LONG BEACH, California — One thing that is unique about the Verizon IndyCar Series, as opposed to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is that drivers involved in an incident one week have a tendency to work things out rather than have a festering feud.
"We have a lot of respect for each other because we’re in open-cockpit, open-wheel race cars and I think that is the difference," said Ryan Hunter-Reay. "That’s what makes us that way."
It’s a good thing the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion feels that way because he was the focal point of controversy in last Sunday’s Grand Prix of Louisiana. Hunter-Reay triggered a spectacular crash that involved Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais.
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As the three drivers went into Turn 3, Pagenaud’s car was forced into the grass. It then went across the wet surface and speared both Hunter-Reay and Bourdais in a massive crash on Lap 44. Hunter-Reay’s car essentially landed on top of both cars and that is all James Hinchcliffe needed to conserve enough fuel to win Sunday’s rain-plagued and incident-littered race that saw just six laps of green flag racing from Lap 16-47.
Both Pagenaud and Bourdais were livid with Hunter-Reay for pushing the issue. Hunter-Reay admitted responsibility and was later penalized three driver championship points and put on probation for three races by IndyCar officials.
Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud spoke to each other Thursday as the series headed to California for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"The conversation with Simon went fine," Hunter-Reay said. "We put it behind us but the ruling was BS. It was a racing incident. It really is. With all due respect for Simon, it was a low percentage move around the outside in the rain. I had a lot of drivers — even former IndyCar drivers — tell me I got the raw end of the deal.
"Whatever, I’m not going to change the way I drive. NOLA was an unfortunate racing incident."
Pagenaud was willing to discuss the incident with Hunter-Reay, and the Team Penske driver is prepared to move on to Sunday’s race on the streets of Long Beach.
"My approach at NOLA was aggressive but sometimes you can’t control what is around you and that is why the result didn’t come there," Pagenaud said. "I’m really past that now. It’s a long season. I certainly didn’t expect Ryan to race me the way he did. I’m a racer, he’s a racer and we’re fighting for the same real estate. I stand my ground but I want to go out and win this race.
"You have to work things out because we live together. I’m not happy with what happened to be honest with you but we have a lot of races ahead of us right now."
Bourdais was asked if he felt redeemed that Hunter-Reay was penalized for what could have been a very serious incident.
"It’s not my judgment, there was an incident and the shame of it is that we got taken out and lost valuable points in what was a non-race from mid-point on," Bourdais said. "After that you have to move on. A lot of stuff happens so if you keep on holding grudges and accounts of who needs to be penalized and who doesn’t, that is all you would do. I don’t think getting docked three points … they saw it more as a racing incident that didn’t need to be dealt with a rough penalty. That is why they have these degrees of penalties and have to draw the line.
"But my street car is torn up and it could have been really bad. It turned out to be pretty ugly."
Bourdais believed there needed to be more give and take.
"As far as I’m concerned, if there is side-by-side action I would like to think the guy will give me some room to survive and I will return the favor," Bourdais said of Hunter-Reay. "But to track it out on wet grass at NOLA and you are doing a left turn and then a right turn there is a good chance it will come back at you.
"Ultimately, all of that could have been avoided. It’s a lot easier when all is said and done than what happens on the spot."
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Verizon IndyCar Series Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.