Newgarden: Title Hunt “Far from Over”

Josef Newgarden is glad he is leading the points going into next week’s final race of the NTT Indycar Series by a larger margin than he had before the 2016 finale, but he cautions that the points chase is “far from over with the double points situation.” In a teleconference this afternoon, Newgarden said he feels he controls his own destiny but that Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca is “a wild card event with lots of unknowns.” Although his lead is bigger than it was two years, Newgarden feels the same pressure.

In contrast to Alexander Rossi, who yesterday said qualifying up front will be very crucial for a good result,  Newgarden doesn’t know how important qualifying will be because no one knows how the track will race. He thinks the test day on the Thursday before the race will be telling. Most drivers have not raced at this track.

I asked Newgarden if having a teammate also going for the championship would cause him to change the way he approaches next weekend.  he said, “It would be a mistake to change the way we approach it.” Newga5rden said he and Simon Pagenaud have tried to be fair with each other on the track.

Reflecting on his spin out at Mid-Ohio, Newgarden said, ” I can’t help myself sometimes. My nature is always to go for the higher position.”

While it would be nice for an American to win the title, it is not something Newgarden puts emphasis on. “I’ve always like the great mix of talent from around the world,” he said. He is happy to see young American drivers like Colton Herta enter the series.

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is Sunday, September 22 on NBC.

Quick Thoughts- Bommarito 500 Qualifying

Photo: Kyle McInnes

That was a very exciting qualifying session. Any time the pole is decided on the last lap adds drama to the day.

It must have been a great moment for Dale Coyne’s team to have both his cars on the front row for a few minutes.

Disappointed that the NTT IndyCar Series didn’t delay qualifying. and completely clean up the oil dry. The first ten cars to qualify were at a distinct disadvantage. I’m not saying one of them would have won the pole, but a fairer run might have helped them gain a spot or two.

Sanction Ferrucci qualified sixth after leading the early practice session. He was P 1 during qualifying for a few minutes until teammate Sebastien  Bourdais nipped him.

The top ten is a surprise outside of the expected Penskes’s top positions. Both Coyne cars, both Ganassi cars and only one from Andretti fill half of the top of the grid.

Josef Newgarden is in a position to take firm control of the championship tomorrow night. Alexander Rossi needs to get through the first lap cleanly.  Pit strategy will be an important factor in tomorrow’s outcome.

The way today’s action played out is why I prefer a draw or order based on practice speeds for oval qualifying. The series says the order system is part of the consistency they seek. Road and street course groups are based on practice speeds. Wouldn’t it be more consistent to base oval qualifying order on practice speeds as well?

If a title contender were to be one of the first to go out, that could make the race more interesting. Would the series let Newgarden or Rossi or one of the other contenders go out wit oil dry not completely cleaned up?

 

 

 

Newgarden Tops Practice 3

Josef  Newgarden laid down the quickest lap of the weekend in the last few minutes of practice 3 this morning with a time of 1:42.882.  Coton Herta was second 0.35 seconds behind. Will Power had the third best time 0. 38 seconds off Newgarden’ s lap. NTT  Indycar  Series qualifying for the REV Group Grand Prix is at 3:0 pm Central Time.

Yesterday’s session leaders, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, were fourth and fifth respectively. Four rookies finished in the top ten. In addition to Herta, Felix Rosenqvist was seventh, Santino Ferrucci eighth, and Patricio O’Ward tenth.

I am not surprised by the results of this session. Penske cars have been pretty dominant here, and Newgarden and Power were the front row last year. We could see a repeat of that lineup.

I did some more exploring this morning and found two great viewing spots. One is at the top of the inside of turn seven. There is a large bleacher from where you can see turns six and seven plus the beginning of the carousel after the Speedville bridge.

The other location is somewhat secluded with few spectators. I will just say it is an amazing spot to watch from, but I’m not divulging where it is.

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts.  Watch for my full report on Wildfire Sports later tonight.

Quick Thoughts- DXC Technology 600k

That turned out to be a fun race at the end. It was a pretty tame race for Texas.

Josef Newgarden has three wins already this season. No one had more than three wins in 2018.  This puts Newgarden in a great position to win a tiebreaker, although should  Alexander Rossi tie him in wins, Rossi has three second places to date.

