Josef Newgarden displays the American flag during the traditional front row photo session for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Ed Locke/UPI | License Photo
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Josef Newgarden will at least temporarily be in the field as the IndyCar Series returns to the Road America circuit this weekend for the first time in nine years.
However, Newgarden's participation in Sunday's Kohler Grand Prix remains in doubt after surgery to stabilize a right collarbone broken June 12 in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway.
Newgarden also broke a bone in his right hand in the accident with Conor Daly, and swelling has been a concern.
IndyCar's medical staff cleared Newgarden to drive his Ed Carpenter Racing machine in Friday's practices, and he will be evaluated after that. Should he not be able to continue, series veteran JR Hildebrand will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet.
Newgarden and Hildebrand finished third and sixth, respectively, for ECR in last month's Indianapolis 500. Hildebrand is one of only two drivers to have finished in the top 10 in each of the past three 500s.
The first practice Friday is at noon ET, and there will be another 75-minute session at 4 p.m. A third practice, along with qualifying, will be held Saturday, with the 50-lap race at 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC Sports Network.
Many of the sport's current fans don't remember Champ Car's last race at Road America in 2007, but Sebastien Bourdais certainly does.
Bourdais' hand hurt all the way through that event. He led all but two laps in winning that race, and he did so in spite of a bee sting on top of his hand before getting in the car.
Medical personnel applied cream to Bourdais' swollen hand, causing the Frenchman to struggle getting his driving glove on. Medical personnel applied cream to his swollen hand before the race and he pushed away the pain to win by 9.742 seconds over Dan Clarke.
At the time, the margin of victory was the largest for the series at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile circuit since 1993 when Paul Tracy won by 27 seconds.
Bourdais also won from the pole, although he doesn't expect Dario Franchitti's track record of 1 minute, 39.866 seconds in 2000, to be eclipsed this weekend.
This year's race signifies an IndyCar return for the first time in nine years, and Bourdais is the only driver in the 22-car field to have won an IndyCar race at the track. Bourdais also is one of the most excited to return.
"Let's face it," he said. "It's the best track in the U.S., (and) there's nothing that gets close to it. Everybody talks about (the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas), but it doesn't compare."
Bourdais noted the challenge of keeping the car between Road America's white lines. "It rewards or it bites," he said.
Bourdais, who has won four IndyCar races in the past three seasons with KVSH Racing, is coming off a successful weekend in his hometown. He was part of the No. 68 Ford GT team that won a class title in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.