First, Ed Carpenter racing had J.R. Hildebrand ready as a substitute driver for the No. 21 Chevy, assuming Newgarden would need time to heal from a fractured clavicle and wrist.
How silly of us to assume such a thing!
Beyond most common understanding, Newgarden managed to earn medical clearance to drive – but only for the first day of practice sessions at Road America.
He completed those sessions and received clearance in his follow up evaluation, for the remainder of the weekend! It was to include one more practice, qualifying (where he admittedly made a mistake and went off course, causing a red flag and losing his 2 best laps), a warm up (that essentially never happened), and the Kohler Grand Prix of Road America itself.
SIDEBAR for some real life talk here: I had sore ankles that made me walk funny all weekend after doing the full Road America track walk on Thursday night. (To be clear, it was ENTIRELY worth it and I plan to do it every year.) Newgarden on the other hand, had 13 screws in his shoulder and managed to finish P8 after starting back in P20, gaining 12 positions over the 50 lap contest. So going forward, if anyone ever tells you that IndyCar drivers aren’t elite athletes, don’t argue. Just say, “I agree. They are higher than elite. They are herculean.” And drop the mic.
In addition to all the Road America happenings for him, we received word that Newgarden was ruled out as a potential participant in the August 27th continuation of the Firestone 600. It was originally scheduled on June 11th at Texas Motor Speedway but run on June 12th due to inclement weather. The contest ended, or paused rather, with an incomplete result after the weather forced a red flag.
Conor Daly (No. 18 Honda, Dale Coyne Racing) has also been ruled out as a participant given the condition of his car after his accident with Newgarden on June 12th. Since the August 27th running of the Firestone 600 is a continuation and being picked up from where it left off, I think this is fair, as neither of the aforementioned drivers would have been able to reenter the race on June 12th given conditions both personal and equipment-wise.
I actually mentioned this exact situation/solution in my feedback of the Texas weekend, in addition to some other points about the continuation decision. I still don’t think it’s the best way to handle the event, particularly where the fans are involved. But if you want to read more on that, you can read the full article here.
One point I thought of after writing the above piece was how they will guarantee actual duplication of conditions with things such as fuel levels and tire usage. IndyCar has not yet determined or released their plans for either of these elements, but unless Firestone is holding the specific tires that came off the cars for the rescheduled date, and the teams or series noted the exact fuel levels for each car, and intend to fill the tank with that particular amount, how can we call this a true continuation?
Additional details have been hashed out by the Verizon IndyCar Series, for the August event, and they are as follows:
“Cars continuing in the race will be permitted to use the chassis and engine of their choice for the completion day. Pre-race aero setups from the June event will be mandatory for the August completion, though INDYCAR may make changes prior to the completion based on the weather forecast for race weekend.”
I don’t know, I have a lot of reservations about this being a “let’s finish what we started” event rather than a “let’s try that again” event. I’d love to hear what you think about the situation and the decisions that have been made thus far. Reach out to me on Twitter at the link below and let me know your opinions!
It’s doubtful that anything huge will change. The series will likely determine the last bits and pieces and then we will watch James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports lead the field to the “restart” green and they’ll battle it out for the remaining 177 laps! However it ends up coming together and no matter the differing opinions on how it should be handled, there is one thing that I know for a fact: I will be watching to see how it all turns out!
Photo credit: AP Photos