In the spirit of the “Dallas,” the hit prime-time drama from the 1970s and ‘80s, we’ve had ourselves a great summer cliff-hanger at, appropriately, Texas Motor Speedway.
When we left you last, as they would say in recapping what has happened thus far, it was 11 weeks ago at the Fort Worth oval. Monsoon-like rain had enveloped the entire track, placing the race in peril.
Our hero, James Hinchcliffe – he of the quirky Canadian humor who recovered from calamity the year prior at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – is leading the Firestone 600 when it is halted by the downpour after 71 laps.
Another hero – Mr. USA himself, Ryan Hunter-Reay – is livid because he believes he should be in first place. Will he seek revenge?
Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden – yet another good guy because we have lots of them in the Verizon IndyCar Series – lies in a hospital bed with a fractured right clavicle and fractured bone in his right hand. Newgarden was the innocent victim of a crash when friend Conor Daly spun in front of him. How will Newgarden recover from this tragedy?
For the answers to these and more burning questions, tune in at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Now that the tension and pretense is built, let’s recap the facts for the completion of the Firestone 600.
The race was red-flagged June 12 due to heavy rain and was unable to continue. INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway officials agreed the best plan of action was to resume the race on Aug. 27. Per INDYCAR rule, it would be completed from the point of suspension.
That places Hinchcliffe, in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, in first place after 71 of the scheduled 248 laps. Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 DHL Honda, runs second. The Andretti Autosport driver believed he should be leading following a green-flag pit stop on Lap 41, but he was actually nearly a lap down to Hinchcliffe at the time.
Newgarden and Daly crashed exiting Turn 4 on Lap 42, bringing out a lengthy caution period. Hinchcliffe and other lead-lap cars made pit stops under yellow on Lap 50, with the Canadian retaining the race lead. With the field still under caution as track clean-up continued, the rain that had plagued the area all weekend returned and the race halted as Lap 71 was completed.
Sixteen cars are on the lead lap. Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti and Max Chilton are each a lap down and Jack Hawksworth is two laps in arrears. Daly and Newgarden, whose cars sustained too much damage in the crash, will not be permitted to continue in the race and will finish 21st and 22nd, respectively. (Newgarden, by the way, didn’t miss a race between the start of the Firestone 600 and its scheduled conclusion and sits third in the point standings.)
Championship leader Simon Pagenaud will restart in 15th place. Teammate Will Power, just 20 points behind Pagenaud, restarts in fourth after struggling early and dropping to last place. Carlos Munoz, who captured his first Verizon P1 Award for the pole position in June 10 qualifying and has led a race-high 37 laps to this point, sits in ninth position.
The 20 cars resuming the race will be split into two groups for a late-afternoon practice session Saturday – 10 minutes of track time for each group. At that point, the cars will be impounded by INDYCAR. All cars must restart the race in the same aerodynamic configuration as they were in back in June, with the exception that they may change their front wing angles.
Each car will have six new sets of Firestone tires available for the remaining 171 laps (257.535 miles), plus an additional new set for the 10-minute practice session only. Teams will be permitted to put as much Sunoco E85R ethanol in the 18.5-gallon fuel tank of their car as they wish for the restart. Each team will then have 70 gallons of fuel in their pit-lane tanks.
The command to restart engines is expected to be given at 9:15 p.m. ET. The race lap count will continue as soon as the cars exit pit lane. The first two laps will be run as pace laps under caution, with the green flag expected to wave as the field approaches the start-finish line to begin Lap 74.
So, in the spirit of “Dallas,” to see the dramatic conclusion of the Firestone 600, tune in tomorrow.
Download: Firestone 600 Restart Order (PDF)