One is wishing for a last-minute rules change, the other hoping an old good-luck charm can bring a change of fortune. For the drivers representing Ed Carpenter Racing in the completion of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, that’s what it has come down to.
Josef Newgarden won’t be on track in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet when racing picks up on Lap 72 of a scheduled 248 under the lights on the 1.455-mile oval (9 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). He was involved in a crash with Conor Daly on Lap 42 before the race was red-flagged for rain on June 12. Conditions prevented it from continuing that day and the completion was set for 11 weeks later.
Newgarden sustained a fractured right clavicle and fractured right hand in the incident, but did not miss any of the five races in the interim. Both Newgarden’s and Daly’s cars would not have been able to continue at Texas that day, so INDYCAR ruled them ineligible to rejoin the field for Saturday’s race completion.
As recently as last weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Newgarden was still praying for INDYCAR to have a change of heart.
“You never know, INDYCAR might change their mind,” said Newgarden, who is third in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship heading into the race but will likely drop at least three positions and could be all but mathematically eliminated from the title chase depending on who wins at Texas. “There could be some magical thing. We go to Texas, and they're like, ‘For the fans, we're just going to restart this whole race over.’ Maybe it's going to be awesome and I win Texas, too.”
Wishes aside, Newgarden is acutely aware that he will finish 22nd and last in the race.
“I've kind of just accepted it,” he said. “If Texas just played out, I would have been crashed out of the race, that's what it would have been. If you look at it from that angle, that if the rain didn't come, they finished the race (in June), this would have been a done thing, right?”
Meanwhile, teammate Ed Carpenter will restart the race in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevy from an enviable fifth place. The team owner is driving only the oval races again this season and has met with misfortune at three of the previous four to be completed – crashing out at Phoenix and enduring mechanical woes at both the Indianapolis 500 and last weekend at Pocono. In the one race Carpenter ran until the end, he finished a disappointing 18th at Iowa Speedway after also suffering mechanical issues.
To bring a change of fortune, Carpenter will break out a helmet design for the Texas resumption that mirrors the helmet he wore as a youngster when he drove quarter midgets. It’s the same design he had in a Sports Illustrated for Kids story and photo shoot in 1990 that featured him and stepbrother Tony George Jr. The magazine's cover is shown above right with Carpenter holding his helmet. The helmet he will wear Saturday at the Firestone 600 is shown at right.
“My brother and I were looking at old racing photos in my garage, and he asked me why I didn't keep that helmet after my first year in racing,” Carpenter explained. “I didn't remember why, but it just seemed like a good idea to go back to the very first scheme I had.
“And I did win my first eight races, so maybe it will change my fortunes.”