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Scary Crash, Rain Slam Texas; IndyCar Race Postponed Until August

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 12 2016
Rain Sunday has again disrupted the IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, where a bad crash sent driver Josef Newgarden to the hospital. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Rain Sunday has again disrupted the IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, where a bad crash sent driver Josef Newgarden to the hospital. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Frustrated by back-to-back days of intermittent-to-sideways rain showers and one grinding crash, INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway officials relented Sunday afternoon and pulled the plug on the Firestone 600 for 75 days.

The 20th edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” will be run on Saturday, Aug. 27, as a one-day event that will include practice, a driver autograph session on the concourse and the remaining 177 of the scheduled 248 laps. Sunday’s rescheduled race, postponed from Saturday night, was red-flagged on Lap 71 when rain returned to an already saturated Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

At that point, TMS track workers were welding a patch over a hole in the frontstretch SAFER Barrier created when Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was slammed into the outside wall, twice, in an incident triggered by rookie Conor Daly.

Newgarden was airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas after the crash on Lap 42 around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval. The 25-year-old rising star sustained a fractured right clavicle and a small fracture on his right hand after his car was hit and tipped onto its right side by Daly’s No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Amazingly, Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director, said Newgarden was expected to be released from the hospital Sunday night.

“Thank you to Dallara, INDYCAR, the Holmatro Safety Team and everyone we work with at Texas Motor Speedway,” Newgarden said in a statement. “The car held up great and the response from the safety team was amazing.

“I’m banged-up a little bit but I’m generally OK. That’s all thanks to INDYCAR and all the work everyone within the series does. I am feeling a little pain but I hope to be ready to rock-and-go again soon. We had a great car today, it just did not go how we had planned. I feel bad for both Conor and myself but I’m glad Conor is OK as well. I’ll be back out there fighting as soon as I can. Luckily I am all right, thank you again to everyone who helped me.”

As per the INDYCAR rulebook, the rescheduled race will resume on Lap 72 with James Hinchcliffe and his No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the lead. Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda is second while Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda will restart third.

TMS President Eddie Gossage said the decision to slide into the schedule after the Aug. 21 oval-track race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and before the replacement Sept. 4 event on the famed Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road-course was the result of consultation with “all the right folks,” including many of the teams.

“It was pretty much unanimous from the teams, that they’d like to complete the race,” said Gossage, seated next to Jay Frye, president of competition and operations INDYCAR. “We felt like that was the best way to best serve all the fans. We maybe could have hung around, tried to get it dry tonight, get enough to run it halfway, but that’s not right. We wanted to give the fans a race today. So that’s the plan.”

Frye reiterated the desire to run the advertised distance of 372 miles. “This is a little unique,” Frye said. “Hasn’t happened for a while. We do a lot of unique things here. We’re looking forward to coming back August 27th.”

Sunday’s aborted activities were broadcast on NBC Sports Network, and Frye said he was confident the Aug. 27 event will be televised live with an expected start time of 7 p.m. (CDT).

Gossage admitted he and INDYCAR officials were not “on the same page” concerning the track’s condition Sunday morning, as the start time of 1:06 p.m. neared. The race was postponed Saturday at 10:30 p.m. after INDYCAR and track workers were unable to get the track suitably dry using four truck-mounted jet engines for sustained racing at over 200 mph.

“We felt like the track was ready at 10:30,” Gossage said. “INDYCAR, as best we understood, they pulled the jet trucks off the track (Sunday). They were, as we understood, pleased. All of a sudden we looked up right around 1 o’clock, apparently they found an issue that they felt needed to be addressed in Turn 2. But there was no communication. We didn’t know anything about it. So frustrating, but we’re going to work that out. Let’s just say it’s our fault.”

Gossage said the postponement certainly will affect the track’s operating bottom line. “Our company _ big, strong, healthy company _ we carry on,” said Gossage, referring to O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. “We’ll be fine. I’m not worried about that. It’s just you hate to see this happen. You want to do the best for your fans. That’s who all of us work for. That’s who we want to please.”

Gossage joked that he made a pitch to Frye to have the rescheduled night race run as the season-finale of the 16-event schedule, replacing the road-course event at SMI sister track Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

“I thought the finale made all the sense in the world,” said Gossage, a past host of several open-wheel season-enders since 1997. “You know, we have several more months to sell tickets to last night’s race, and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Pole-sitter Carlos Munoz led the field to the green flag in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda at 1:50 p.m., approximately 45 minutes after the rescheduled restart. Munoz led Newgarden by 1.9406-seconds on Lap 35. When the Colombian pitted for four tires and fuel on Lap 38, Newgarden briefly inherited the lead.

Newgarden pitted for four tires and fuel on Lap 40. Newgarden’s day then came to an abrupt halt on Lap 42, when the rear end of Daly’s No. 18 broke loose, snapping the front end to the right and into Newgarden’s car . The impact pushed Newgarden’s bright green Chevy onto its right side, and both cars continued sliding down the frontstretch before a second Newgarden impact into the SAFER Barrier.

Daly exited his car and walked away, but it took the series’ Holmatro Safety Team several minutes to extricate Newgarden from what was left of his car’s tub section. Newgarden gingerly got to his feet before slowly dropping to his knees and the pavement seconds later.

Daly took full responsibility after being evaluated in the track’s infield medical center. “I was the rookie to make the mistake,” Daly said. “The car was really consistent. It was fantastic and we were making great progress. I didn’t expect that slide at all. We were consistently running and all of a sudden the rear (tires) just totally lost grip. I felt like I floated all the way through the corner.

“It was all my mistake. I should have recognized it but it was definitely a rookie mistake. I was trying to stay a little bit lower because I knew Josef was coming. Maybe by pinching it a little bit, I just put too much load on the right rear. While the car was quite good I was on the edge in (Turns) 3 and 4 all the time. I apologized to him in there (infield care center) because that was my mistake for sure.”

Following an evaluation on-site by Dr. Billows, Newgarden was sent to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

“It sounds like he’s doing OK,” Ed Carpenter, Newgarden’s teammate and car-owner, said moments after exiting his No. 20 Chevy during the red-flag. “From what I can tell, it could have been a whole lot worse.”

Dr. Billows also announced that Marty Armstrong, the inside front tire changer for the No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda driven by Jack Hawksworth, was treated and released from the infield care center after receiving stitches for cuts to his lower back suffered during a pit stop gone awry.

Additionally, Newgarden’s second impact punched a hole in the SAFER Barrier, which was being repaired by TMS workers when a heavy shower hit the track, prompting the red-flag stoppage at 2:44:29 p.m. (CDT).

Newgarden, a 25-year-old native of Hendersonville, Tenn., scored the first two victories of his Indy car career last season while finishing a career-best seventh in points. Newgarden made his series debut in March 2012 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Newgarden began the day fourth in the championship standings, 98 points behind leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. This event marked Newgarden’s 76th series start.

Next up on the schedule is the natural terrain-course at Road American in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 26.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 12 2016
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