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Posted 18 September 2017 - 03:13
Newgarden takes IndyCar crown as Pagenaud wins
Sunday, 17 September 2017
By Mark Glendenning / Images by Scott LePage/LAT
Smart strategy helped Simon Pagenaud to back-to-back wins at Sonoma on Sunday, but even his victory was not enough to stop Penske teammate Josef Newgarden from securing the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers' championship.
Pagenaud, who started from third, lost a place to Helio Castroneves on the opening lap, and then showed his hand when he pitted on lap 12 – half a dozen laps earlier than expected – for his first scheduled stop. Stickered blacks made way for scuffed reds, and he set off into the pack to see whether he could make a four-stopper work.
Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden had led the field away from pole and was looking completely comfortable up front, quickly opening up a gap on the pursuing Will Power. His strategy and Pagenaud's finally converged during the last sequence of stops.
Newgarden's final service came on lap 62, his crew sending him back out to complete the race with a set of new blacks. His stop handed Pagenaud the lead heading into his own stop, which came two laps later. And when he rejoined, he looked in his mirrors – and saw Newgarden. The mission to use strategy to leapfrog his way into the lead had paid off, but Newgarden could still afford to finish second without costing himself the championship.
You wouldn't have known it from Newgarden's aggression over those first couple of laps of the final stint, though. He almost tagged Pagenaud's rear at the top of the hill while the Frenchman was trying to get his tires up to temperature, and made a robust passing attempt at the hairpin, which Pagenaud deflected. Another lunge at the last chicane was also rebuffed, and after a few nervous words over the radio from Tim Cindric, Newgarden settled into a more measured pursuit. Pagenaud eventually crossed the finish line 1.0s clear.
"So cool," said Newgarden as he stepped out of the car. "I'm so proud of these guys. I don't even know what to say. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates; they gave me a lot of help to make sure we got this done.
"It was hard [at the end]; I was using my natural instinct, trying to get Pagenaud because that's what I naturally do – try to win."
Pagenaud was gracious in passing the No. 1 plate on to his stablemate.
"I'm exhausted," he said. "That was as hard as I could drive for 85 laps non-stop. I can barely lift my arms. I want to congratulate Josef and Team Penske – this season showed how strong everybody is at Penske. We did what we had to do – we won the race, and it wasn't quite enough.
"The tires came up to temp pretty quick, and I knew Josef wasn't going to take any risks. It was a bit difficult with the backmarkers, but overall, what a beautiful day. We came up short this year, but we defended really well. I'm proud of my guys and we carried the number one well. But I'm really happy for Josef and I think he's going to be a great champion."
Will Power, who was the lowest-placed among the Penske drivers going into the weekend, was tasked with shadowing Newgarden and acting as a shield against any potential threat from Scott Dixon. That threat never eventuated, and he dutifully crossed the line in third after having spent the entire afternoon within a couple of seconds of the No. 2.
"I was just keeping a buffer between Josef and Dixon, that was our plan all day," Power said. "We were just going to do what Josef did and hang behind him all day unless something happened. It was kind of a boring day, but it was the job that we needed to do."
The other two main title contenders never featured right up at the front and instead spent a good part of the afternoon hovering around each other, with Dixon eventually finishing fourth (and third in the standings) ahead of Castroneves.
"Last year I tried the four stops and it didn't work," Castroneves said. "We had four fast cars and knew we had to try something different. [Pagenaud] tried that [strategy], and good for him, he won the race. And congratulations to Josef, great job."
Graham Rahal was sixth ahead of Marco Andretti, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais and Conor Daly rounding out the top 10.
Remarkably, the entire race was completed without a caution. The closest it ever came to disaster was on the opening lap, when Tony Kanaan slowed on the back straight with a puncture and caused a concertina that ended with himself, Jack Harvey and Zachary Claman DeMelo sustaining damage, although all were able to continue.
James Hinchcliffe's day was derailed when he was helped into a spin by contact with Spencer Pigot. He was eventually able to rejoin, only to have an electrical problem pop up to end his weekend.
