A young, energetic rookie and a composed Indianapolis 500 champion tangled during a warm Texas evening, prematurely ending their DXC Technology 600 races after strong campaigns in the lead group. Surprisingly, neither lashed out at the other after climbing from their wrecked cars.
With the checkered flag almost in sight on Lap 2015, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Will Power moved his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet up toward the outside retaining wall on the front straight only to find that part-time Dale Coyne Racing pilot Zachary Claman De Melo already occupied the real estate he intended to fill.
Less than two weeks after winning the previous superspeedway race, the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, Power found himself sliding along the SAFER Barrier in front of Claman De Melo’s equally damaged No. 19 Paysafe Honda.
Claman De Melo is spending 2018 racing an Indy car for his first time at some stops on the calendar while Power, despite a few disappointing finishes earlier in the year, is very much in the hunt for his second IndyCar title. Given that each race carries more importance for Power, negative comments from him directed at the developing rookie were all but anticipated.
However, after crashing roughly 40 laps before he was able to officially strengthen his points amount, Power took the high road.
“Unfortunately, the timing stand was talking to me at that exact moment and I couldn’t hear my spotter call “outside” and there was someone outside at that point,” Power explained after being checked, cleared and released from the infield care center.
Power was visibly frustrated as he was aided at the crash scene by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team but, later on, he didn’t even go as far as dropping the name of the driver that shared an involvement in the crash that ended his night.
“It’s just a bad situation, but something that happens at a track like this,” the Australian said. “It was not the guy on the outside’s fault. I didn’t know he was out there at that point. We were lifting so much trying to save fuel and he went outside me.
“It was just a bad deal, but we will move on to Road America.”
Claman De Melo was interviewed before Power during NBCSN’s coverage of the second superspeedway contest of the year after climbing from his damaged car, which he managed to limp back to pit lane. Speaking about the racing incident, Claman De Melo struck a balance of not taking full responsibility, talking up his performance and recognizing the larger consequence the late-race crash meant for Power.
“I got a great run on the outside in clean air — I probably would have passed Power as well,” Claman De Melo explained. “I don’t know if his spotter didn’t tell him I was there. Watching the replay, I was clearly there.
“It’s just one of those moments. I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose. I feel bad for him and I feel bad for me and the team.”
While Power is racing for points, Claman De Melo is working to prove himself. Given that he was running legitimately in the top 10 at the time of the crash, the Canadian driver feels he did just that in Texas.
“It’s a bad day, but I think I showed my potential,” he continued. “It was a great run up until that point.
“To do what I did today, from second-to-last to get up to where we were, it was looking like a possible top-five finish — top three even. I can’t thank the whole team enough, Paysafe and everyone. The car the Dale Coyne Racing team gave me was amazing. After a disappointing weekend like this, I can’t wait to get back into the car again.”
With the drivers agreeing over what happened, INDYCAR added no complication to the situation as it matched the drivers’ thoughts when it issued Power a post-race penalty rather than the rookie.
Claman De Melo and Power will both seek redemption when IndyCar returns to action for the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America on June 24.