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Pruett's Preview: Firestone 600, Continued

It doesn’t qualify as a doubleheader or the second of two events, but for those who attended the first Firestone 600 race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, Saturday night’s resumption of the rain-delayed oval event might feel like the Déjà Vu 427.

With the Verizon IndyCar Series and TMS left to halt the race after 72 laps (173 kilometers) and multiple delays due to bad weather, the ninth race on the 2016 tour will take the green flag after a 78-day hold. And with 177 laps (427km) left to complete, teams will receive two brief 10-minute warmup sessions before the field is placed into the positions each driver held on the last lap in June and sent into furious action at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Per IndyCar’s rules, the drivers who were out of the race before the June 11 stoppage will not be allowed to participate in the conclusion to the first go-round at Texas, and that means Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden and Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly will watch from the sidelines.

“It is an odd circumstance to go back and pick up a race that began such a long time ago, but we are determined to go get a result for Ed Carpenter Racing, Fuzzy’s, Chevrolet and for Josef, who will not be competing in the remainder of this event,” said Carpenter, who drives the sister No. 20 ECR entry on ovals. “It is also the last race for me of 2016, so I want to go out on a high note after what has been a challenging season for the 20 car.”

The ramifications of the June 11 crash by Daly that took out Newgarden (and broke Josef’s collarbone and fractured his hand) are especially big for the ECR driver who currently holds third in the championship standings. Once the Firestone-sponsored race is over, the Tennessean could be closer to the bottom of the top 10.

“I was the rookie to make the mistake,” Daly admitted. “The car was really consistent. It was fantastic and we were making great progress. I didn’t expect that slide at all. We were consistently running and all of a sudden the rear (tires) just totally lost grip. I felt like I floated all the way through the corner. It was all my mistake. I should have recognized it but it was definitely a rookie mistake. I was trying to stay a little bit lower because I knew Josef was coming. Maybe by pinching it a little bit, I just put too much load on the right rear. While the car was quite good I was on the edge in (turn) three and four all the time.”

And in a continuing theme, with only two races left to run after Texas (at Watkins Glen and Sonoma), Saturday night’s race is more than a simply completion of a delayed event. With valuable points waiting to be awarded, championship leader Simon Pagenaud and all those who are chasing the Team Penske driver are running out of opportunities to make significant moves in the final standings. 

IndyCar’s final oval race of 2016 should be a wild affair from (re)start to finish.

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