Alexander Rossi was sidelined by what appeared to be an engine issue, while Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato lost considerable time to a right-rear puncture early in the race, and then ended up beached in the gravel early in the final stint.
Posted 18 September 2017 - 12:26
Pagenaud proud of 'special' Sonoma win despite falling short of title
Sunday, 17 September 2017
By Mark Glendenning / Image by Scott LePage/LAT
Simon Pagenaud says that his win at Sonoma on Sunday was the highlight of his 2017 season, despite surrendering the championship to Penske teammate Josef Newgarden by 13 points.
Pagenaud was the sole driver to opt for a four-stop strategy, and although it was primarily intended as insurance against an untimely yellow, he was able to make it work well enough to pop out ahead of Newgarden after his final stop, and hold on for the victory.
"When you have to be on top of your game in a very pressured moment, those are my favorite times, favorite moments," he said.
"Being able to accomplish that is a very special thing, so I'm very proud of that, very proud of my team in general – no mistakes, perfect decisions. It was a flawless weekend for us. I think when you walk away from here, it's just what you take away and what you enjoy the most."
Pagenaud earned the win after withstanding a vigorous attack from Newgarden at the beginning of the final stint, with his red-shod teammate trying to capitalize on the time it would take Pagenaud's final set of harder-compound rubber to come up to speed. He later described that out lap as "special," but admitted that there was a lesson to be learned from Newgarden's aggression during that phase of the race.
"He's an aggressive driver, but he makes it work," Pagenaud said. "I'm not that kind of driver, so maybe I need to step up my aggressive level. That's the kind of things you learn. Also, it's good to have young blood coming in. It pushes you further, pushes your limits away, and he's a very smart young man, so obviously you're always learning, and if you think you're not learning, it's probably time to quit. I'm going to keep looking and learning from him, and other drivers."
Posted 18 September 2017 - 12:27
Newgarden appreciates 'biggest year of change'
Sunday, 17 September 2017
By Mark Glendenning / Images by Levitt & Galstad/LAT
Josef Newgarden admits that winning the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series title required him to learn and adapt faster than he’d ever had to at any point in his career.
The 26-year-old arrived at Penske at the start of the season after several years with Sarah Fisher Hartman and Ed Carpenter Racing, and said that his championship success was due in part to realizing that he had to rise to the occasion.
“It's been my biggest year of change,” he said. “It's been my biggest opportunity. I've had so much to live up to, in that you have champions around you, you have guys pushing you every week that are making you get the most out of yourself, and you have to match them. So it's given me the biggest opportunity to grow and to prove myself in that environment, and that's been fun. It's been really fun and challenging for me.
“Having said that, I also had those opportunities in the past, as well. I feel like starting out as a one-car team and trying to figure things out myself was very beneficial to me. All those moments prepared me to get to this point with Team Penske and being able to sort it out with the best of the best.”
That learning curve carried through into Sunday’s season finale at Sonoma, where Newgarden had to be coached by Tim Cindric over the radio not to chase teammate Simon Pagenaud too hard and risk a safe championship position in pursuit of a race win after the Frenchman popped out ahead of him following the final round of stops. Although he credited Cindric’s advice with helping him to gain a bit of perspective at an opportune moment during the race, he conceded that giving up the win still stung.
“I was kind of steaming inside the car,” he said. “But then I thought, as much as it'll piss me off that we lost the race… it's a tough race; this is probably the most grueling race you'll run every year just because of the tire degradation and the way this track drives, it is the most difficult race that you will put together. Physically, mentally, it's draining. So when you feel like you've done everything to win the race and you don't win it, it's very annoying as a racer. So I hated that.
“But I also just thought about the big picture, and Tim was coaching me, so I had to be smart about it. It was a team effort, and that gave me a lot more gratification, I think, than just [disappointment at] losing the race.”
Posted 21 September 2017 - 04:19
Newgarden 'should be receiving calls from F1 teams'
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
By Marshall Pruett / Image by Michael Levitt/LAT
New Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden is worthy of consideration by Formula 1 teams, according to one of his oldest friends and rivals.
