Santino Ferrucci on standby for Josef Newgarden, who is released from hospital

Santino Ferrucci Josef Newgarden
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Santino Ferrucci will be available to replace Josef Newgarden if the two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion isn’t cleared to race this weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

In a statement, Team Penske announced that Newgarden was released Monday morning from MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center and returned to his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hospitalized overnight after falling and suffering an abrasion after Sunday’s race at Iowa Speedway, where he suffered a heavy crash while leading.

Though scans were negative in evaluation for a possible head injury, Newgarden will be evaluated by the IndyCar medical team Thursday to determine whether he is fit to race in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix.

Outgoing IndyCar medical director Dr. Geoffrey Billows said Sunday that Newgarden would need to be cleared because of the heavy G force registered in the impact of his Turn 4 crash.

Penske said if Newgarden is unable to drive, Ferrucci will make his fourth start of the IndyCar season.

Ferrucci, 24, already will be at Indy because he is racing in the Xfinity race on the Indy road course that follows the IndyCar race. He made his first Xfinity start of the 2022 season last Saturday for Sam Hunt Racing at Pocono Raceway, finishing 35th in a crash.

According to Team Penske president Tim Cindric in a RACER story posted Tuesday night, Ferrucci would forego racing the Xfinity Series if he is needed to substitute for Newgarden in the No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Sam Hunt Racing tweeted that Ferrurcci would be driving its No. 26 Toyota at Indy but indicates changes were possible.

Ferrucci has made 43 IndyCar starts since 2018, running full time in 2019-20 at Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan. He has a career-best finish of fourth four times, including the 2020 Indy 500. He has finished in the top 10 of all four Indy 500 starts and was the race’s top rookie with a seventh in 2019.

He has two top 10s on the IMS road course.

Ferrucci has said he wants to embrace the role of IndyCar’s “Super Sub,” and he has made three starts with three teams this season.

He finished ninth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway as a last-minute replacement for Jack Harvey (who missed the race with a concussion). Replacing the injured Callom Ilott (broken hand), Ferrucci finished 21st at Detroit for Juncos Hollinger Racing.

In his only scheduled start this year, Ferrucci was 10th in the Indy 500 for Dreyer & Reinbold.

Newgarden’s possible absence has prompted rampant speculation on who might fill the seat if necessary. On Monday night, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion even tossed in his hat to make an IndyCar debut at IMS.