A combination of a fast oval, a field full of rookies and the aftermath of a nearby tornado strike meant the Indy Lights Kansas Lottery 100 turned into an endless round of high-speed crashes.
Although the leading group of drivers escaped the carnage, the runners further back in the field took the race sponsor’s name a bit too literally as car after car was caught by side-on 30mph winds and sent spinning into the wall and into rival cars.
The weather at the Kansas Speedway is likely to worsen by the time the main IndyCar race is scheduled to start later today, and follows a tornado warning on qualifying day that sent teams fleeing into the media centre for shelter as the winds destroyed a farmhouse a mile away.
The Indy Lights race was moved forward in the hope of finding a slot where the weather would not be too disruptive, and the rain duly held off. But racers – many making their oval debuts – struggled in a wind that powered them along the back straight before pushing them up towards the wall as they tried to turn into the third and fourth corners.
Ten of the 24 cars either crashed or were called in by race control, and among those who recovered from slides that could have put them among the retirements were Ana Beatriz and Martin Plowman, who finished fourth and fifth.
Among those who didn’t, or were innocent victims of others’ troubles, were Pablo Donoso, who hit the wall in a gout of flame, Sergey Mokshantsev, who rolled at high speed, and Dillon Battistini, who was taken to the Kansas University Medical Centre as a precaution after spinning and collecting Pippa Mann.
The Battistini-Mann crash turned out to be the last of the day, as the clean-up was so involved that the race ended under the safety car with Sebastian Saavedra as the winner. Polesitter Wade Cunningham was second, ahead of Mario Romancini.
Plowman qualified ninth and made up ground on the many restarts after incident. He reckoned one final restart, instead of the safety car finish, would have let him onto the podium.
He also said the early laps of the race were nerve-wracking: “I was just squeezing my buttcheeks.”
Jay Howard made up little ground from his poor qualifying position by overtaking on the track, but retirements ahead of him meant he ended the day in 10th place. Mann and Battistini were classified 15th and 16th after their crash, while Ali Jackson was an earlier victim of the conditions and was classified 20th.