A.J. Foyt Racing's Conor Daly, who spent 2011-2014 chasing his F1 dream on the European open-wheel ladder, believes Newgarden has the speed and experience to warrant interest from grand prix teams in search of proven talent.
"Right now, the pace Josef has been on with his steady development, he should be receiving calls from Formula 1 teams," Daly told RACER. "In no way should he not be paid attention to. The guy won the championship in his first season with Roger Penske, and maybe he is receiving calls from Formula 1 teams."
Daly and Newgarden have competed against each other since their karting days, and have been teammates on multiple occasions while rising up the open-wheel ladder. Between the two, Newgarden was the first to leave America for the GP3 series in 2010, and returned home in 2011 where he won the Indy Lights championship.
Daly rose as high as GP2 during his time in Europe, and after seeing the impatient approach to young F1-caliber talent, he's thankful Newgarden continued his education on the Mazda Road To Indy before graduating to IndyCar in 2012.
"It's hard to accept that a talent like Josef, that we've seen for many years, would have been kicked out of the Red Bull system if he had gone to Formula 1," Daly suggested. "Their deal would be, '23rd as a rookie, 14th in Year 2, let's get rid of him.' You aren't given a lot of time to grow, which he's had now in IndyCar.
"The progression is what's impressive about Josef. Drivers are always learning, and he's only been with Penske one year and look what he's done already. He's going to be very difficult to beat here in the future if he doesn't get taken by a Formula 1 team."
Posted 22 September 2017 - 03:02
INSIGHT: The making of an American champion
Thursday, 21 September 2017
Marshall Pruett / Image by Bloxham, Cobb, Galstad, Levitt/LAT; Pruett
Josef Newgarden had major question to answer on Sunday. Could he withstand the pressure from the four title rivals who placed a bright red target on his back?
Moreover, could he carry the weight of expectations placed on his young shoulders by Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, his sponsors, and all those who helped the Tennessee native get within 85 laps of the championship summit?
Following his mistake during the penultimate round in Watkins Glen – only his second significant slip-up of the year, along with Texas – Newgarden clapped back at Sonoma. Critics, of which there are surprisingly few, were silenced.
It started when the 26-year-old phenom ripped pole position away from reigning champion and teammate Simon Pagenaud on the last lap of qualifying. And it continued, decisively, as he went on to record a perfect drive that never gave Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, or Scott Dixon a glimmer of hope in the points race.
In winning the championship, Newgarden confirmed aspects about his talent and tenacity that were apparent from the beginning. Can you believe the boy from Hendersonville, Tennessee, draped in Old Glory, won a title for the Captain in his debut season with the team? Yes, as a matter of fact. Just ask two of the men who bore witness to his budding brilliance.
"Everything, absolutely everything," Jeremy Shaw said of what stood out with Newgarden when he was chosen to receive the Team USA Scholarship in 2008 along with Conor Daly. "He ticked all the boxes. He was inquisitive. He wanted to expand his horizons and go to Europe. He wanted to learn; he was a sponge. There's only been a handful of kids who stood out like him over the years. And Conor was right with him."
Fresh out of the Skip Barber formula car racing series, Newgarden and Daly caught Shaw's attention after the karting graduates waged epic battles in their first open-wheel cars. With the Team USA Scholarship prizes in hand, the pair were flown to England where they represented America in the legendary Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
Newgarden, 17 at the time, would go on to stand atop the podium as the first American to claim overall victory at the event. Looking back, Shaw is hard-pressed to find anything today that wasn't on display nearly a decade ago.
"When they got there, they were right on the pace, gelled well with Cliff Dempsey's team, and they were right with the program," Shaw said. "They were good in and out of the car; that's very important for me. I'm not interested in taking someone who is only good at either. They have to be the complete package.
"That year, I found two that fit the bill, perfectly. Their work ethic was good, they were keen to learn, and it couldn't have worked out better. Plus, they were good buddies, which helped, so they could go over there and support each other and feed off each other, even at that early level."
