Everything is Bigger in Texas. Not Always a Good Thing.

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16C_4981-1Bigger puddles. Bigger weepers. Bigger flooded tunnels. Bigger delays. Bigger wrecks.

That’s a quick summary of a weekend in Texas that can only be described as miserable. They tried, I will give them that. But prolonging the inevitably seemed like a poor decision.

The decision that this weekend just wasn’t going to work due to weather obstacles probably should have been made Sunday afternoon, when they knew there was more rain coming. There was an understanding that at best, with a complete lack of cautions, we might get half a race in and be able to call it official. How was that a fair decision for all the fans that came to Texas Motor Speedway 2 or 3 days in a row? The third day, being unplanned. I’ll tell you how… it wasn’t. Flat out.

In the long run, or short run rather, we only made it 71 laps, nearly half of which, were under yellow after a terrifying crash involving Conor Daly (No. 18, Dale Coyne Racing) and Josef Newgarden (No. 21, Ed Carpenter Racing). Thankfully, and almost illogically, both drivers survived – the worst of the injuries suffered by Newgarden after his car was smashed between Daly and the wall before careening down the track on it’s side and making a second and equally as violent impact into the SAFER barrier in Turn 4. You could hear the collective gasp across the country from anyone involved with or following the Verizon IndyCar Series.

I am very hesitant to use the word “miraculous”. I don’t like it, for a multitude of reasons that I won’t get into right now. But even I have to admit, watching Newgarden moving and getting out of the car after that wreck, standing on his own two feet, felt like that kind of moment. Granted, he was doing this under the watchful eye of, and with assistance from, the Holmatro Safety Crew… but he was upright and conscious, nonetheless.

When the adrenaline rush passed, he looked to partially collapse, needing to sit in order to have the team work on him and get his helmet removed safely. Once this was completed on the track, the Holmatro Safety team members got him on a stretcher, with neck and head stabilized.

Racing drivers, if you weren’t already aware, are maybe the most resilient and driven group of individuals on the planet. Newgarden proved that by waving and giving the thumbs up to the crowd as he was being put in the ambulance. That collective gasp heard earlier, changing to a collective sigh of relief.

Until we had medical updates, we were all on edge, but soon the calming set in. First with the updates from IndyCar,

“Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden sustained a fractured right clavicle and a small fracture on his right hand in an incident in today’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, collided with the Honda of Conor Daly of Dale Coyne Racing on Lap 42 of the race and was airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.”

…and then with an Instagram post from Newgarden, himself:

 

Take Two, Texas!

The rain started falling again, this time in monsoon-like fashion, from what was relayed to me. At 5:00 p.m. CT/6:00 p.m. ET, they finally called the race. The event has been scheduled to pick up where we left off on Saturday, August 27th for a one day event. There will be a morning practice, a full field autograph session, and the continuation of Sunday’s race at 7:00 p.m. CT/8:00 p.m. ET. You’ll notice the lack of qualifying since we will start with the field order as it was Sunday June 12th, when the red flag flew. Think of it as a severely delayed restart.

CLICK HERE: Full Field Grid Order as of Red Flag at Firestone 600

I like this idea… however, the guidelines as stated during the press conference Sunday night seem inconsistent to me. If we are picking things up on Aug 27th where they left off on June 12th, there is no way that Daly or Newgarden could reenter the race. Newgarden was at the hospital for the remainder of the day, Daly was cleared to drive but regardless, his car was totaled and would not have been race-ready before the end of event.

If they are allowed to re-enter, (because realistically, it will be a 2-month (+) span of time until continuation), then should Hinchcliffe receive credit for leading a race for roughly 75 days? Which, at my count would make him the indisputable IndyCar Series Champion for 2016. Hmm, that doesn’t make much sense does it? If we are hitting the pause button, then shouldn’t we be doing that across the board for all elements of the race?

My Take on Texas’ Second Chance

Don’t get me wrong, of course I want Newgarden and Daly to compete – I mean, how crazy and awesome would it be if Newgarden ended up being cleared to compete and then won the Firestone 600? What a story. But if he isn’t cleared in time, and J.R. Hildebrand is piloting the No. 21 in his absence, will he compete? Even weirder since he wasn’t in the original field, making him a “pinch driver” if you’re familiar with baseball terminology.

I don’t know… it’s all a little inconsistent to me. Either treat it as a true continuation of June 12th, on August 27th, or start the race entirely from scratch. Referencing back to baseball, if an MLB game doesn’t get through 5 innings, the game gets called. It gets a new date and it starts from first pitch. The incomplete game is scratched. Isn’t that what we should be doing? Rather than picking and choosing what elements are a continuation and what elements are scrapped?

Besides, who wants to relive the details of this past weekend? The entire pre-race in August is gonna be, “Oh hey let’s take a look back on that miserable weekend in June that we all tried to block out of our subconscious for the past two months…”

Start raceday from scratch.
Give the fans a full race from green (not a restart green, a starting green) to checkereds.
Give the fans a full field of drivers in (hopefully) great weather conditions.

This is beneficial for the track, the drivers, the teams, the series and above all… the FANS. We owe them.

Keep the qualifying order, run the morning practice, and have the full field autograph session. And then, start the race itself with a clean slate. Let’s put that June weekend behind us. I’m pretty sure Josef Newgarden would concur with that sentiment.

The best thing that came out of this weekend was the drivers surprise appearance in the frontstretch, to visit fans – they gave autographs, had conversations, took pictures. That is the optimism we take away from this Texas fiasco. That is the moment we all remember. That is the one the fans will want to recall. Everything else… we can do better. We have the chance to showcase that. Let’s take it.

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Photos by Chris Owens, property of IndyCar

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