If Newgarden wins the championship, Tim Cindric should get a big share of the credit. Another brilliant call to pit on the first yellow worked out and brought the car home first. All three of Newgarden’s wins this year can attributed to pit/tire calls by Cindric.

Rossi had a great save to avoid the Herta-Dixon crash. It likely saved his title hopes.

The high line never came in tonight as it usually does. Rossi lost one of his strengths without that second groove.

Graham Rahal had a quiet race, but ends up third.  Glad to see him finally have a good result in what has been a frustrating season for his team.

Remember when crew members wore short sleeves and no helmets? A serious injury or worse didn’t happen on pit lane tonight because of the mandated safety equipment for crew members. That was a scary crash in Sato’s pit. Glad to see the crewman was okay.

Dixon has made race ending mistakes two straight weekends.

It’s a shame that James Hinchcliffe  crashed. He had the drive of the race going until then.

Colton Herta also had a great run going.   He made some incredible moves. A shame his day ended the way it did.

What can we say about Santino Ferrucci? His fourth place tonight  at Texas gives him  three top tens in the last four races. Ferrucci is now leading the Rookie of the Year standings. He has done this rather quietly.  Ferrucci has improved every week.

Zach Veach continues his disappointing season.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  Next week I take a look at the season at the halfway point.

 

Front Row Flips for Race 2

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Yesterday’s Detroit Grand Prix front row drivers swap places for Race 2 today.

Josef Newgarden took the pole  and Alexander Rossi will start second.  Newgarden had the fastest lap of the two qualifying groupos at 1:14. 860. Rossi’s best lap was 1:15.182.  Newgarden turned his fast lap in the last minute of the session. Newgarden won yesterday’s rain delayed and shortened race.

The second group was delayed for about 40 minutes to dry the track from water which had spilled from a cover on top the tire barrier in turn 6. The cars had just entered the track for their warm up lap when the red flag was shown.

The clock was reset to the full 12 minutes and the session ran cleanly.

This is Newgarden’s first pole this year and seventh career pole. His last pole was at Toronto in 2018.

Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, and Felix Rosenqvist also start in the first three rows for the second straight day.

Look for Quick Thoughts here after the race and a full report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.

 

Quick Thoughts- Detroit Race 1

It is frustrating race to watch a race that runs 50%  of the time under yellow. 29 green laps isn’t much of a race.

There were some good battles early, but the race got processional once everyone went to slicks.

Tim Cindric once again made the right strategy call. If the race stayed green it might not have worked out.

Rossi has two straight second place finishes and Sato two straight third places. I said a couple of weeks ago that Sato will be in this fight all season.

I’m sure television influenced the length of the time limit, but 85-90 minutes would have made a better show and guaranteed a second pit stop.

Ryan Hunter-Reay did a great job recovering from missing turn 7 early.

Looking at the tire choices set for today before the rain, it looks like most of the field was planning to start on reds and be done with them for the rest of the race. We might see the same plan tomorrow.

I have had my fill of rainy races this year.

Tomorrow the weather looks good for a dry full length race.  It should be a better show.

It’s hard to believe that we are seven races into the season and Will Power hasn’t won a race. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Watch for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Mid Day Update- Alonso Crash; All Rookies Complete ROP

It’s 3:300time for the 3 o’clock update.

Fernando Alonso crashed in turn 3 just after noon today, the first yellow for an accident in practice. Alonso exited the turn and hit the the outside wall, slid backwards toward the infield.  The rear of the car hit the inside wall hard and it rebounded back to the outside wall . There was heavy contact with the left rear. Alonso was uninjured. The team will assess the damage and decide whether to repair this car or prepare the backup machine.

A few minutes before Alosno’s crash Graham Rahal made quite a save exiting turn 2 It looks like understeer is an issue. teams may be experimenting with the different downforce levels and wing settings allowed.

Pato O’Ward completed his rookie test in a special pre practice session this morning. Ben Hanley completed the last phase around 1 pm. All rookies are now eligible to practice and qualify.

Josef Newgarden just had the fastesy lap of the day, 228.856, nipping Scott Dixon’s time by 0.02 miles an hour.

Conor Daly and Dixon did some pit stop practice.

Zach Veach and Colton Herta teamed up to work on drafting.

McLaren has decided to repair their car.