Careers, taken in lockstep through the Team USA Scholarship, took divergent paths after the Festival. One friend went on a journey that ultimately led to an IndyCar championship; the other would soon begin a winding European detour that slowed his ascent to the mountain top.
"It all started from day one," Daly said. "We were literally racing Yamaha karts from the beginning; his family was driving up from Tennessee to Indiana and we would be racing every weekend. The way it went is, I won the championships and moved on, then he'd win and move on, and then we won the Team USA scholarships together. He was a year older than me, so he went to do the Skip Barber national championships before I could, then we both did the full season.
"And we both did the national shootout to win the scholarship for the Skip Barber national championship, but we didn't win it; Connor De Phillippi won it, and it was all really good guys – there were, like, 30 cars. And that was some of the best racing I've ever been a part of in my career. I won the championship, then we went to Europe with Jeremy..."
Newgarden would remain in Europe to contest the full British Formula Ford championship, where he finished second in 2009, and stayed for 2010 to race in GP3 with Carlin. Although the experience of leaving the U.K. to race in Spain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, and Italy proved invaluable, Newgarden's run to 15th in the GP3 standings cast the first doubt as to whether he was destined for greatness.
At the same time, at home, Daly won the 2010 Pro Mazda championship with Juncos Racing and earned a free ride in Indy Lights for 2011. Newgarden, out of funding to take a second crack at GP3, headed back to Tennessee and was able to scrape together enough budget to join his pal as teammates at Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
As he'd demonstrate a few years later in IndyCar when botched pit stops robbed his first and second shots at victory, or when he broke bones in a nasty crash and refused to let it detract from his performances, or when he stuffed his car into the pit lane exit wall at Watkins Glen, maintaining focus after a setback is a rare gift possessed by Newgarden.
With questions surrounding his humbling season of GP3, the 20-year-old quieted his mind, incorporated what he learned on the European trail, and put five wins on the board along with 10 podiums to capture the Indy Lights title (below). Daly, having opened the door to GP3 with Carlin, scored one Lights win during an abbreviated season and headed east to start his Euro adventure as Newgarden placed his stamp of authority on the Mazda Road To Indy.
"We both had a goal of Formula 1, and it was a crazy rise," Daly said. "He stayed in Europe, didn't have the best time but picked up a lot while he was there, and I stayed in America because I won the Pro Mazda scholarship, then I went over and he came back. We still had that short time together in Lights, though.
"It had been about two years since I really raced against him, but the same exact competition came to life again. This is the guy I had to beat. And I think he felt the same."
As full-time IndyCar drivers, Newgarden – with the best team in the series, and Daly – with a rebuilding A.J. Foyt Racing that ranked last among entrants in 2017, the once-inseparable duo found themselves at different ends of the paddock. From all he's seen from the cockpit, and from their personal interactions, Daly wasn't surprised to witness Newgarden's rocket-fast rise at Team Penske.
"What I see in Josef is an incredible discipline and dedication, and that has never changed," he said.
"Always been there. We have to forfeit our entire lives to make it in this sport, and he's never wavered from making those sacrifices to get to the top. He's been learning all the time, developing himself, and mistakes he made in the beginning of his career. Those almost never happen now. He had what, one that stood out this season? Count that against all the other guys and it's nothing.
"He could have made the wrong move with Pagenaud at Gateway and crashed, but he didn't. It was the perfect move. He handles pressure easily. I saw him do those things when he was young, and now he's doing them in a more prevalent way with Penske. But he's doing it, still that leading American guy, still funny, always being himself."
Daly can be forgiven for wondering if he'd be at a similar stage as Newgarden without the prolonged European open-wheel stint from 2011-2014. While his friend was going from strength to strength in IndyCar with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a narrowing road to F1 for Daly – spent in five different championships with seven teams – surely stunted his development.
By the time Daly found a full-season IndyCar ride with Dale Coyne Racing in 2016, Newgarden had begun to discover his full potential and became a title contender with Ed Carpenter Racing (including winning at Iowa last year, below). Daly, who hopes to stay with Foyt, is chasing the same stability that aided his friend's rapid growth.
