Ryan Hunter-Reay felt the odd sensation of gratitude after being taken out on the opening lap of Sunday’s IndyCar season-opener at Barber. He didn’t know it at the time when Josef Newgarden spun in front of his car and made contact with the aeroscreen on his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda, but with a view of the on-board camera after the crash, the trajectory of Newgarden’s right-front wheel went straight for his helmet.
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Thanks to the aeroscreen cockpit protection device that became mandatory in 2020, Hunter-Reay was able to survive the crash and watch a slow-motion replay of how fortunate he was to have a titanium frame and laminate screen to act as a barrier.
“I didn’t see what happened until after I got back to the paddock,” he told RACER. “I knew I ended up making contact with the side of Josef’s car as I came on the scene, but I couldn’t anticipate his car spinning into oncoming traffic. I closed my eyes, braced for impact, and came out the other side. But I had no idea his right-front would have gone completely into the cockpit.”
Commissioned by NTT IndyCar Series president Jay Frye through Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the aeroscreen’s value has been demonstrated more than once since its arrival.
“I know it worked last year when some drivers got into big ones, and after the race, I went and showed the video to Jay and gave him a pat on the back and said thank you,” Hunter-Reay said. “This aeroscreen likely saved my life. If it was only a halo without the screen there, it would have deflected the big piece coming at me, but who knows what would have made it through to my head from all the parts coming off Josef’s car. It’s obviously unfortunate with how our race ended like that on the first lap, but I’m also very fortunate to be here talking about it because of the aeroscreen.”
Well that was a race weekend to forget. We struggled w/drivetrain (straight line speed) issues through practice & qualifying. Then our race ended before it really started, taken out in 1st lap pile-up. Extremely grateful for the @IndyCar Aeroscreen. Likely saved my life pic.twitter.com/KnDe4XwAZH
— Ryan Hunter-Reay (@RyanHunterReay) April 19, 2021