NEWTON, Iowa – Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was airlifted for further evaluation of a possible head injury because he fell and suffered “an abrasion” after Sunday’s race at Iowa Speedway.
Dr. Geoffrey Billows, outgoing medical director for IndyCar, said Newgarden was communicating after “passing out” and striking his head shortly after the checkered flag. The Team Penske driver had wrecked while leading on Lap 231 in pursuit of his second consecutive victory at the 0.894-mile oval.
Observers said Newgarden fell in the motorhome lot where drivers stay on race weekends.
“We just want to send him downtown just for further evaluation because we don’t have the ability to get more advanced imaging or radiographs,” Dr. Billows told reporters in the Iowa Speedway infield care center. “But he’s awake and talking to us.”
Dr. Billows said Newgarden was transported by helicopter because of concern that the 45-minute ground transport to Mercy One Des Moines Medical Center in downtown Des Moines would be delayed by a post-trace traffic and a Blake Shelton concert at the track.
Newgarden was airlifted “only because it’s so far to Des Moines,” said Billows, who stressed the helicopter flight was precautionary. “It’s a 45-minute drive, and we’ve got all this concert traffic and everything, we were afraid it was going to be delayed, and the helicopter was sitting here.”
An ambulance was called to the driver lot after Newgarden collapsed. He was inside the care center for about 30 minutes before being loaded into the helicopter on a stretcher.
Newgarden already had been evaluated in the care center after his crash and conducted interviews with NBC Sports and other media.
“That’s the thing that makes it confusing,” Dr. Billows said. “He crashed, he was evaluated here after the crash, and he was fine. We actually went and talked to him afterwards. And then apparently after (we) talked to him, he exited his hauler and passed out or fell or whatever and hit his head.
“We just felt out of the abundance of caution, we wanted to make sure he doesn’t have any kind of head injury.”
Dr. Billows said Newgarden “seemed OK” during his crash evaluation, but that the wreck registered a heavy enough impact that IndyCar planned to re-evaluate the driver Thursday “because of the level of Gs on the accelerometer.”
IndyCar will race on the next two weekends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
“I want to cry.”
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