Senior staff writer
History has been rewritten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Originally scheduled for five days, USAC midget car and NASCAR racing stretched over six days due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, which dumped more than 5 inches of rain on the Speedway.
Veteran NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer said it best: “When there’s a storm with a name after it headed your way, you’re in trouble.”
The trouble from the tropical storm forced a four-hour delay in the first midget car race on a quarter-mile dirt track at the Speedway, canceled practice and qualifications for the Xfinity 250-mile and Monster Energy Cup 400-mile races, rescheduled for a doubleheader Monday.
The anticipated FGL Fest with headliners Florida Georgia Line was canceled Saturday at the Speedway.
The winners were:
• Hoosier Zeb Wise, a 15-year-old Bryan Clauson protégé, who won the Stoops Pursuit on the dirt track Sept. 5.
• Brady Bacon of Oklahoma captured the Driven2SaveLives BC39 midget feature Thursday night after a four-hour delay in heat races earlier.
• On the same history-making Monday, Justin Allgaier took the seventh annual Lilly Diabetes 250 and Brad Keselowski won the Brickyard 400 for team owner Roger Penske – his first – whose drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 17 times. Penske becomes the second team owner to win the 500 and the 400 at the Brickyard.
Speedway President Doug Boles said the 650-mile doubleheader was unprecedented in IMS history; so were the two nights of midget car racing. Emotions ran wild at the midget car event that honored the late Clauson, who was killed in a race in 2016. Two recipients of organs from him were the grand marshals.
Clauson’s father, Tim, noted that a double rainbow Thursday meant that his son was watching over the festivities. An estimated 13,000 spectators viewed the two nights of racing, which raised hopes that the event would be held annually.
The NASCAR events took on a mind of their own with three days of rain that set up the historic twin bill of racing Monday. Of interest, retired NASCAR champion Tony Stewart told an NBCSports Network reporter that he has received offers from team owners Bobby Rahal, Roger Penske and Michael Andretti to race in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 but might consider the 2020 race.
However, he could run in a few selected Indy car races next year because he would want to return to the 500, not to be a sideshow but to win it. He last raced in the 500 in 2001, finishing sixth for team owner Chip Ganassi. Dale Earnhardt said he would compete in the Xfinity Series race Sept. 21 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The NBC analyst served as the Chevrolet Camaro pace car driver for the Brickyard 400.
“The only reason you get behind the wheel of a race car is because it’s fun and you enjoy the competition,” Earnhardt said of his racing return. “I don’t want to sweat over every lap and how fast we are in practice and all those things and make it a miserable experience because most race car drivers tend to do that if you’re not careful.”
Of interest, Allgaier’s winning Chevrolet was one of three cars owned by Earnhardt that competed in the Xfinity race.