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Championships Are Made, Not Maneuvered

Josef Newgarden. [Andy Clary Photo]

Should Josef Newgarden be allowed to race when the series returns to Texas Motor Speedway? [Andy Clary Photo]

by Allan Brewer

IndyCar has been blessed over the years with some outstanding men and women in the drivers’ seats of its competitive machinery. No less as today as we enter the closing three stanzas of this 2016 season.

Team Penske’s Will Power has been at times a petulant soul (remember the twin fingers pointed in the direction of Bryan Barnhart at the Glen some years ago?) but now in his seventh year with the best team in American open-wheel racing is showing the maturity and the talent that describes a championship driver entering his own.

On Monday, a day after monsoon-like rain washed away a Pocono 500 that promised a welcome return to oval-track competition for the series, Power took a balky car at the start and made it into a winner by patiently tuning it lap after lap.

And in so doing he created a huge rear-view look-in-the-mirror terror for teammate Simon Pagenaud, who still leads the race for the IndyCar championship by a slim but shrinking margin, and must be wondering just how far teamwork can be chanced before it is pushed aside by competitive zeal.

“Well, I felt like this place owed us,” said Power, who had two top-five finishes in three previous Pocono races. “We’ve led a lot of laps here. The car started off really, really difficult to drive. We adjusted on it all day and, for the second half of the race, the car was just awesome. Awesome.”

If that weren’t enough to put a crimp on your day if you are Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden, who finished fourth in the race, moved into third in the point standings, 100 marks behind the Frenchman.

And with that move, Newgarden made a very, very strong case for his inclusion in the re-starting field when we return to Texas Motor Speedway this coming Saturday night. You may recall the last time we saw Texas, the rain was falling and Newgarden had just suffered a frightening crash (through no fault of his own) that sidelined him with a painful shoulder injury and a beat-up car.

As it stands now, Newgarden (even though he is essentially recovered from his injury and the car is repaired) will not be permitted to contest the remaining portion of the Texas 600 on the basis that he is (in some virtual reality) still hospitalized from his accident and car disabled in the garage.

For the sake of credible championship campaign, the only fair thing to do for an up and coming American driver in the IndyCar Series is to permit him to earn his rightful place in the standings on the track and not construct a barrier to his talent—no matter who it may displace or disconcert.

Anything less sets the American open-wheel championship up for criticism as a rigged election, one tilted in favor of Team Penske at the expense of Ed Carpenter Racing and its precocious young talent.

Let’s settle it on the track, gentlemen; not in the stewards’ room . . . with carbon fiber and rubber, not rhetoric and retreat.

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Allan Brewer
Allan Brewer covers IndyCar and other racing series for RacingNation.com. Allan is a fixture at the race track, armed with keyboard and camera, eager to take you inside open-wheel sport where the news is being made. He comes to RacingNation.com with multiple professional awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AWWRBA). He began his motorsports writing career at FastMachines.com; and solely published IndyProRacer.com and A1GP.com, two award-winning websites for open-wheel racing's junior leagues, prior to becoming IndyCar correspondent at Motorsport.com. He has also covered Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, the Indy Lights Series and its predecessor Indy Pro Series, NHRA events and major auto shows. His major interest outside of competition is automotive technology and its application to the cars we drive every day on the public highways.
Allan Brewer

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