INDIANAPOLIS -- The Grand Prix of Indianapolis started with a massive crash when polesitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled at the start and was hit hard in the rear by the cars of Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin.
The wreck, which occurred during a standing start on the frontstretch, sent nearby crew members scattering to avoid debris. The drivers involved got out of their cars.
Saavedra, Munoz and Aleshin have been checked and cleared from the care center.
Saavedra, who was starting on pole for the first time in his career, took his place at the front of the field to start the race -- but when a series of red lights went out to signal the start, his car simply didn't move. Several quick-reacting drivers were able to swerve around him, but Munoz couldn't avoid him -- and Aleshin then plowed hard into the back of his car.
In a television interview, Saavedra said he didn't know what happened.
"As soon as I released the clutch, it went from 11,000 rpm to zero," Saavedra said.
Saavedra added, "This should not have happened."
It was a rough start to the first IndyCar series road-course race at the famed speedway, using a portion of the track's famed oval -- although going clockwise instead of counter-clockwise -- and partway on a road course that zigzags through the infield.
Munoz said he didn't have time to react.
"I was already in fifth gear," Munoz said. "I was really close to the car in front of me, I just saw him go to the right. I just had to go to the left, but I was not fast enough."
Team owner Ed Carpenter made it clear he doesn't like the use of standing starts, which are common practice in the elite Formula One series but are a relatively new arrival in IndyCar.
"I think IndyCar has had two good standing starts since they started last year," Carpenter said. "Haven't been a fan."
Saavedra later tweeted: "Hard to describe.. Happiest moment can turn around pretty quick. At the end is never giving up and keeping your head up. Long season ahead"
The crash was reminiscent of another inaugural event geared toward the Indy 500. In 1996, the CART series ran the U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway shortly after the end of the Indianapolis 500, which CART teams boycotted to protest the newly formed Indy Racing League. Pole-sitter Jimmy Vasser collided with Adrian Fernandez and Bryan Herta on the pace laps before the green flag, starting a nine-car crash.
The drivers were allowed to move to backup cars, and the race was won by Vasser, who is a co-owner of the KV Racing team that fields today's pole-sitting car for Saavedra.