"I've always been fighting against Josef," Daly said. "There's no other person I've thought of as the guy I'd be fighting for a job or scholarship other than him. I think about the decision to leave for Europe every day when I see what Josef has become by staying here. I'm just glad I was able to make it back."
The faith and investment by Fisher, Hartman, and Carpenter, coupled with five complete seasons to master his craft, readied Newgarden for his first big shot at stardom when Penske came calling. With time, and the right nurturing from the likes of Shaw and many that followed, supreme speed and potential was shaped into a driver who was "Penske Perfect" upon arrival in 2017.
"I was hugely proud to see Josef win the championship," Shaw said. "Whenever our Team USA guys do well, I feel a thrill inside. Frankly, I'm surprised it took Roger as long as it did to pick him up. But I'm glad it happened, and he's opened his own doors. I maybe helped fine-tune it a bit, but he's taken the bull by the horns and taken his career where he wanted it to go.
"In the early days, he'd call me if he needed any advice, and nothing I saw at Sonoma surprised me. He was on that championship path from the beginning. He was very mature, at 17, when he was picked for Team USA, and he's done exactly what I thought he could. He's made it happen for himself."
For Daly, Newgarden now serves as an inspiration and confirmation of all he can achieve.
"To me, Josef is a known quantity," he said. "With the amount of races we've done together, I know how we've done and know there's no reason why I can't be there in a few years. It's very motivating. I'm so glad he won the championship because by seeing it, I know it's possible for me. Having him as a yardstick is what I've always enjoyed."
As one of the first drivers to congratulate Newgarden Sunday evening, Daly was heartened to find that amid the frenzy and adulation, the new champion was thinking of him.
"I went up to him after the race and said, 'can you believe it man? From where we started?'" Daly continued. "And he said, 'you're next.' Pretty amazing."
The feeling surrounding Newgarden on pit lane, while looking out onto the crowd forming in front of the championship stage, was one of pure energy. The kid, after maximizing every opportunity in IndyCar, had everyone from Roger Penske to GM Racing supremo Jim Campbell singing his praises for in all he delivered to the series with his first title.
Newgarden's immense talent, recognized early, formed and cultivated by the right people, and allowed to build over a reasonable timeline, has gifted IndyCar with the one thing they couldn't buy or create in a marketing program.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the last American IndyCar champion, found a series that was ill-equipped to use his success in 2012 as a launching pad to connect with the masses. Widespread changes to IndyCar's promotions team should prevent Newgarden from being another lost opportunity for open-wheel's resurgence. Little boys and girls should know Newgarden's name, use his story as an inspiration to become future IndyCar champions or, simply, to strive to be better at whatever they dream to achieve.
This is an American with a vibrant personality, who belongs in commercials, on talk shows, and can rally interest in the series as some of its older stars are heading to sports cars. IndyCar has its first millennial champion, and if 2017 is an indicator of what's to come, Newgarden will have multiple titles before he turns 30.
For the IndyCar team owners seeking a Newgarden of their own, the formula has been established – just follow it. For the series itself, is there a greater priority than pushing Newgarden into the mainstream during the offseason? And don't stop there. Send Daly, Pigot, Colton Herta, Oliver Askew, and some of the lesser known Americans with him.
It's too soon to say Newgarden is a once-in-a-generation talent. That kind of proclamation only becomes possible after numerous titles. We can say, however, that Newgarden has presented IndyCar with a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
"When Josef went over to England, he decided he needed to stay and race the next few years, and he actually made a lot of fans," Shaw said. "He went to the Marshal's dinner at Silverstone, and the Forum at Brands Hatch, and they still follow him today. He's very clearly a remarkable talent, and he has an ability to charm people and draw interest in an uncanny way. Something significant can happen with Josef if he's placed in a position to help IndyCar."
Amen, Brother Jeremy.
Posted 22 September 2017 - 12:54
Mislim da smo kazali sve sto ima da se kaze na ovu temu, moze da se zakljucava i da se pinuje tema za narednu sezonu!