on ovals in the late 2010s. The first was at Worldwide Technology Raceway in 2018. When trying to get around eventual winner Will Power, Rossi got up in the marbles out of turn 2 and washed up to the wall. His instincts to overcome opposite lock in the steering wheel ensured he’d continue on, and finish second. 

But that’s not even his best save. At Texas Motor Speedway the next year, Rossi metaphorically raised his hand and said, hold my beer. During the race, as Scott Dixon and Colton Herta touched ahead of him and spun into the wall, Rossi quickly dove to the apron. But the aggressive move upset the balance of his car, which vainly tried to crash. In the cockpit, Rossi fought his wheel like he was trying to hold a crocodile’s mouth closed, finally regaining control as he returned to the banking. The way his car was riding the edge and on verge of crashing, makes it one of the scariest, but unbelievable, sights on track. 

What is worse than losing control of a car on an oval though? How about driving at high-speed on a rain soaked track with some slick tires. Exhibit A in this regard is Herta’s drive at the 2022 GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With rain temporarily out of the area and the track drying, Herta’s crew made the call for dry, slick tires. And slick is definitely the right word. 

Returning to the track, Herta hounded leader Pato O’Ward, catching him off Hulman Boulevard. When he was poised to make his move though, the rear slipped. And this happened:

The young American barely slowed though, catching the car, man-handling it back under his control and catching O’Ward before the completion of that lap. Breath-taking.

Now, moving on to the pinnacle of car control and fear dwelling within the fans watching at home – Marco Andretti’s run at the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix in the wet. It goes without saying that the younger Andretti has not had the success of his father and grandfather, but if someone ever needed evidence to prove he deserved to be on a race track while we sit at home and watch, then this is it. Keep in mind, while he struggles with his car, this is on one of, if not, the bumpiest circuits then in the series. And all Andretti does is put the pedal down. 

See also
Max Verstappen Takes Charge From the Start, Wins Mexico City GP for 16th Win

He Who Brings Fear

A.J. Foyt is a legend in IndyCar. Seven championships and 67 wins, including four Indy 500s, has him at the summit of drivers to compete in the series. 

But he has had his moments that inspire fear. 

For example, what if someday artificial intelligence were to take over the world? Skynet and all, you know? Then, it’s safe to assume, he would be the world’s only possible hope.

Do you recall the 1998 Indianapolis 500?

During the 82nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Foyt’s driver Kenny Brack was dogfighting with Eddie Cheever for best car in the field. Before halfway, the Swede was well in contention, leading 23 laps but then technology struck a blow to the team, and Foyt struck an even bigger one. Computer and engineer miscalculations ran the No. 14 PowerTeam car out of fuel, forcing the driver to come to the pits slowly, putting them behind the field. Foyt, angry at the failure of modern tech on racing’s decision making, smashed the team’s computer on the war wagon’s table.

High end market laptops then could have been anywhere between $1,799 and over $2,000. Brack would finish sixth, two laps down.

To this day, when circuit boards put their children to sleep, they tell them to stay in bed, or A.J. Foyt will come out of the closet to get them. 

A Sight To Behold And To Cause You To Cry

Sometimes fear does not require a frantic jump out of the dark or the whispering sounds hidden in the shadows. Instead, it could be the sight of something so unremarkable and dreadful, that even putting eyes on it in plain daylight will cause the heart to beat fast and the mind to grow numb. 

What on earth could do this in IndyCar?

The 2000 Oldsmobile Aurora pace car for the Indianapolis 500.

Did you just vomit? It’s ok, the feeling is mutual. 

The late 90’s and early 2000s were not the best as far as high-performance pace cars for the Indy 500. In the middle of the production based, normally aspirated engines that made up the Indy Racing League, the pace car fit right in for the utility and functionality of that era. The car looked cheap and could have been confused with something Grandma was driving you in to go to K-Mart to get her prescriptions and a slice of pizza at the eatery. 

But while seeing that car is definitely scary and causes the eyes to fill with tears knowing it paced the field at such a historic venue, it doesn’t compare to the utter dread in the gut of one person on this earth. 

And that’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the race and took that car home as his prize. No wonder he came back to win in 2015, he probably wanted a real speedster. 

See also
The Pit Straight: The Red Bull Conundrum Never Ends

What Keeps You Up At Night?

One word: Split. 

Just hearing it echoes back to darkness and despair. No hope. The IndyCar world in civil war and on the precipice. 

Nothing will instill fear worse than the possibility of no survival. 

But, out of the ashes of turmoil arose the current series that races now. It’s on the rise, as detailed before, and that word doesn’t have to keep you up at night, with one eye open. 

It’s time to celebrate. Enjoy. And dive in to the classics on YouTube while the offseason carries on. 

Have no fear, it’s Halloween and time to trick or treat. 

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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