INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Now is the time to tune in to American motorsports, shown all weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where NASCAR and IndyCar intersect with both series involved in turmoil.
Two-time IndyCar champ Joseph Newgarden has been released to compete on the road track on Indy’s Holy Land after successfully completing Friday morning training and passing a third medical evaluation. The driver from Nashville collapsed and hit his head on Sunday at Iowa Speedway, about 90 minutes after he crashed while driving for the race.
He said he assumed he had a concussion when he bumped his head in the parking lot but spent the first part of the week somewhat isolated trying to recover so he could race on Saturday. Newgarden is chasing a third title.
“I was really excited to be here this weekend; I knew if we weren’t in this race it would be very difficult to stay in this championship fight,” Newgarden said. I know we have to be in the race, so all I have to do to be fit and ready is #1 on my board.”
Meanwhile, Kurt Busch will miss his second consecutive NASCAR race due to concussion-like symptoms following last weekend’s crash in Pocono. Chase Elliott heads into Sunday’s race as the newest NASCAR winner, but inherited the victory in an unprecedented elimination of fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Hamlin and Bosch crossed the finish line 1-2, but their Toyota failed the post-race check and earned their first Cup Series elimination since April 17, 1960. Emmanuel Zervakis was stripped of his victory at Wilson Speedway in North Carolina due to an oversized fuel tank.
NASCAR is still five races away from its post-season, 10-week knockout round to crown its champion. Meanwhile, IndyCar has five races left in its season and an incredibly tight six-driver title race. Defending champion Alex Ballou is sixth in the standings, 44 points behind Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, but Chip Ganassi Racing has sued him for wanting to move to McLaren Racing next season.
Ballou said ahead of Saturday’s race that he still believes he can win a second title in a row this year, and that he will be in the McLaren family in 2023. And team owner Chip Ganassi seemed furious.
“Good for him,” Janassi told The Associated Press on Friday. “I don’t make any statements. I don’t have quotes to give.”
Newgarden also took the silent approach even after qualifying for fifth for Saturday’s race. His hard crash while driving the race—and IndyCar’s arrangement until a broken suspension stalled his attempt to sweep a double-header for Iowa— dropped him in a tie for third place in the standings and forced Team Penske to put Santino Ferrucci on standby in case Newgarden couldn’t drive.
IndyCar medical staff felt sure Newgarden had passed all critical tests before he was medically cleared in Iowa, and if he had a concussion, it was later when he collapsed in the parking lot. A specialist visited this week, was reevaluated at IMS on Thursday, then underwent another check after scoring the second-fastest lap in practice on Friday morning.
Ferrucci seemed to have already been waved off by Penske on Thursday night when he tweeted that he was grateful Newgarden was doing well. only problem? He misspelled it “Joseph” and Newgarden didn’t like it.
He replied on Twitter: “It’s Joseph (asterisk)”. “At Penske, we care about detail.”
It was an aggressive reaction from Newgarden, who appeared to be claiming both his race car and his place in the title race. Had he not been allowed to race, he would have likely eliminated his championship chances.
Newgarden said his response to Ferrucci was interesting.
“But from a realistic standpoint, the details matter,” Newgarden said. “It’s important to remember here at Team Penske, we have a working style and we love to stick with it. I’m just trying to help the next hitter.”
How about the oval?
Last year NASCAR worked with Indianapolis track owner Roger Penske to convert her race from the famous oval to a road track as part of this weekend.
But the Brickyard 400 was considered NASCAR’s crown jewel despite interest waning from its 1994 debut with 27 innings. Penske believes that the transition to the road track – and a joint weekend with IndyCar – will enhance the event’s significance.
Penske confirmed that racing will likely be on the road again next year. This year’s edition is a 14-lap, 2,439-mile paved track.
Hendrick Motorsports avoided disaster when a generator fire was put out before it damaged the Chevrolet that William Byron will race on Sunday.
The team sent a backup carrier from North Carolina to the highway on Friday, a day after the 24th truck caught fire while waiting to enter the highway.
Byron wrote on Twitter: “A big thank you to everyone who helped with 24 trucks today including the track, NASCAR, the local fire department, and other truck drivers.” Everyone jumped in and helped our team today and that support means a lot to all of us on Team 24.”
The cup garage did not open until noon on Friday. Cars are on track on Saturday morning before the IndyCar race.
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