Newgarden Leads Finale’s Opening Practice

Josef Newgarden fired the first shot as the battle for the series title began this afternoon at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Newgarden’s lap of 1:11.410 beat Colton Herta by 0.41 seconds.

Andretti Autosport finished second, third, and forth. Herta was followed by Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi.

Callum Ilott was fifth fastest.

Points leader Will Power was seventh. The other title contenderrs, Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon, were 10th and 17th. The Ganassi team tested here Monday.

Dixon explained, “We came with a pretty different setup than what we did at the test. WE just wanted to try a few different things. We could see that the 8 car already backed up some of those, so mit looked like he moved in a positive direction. Still, all of us outside the top 10 is not ideal. We’ll work out of here and see, make what we can out of it. It’s going to be a pretty high (degradation) race.”

David Malukas, second nin the rookie of the year battle, was ninth, and rookie leader Christian Lundgaard had the 15th fastest lap.

Asked if his quick time is representative of his advantage over the field,, Newgarden said,

“It’s hard to say. I didn’t even really put together my best lap, and I’m sure that was the case for the majority of the field. It’s always hard to read off the first session. I think we’ll tighten up tomorrow.
But just the early read is good. I felt like we made really
good use of our short time that we had today and short set
of tires that we had. We didn’t have a lot to work off of. So
I feel good early, but I feel like it’s early days.”

Results

Morning at Laguna Seca

Good morning or good afternoon, wherever you are. We are two hours from the first Indy Lights practice, followed by the first Indycar practice.

Some news items to catch up on.

Not a huge surprise, but Scott mcLaughlin has signed a multi year deal with Team Penske. The second year driver has three poles and three wins this season.

In a huge boost to the Indy Lights Series, HMD announced their intention to field eight Indy Lights cars in 2023. There have been years when the Lights field barely had eight cars. HMD currently runs points leader Linus Lundqvist, who should wrap up the championship this weekend.

Lundqvist said he wants to finish his championship “on a high.”

I’m hearing the chances of Colton Herta getting a super license exemption to race in Formula 1 are slim.

Championship Strategy

Josef Newgarden said he will approach this weekend mostly like any other.

“…you treat it to be the same as always, working on trying to maximize the car trying to make your points like oh, this is gonna be the same regardless.”

About the decision to test at Portland instead of Laguna Seca, Newgarden said,

“We tried a different strategy I think it worked for us at Portland for sure. But you know what time is gonna tell if that was the right decision or not. I think we feel good confident about that.”

Kirkwood on Moving On

Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood reflected on his time with A. J. Foyt Racing and moving to Andretti autosport next year.

“It’s bittersweet, because, and I really, I really wanted to win with this team. It’s great. The guys really like a family atmosphere, you kind of feel the heritage within the team. . So I’m gonna go into powerhouse team , like Andretti Autosport. Knowing I’m gonna have a good car atalmost all events and so it’s, it’s good for that sense. But it’s also it’s also bitter in the sense that it kind of feels like a moment leaving a family. So we’ll definitely be emotional. But I mean, no matter what, it’s good for everyone.. , One thing I can definitely take away from the season is we’ve definitely developed the car better, especially on street courses. But we definitely progressed on everything, got the car in a better spot, whoever fills into that number 14 car is gonna be in a better spot than where I was at the end of the season, which is nice to know from just my own knowledge.

Working with really good .teammates is the main thing I’ve never really had a teammate to push me in the past couple years. And given the lineup stays the same, it’s gonna be a ton of fun working with all of them, because I know they’re all stellar drivers and they’ll all push me to do better and, and actually be very valuable stuff and whatnot. So that’s something I’m extremely lucky. “

Kirkwood doesn’t necessarily feel pressure jumping into the 27 car. “Rossi has obviously done very well, because eight wins in that car over a few seasons almost won a championship. So while there is pressure, it’s obvious that the cars would be good, but I think people understand that I’m coming in just after a rookie season and coming out with a new team and stuff. So I can’t be expected to be right out of the gate. It’s gonna stay right but as it goes along the road, it’s probably gonna pressure me to get up to his level, if not better him. So yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure involved, but there’s always pressure “

Newgarden Leads Portland First Practice

Josef Newgarden turned the fastest lap in a disjointed opening practice for the Grand Prix of Portland this afternoon. After about 24 minutes of the session, the red flag came out for an unusual reason.

A video board on the front stretch opposite the pits began to lower itself. Hydraulic fluid was leaking from the arm, and the board could have potentially fallen ontop the racing surface.

Practice resumed one hour and 21 minutes later. The final 51 minutes were interrupted three times. Takuma Sato went off in turn 11 and the front of his car made contact with the tire barrier. Helio Castroneves had an off road excursion, then later spun and stalled. Pato O’Ward backed into the tire barrier. His car would not restart.

