Newgarden To Practice at Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 29 2022

Josef Newgarden, injured last weekend, will give practice a whirl at Indy road course Friday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has been cleared to participate in Friday morning’s NTT IndyCar Series practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, a prelude to Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix.

Newgarden was held overnight Sunday at a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, after losing consciousness and falling in the aftermath of a crash during the latter stages of a race at Iowa Speedway. Newgarden will be re-evaluated after today’s 90-minute session to determine if he’s cleared to resume “all racing activities” for the remainder of the event on IMS’ 2.439-mile/14-turn layout.

Newgarden was leading Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 when he spun into the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier on Lap 235 of 300 around the 0.894-mile oval in Newton. Newgarden had led 148 of the first 234 laps around the “Fastest Short Track on the Planet” and was 2.8384-seconds ahead of eventual winner Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP before the crash sequence.

The left front wheel of Newgarden’s No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet lifted off the ground after an apparent mechanical problem in the rear of the car, sending Newgarden spinning into the SAFER Barrier. The car suffered heavy rear-end damage, but Newgarden walked away from the incident.

According to Racer.com, the crash was traced to a broken right-rear damper which caused the car to spin and fire into the barrier. Newgarden _ the series champ in 2017 and 2019 _ was on-track to lead the championship by 10 points when he crashed. Instead, he was credited with 24th place and now is third in the standings, 34 points behind Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Newgarden’s exit opened the door for O’Ward, who drove his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet to a 4.2476-second victory over Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Scott McLaughlin finished third in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet.

Speaking post-race, Newgarden said he was “definitely rocked” by the impact. “I got a little bit shaken from it but I’m OK,” Newgarden said after a mandatory exam at the track’s infield medical center. “We have great safety in INDYCAR, and the car held up good.

“I did have a vibration at the start of the stint, which isn’t abnormal. Tire balances are always shifting. It’s very possible that we had a mismatched set or something. It wasn’t diabolical whatsoever. Actually, everything felt just fine. It was totally unexpected when it happened. It caught me by surprise. I didn’t know what happened until I was in the wall.

“This is racing. Team Penske is the best. I never have this stuff (happen) so maybe we were due. We can’t afford it for this year. But we’ll fight back. We have a great team here. We pick right back up. We don’t stop fighting.”

Newgarden later collapsed in the infield bus lot and hit the back of his head on the ground. He was transported by helicopter to MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center where brain scans were performed and he was held overnight for observation. Newgarden was released Tuesday morning and returned to his home in Nashville.

Newgarden, 31, was required to visit INDYCAR Medical on Thursday to take the computer-based ImPACT test used to measure and compare a person’s cognitive abilities to a baseline test performed prior to the start of the season.

INDYCAR issued this statement Thursday afternoon: “Following the event at Iowa Speedway and per INDYCAR protocol, the driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden, was evaluated this afternoon by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows.

“The examination determined that Newgarden is cleared to participate in (Friday’s) NTT IndyCar Series practice session on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course. Newgarden will be re-evaluated after the session to determine if he’s cleared to resume all racing activities for the remainder of the Gallagher Grand Prix event.”

On Tuesday, Team Penske announced it had contacted Santino Ferrucci, who has 43 career series starts, for possible standby duty at IMS.

Newgarden began the series’ lone doubleheader weekend in Iowa on Saturday with a victory in the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250. Newgarden is third in the point race led by Ericsson, winner of the 106th Indianapolis 500 on May 29, with five races remaining in the 2022 season.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon finished fourth Sunday in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Meanwhile, teammate and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson recorded the best finish of his two-year open-wheel career by placing fifth in the No. 48 American Legion Honda.

Ericsson finished sixth Sunday in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate CGR Honda. Ericsson leads second-place Power in the standings by eight points.

O’Ward earned his second victory of 2022 _ the native of Mexico also won May 1 on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. _ and fourth win of his NTT IndyCar Series career. Coupled with his second-place finish Saturday, the victory allowed O’Ward to climb from sixth to fifth in the standings. He is 36 points behind Ericsson.

The two-day event at IMS was scheduled to start with a 90-minute practice Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. (EDT), followed by qualifying at 1 p.m. NBC will broadcast live coverage of the Gallagher Grand Prix starting at noon Saturday. The INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Channel 160 also will provide live coverage.

NTT IndyCar Series point-standings (top-10): 1, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 403; 2, Will Power, Team Penske, 395; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 369; 4, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 369; 5, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 367; 6, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 359; 7, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 317; 8, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 278; 9, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP, 275; 10, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 265.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).




| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 29 2022
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