O’Ward’s car returning to the paddock after practice.

In addition to the red flags, Romain Grosjean’s day ended early with transmission issues.

The top three today- Nerwgarden, David Malukas, and Scott McLaughlin.

Three of the top five in points finished in a group. Alex Palou was ninth, Will Power 10th, ancd Scott Dixon 11th.

Results

Points Battle- Spoilers, Helpers, Bonus Points

Will Power has a very tenuous lead heading into the final two races

The Indycar title fight is down to four drivers who are separated by just 17 points. Three of the four have nine Indycar championships between them. 2022 is one of the closest four driver battles with two races left that I remember. It is also a team battle, Team Penske vs. Chip Ganassi Racing.

The standings:

I have shown the top six because Alex Palou drives for Ganassi and Scott McLaughlin drives for Penske. They are both a bit too far out to have a realistic chance at the title unless all four ahead of them have some extremely bad luck the next two weekends. but they have a role to play. Palou and Mclaughlin need to help their teammates by taking points away from the competitors on the other team.

If either Palou or McLaughlin should win of the last two races- Palou won at Portland last year- it doesn’t necessarily hurt their team members.

Bonus Points

The three point difference between Power and Newgarden can be contributed to the bonus points Power earned at Gateway last weekend. The championship could come down to who scores the most bonus points at Portland and Laguna Seca. The season long bonus point standings”

Dixon 21 (5 races)

Power 18 (10 races)

Newgarden 18 (9 races)

Ericsson 12 (5 races)

Dixon’s total is skewed by the 12 points he earned for winning the pole at the Indianapolis 500. He would have just 10 bonus points if Indianapolis awarded the normal ingle point for pole.

Power and Dixon are the only two of this group who have earned maximum bonus points for a race.

Testing as Strategy

Most Indycar teams have one test day left, and the top two teams have each chosen a different track to map the final push.

Today, Team Penske tests at Portland. Ganassi tests Monday at L:aguna Seca. Ganassi tested at Portland last year and took the pole and the race win.

Newgarden Cleared for Practice

A statement from the NTT Indycar Series:

Newgarden crashed on while leading on lap 235 of Sunday’s HyVee Salute to Farmers 300. He was released from the track medical center, then later lost conscious and received a cut to the back of his head.

Santino Ferrucci remains on standby should Newgarden not be allowed to continue after tomorrow morning’s practice.

Ferrucci on Standby for Newgarden

News bulletin from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, NC – Team Penske has announced that Santino Ferrucci will be on standby for INDYCAR SERIES Championship contender Josef Newgarden heading into this weekend’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Newgarden was released from MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center earlier this morning and returned to his home in Nashville. Per series protocols, Newgarden will be reevaluated by the INDYCAR Medical Team on Thursday to determine his status for the Gallagher Grand Prix. Should Newgarden not be able to race, Ferrucci will take the wheel of the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet.

Ferrucci has 43-career INDYCAR SERIES starts with four of these occurring at the IMS road course where he has two top-10 finishes.  His career best IndyCar finish is fourth, on four occasions, and he has made three starts in 2022, with two top-10 finishes.

Quick Thoughts- Iowa HyVeeDeals 250

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Another Iowa race, another Josef Newgarden victory. Newgarden dominates this track like Scott Dixon used to rule Mid Ohio.

Chevy has a tremendous advanatge over Honda this year. Several Honda cars challenged Newgarden, but did not have enough to make a serious run. Chevys finished 1,,2,3,4 today.

Colton Herta’s oval misfortunes continued. After his first early pit stop it was fun watching him carve his way through the field. Herta looked like he would be a contender.

What a drive for Jimmie Johnson. He spun on lap 14, recovered to lead 19 laps, and spent much of the race in the top 10 before finishing 11th.

The standings have tightened up. Mafrcus Ericsson’s lead has shrunk to 15 pointsover Newgarden and 22 over Will Power.

Pato O’Ward earned his second runner up spot on an oval. it was a much needed result for O’Ward, who had an average finish of 20th in his past three races.

Overall, it was a good race with many battles for position.

Newgarden, Power, and O’Ward all noted how quickly the tires went away today. They expect the same situation tomorrow.

Some Numbers

Newgarden has won four races in 2022. This is the first year a driver has four wins since 2020. Today’s win was also his fourth at Iowa. His first win here came when he drove for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Indycar announced there were 722 passes on track today, 372 for position.

Only five cars finished on the lead lap.

Today’s race marked the sixth time this year that the driver starting second has won. The pole winner has not won since the first race of the year in St. Pete.

I will have a follow up story with quotes and final results up later. Thanks for following along. Another race tomorrow.