Indiana native Newman “emotional” after pole run at Indy

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South Bend, Indiana native and Purdue University graduate Ryan Newman was thrilled to make his own bit of history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon by winning the pole for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400.

Newman earned tremendous cheers from his home fans after he knocked Jimmie Johnson off the top spot in the final qualifying attempt of the day. His lap of 187.531 miles per hour also enabled him to claim the NASCAR qualifying record at Indy.

“I got emotional on the backstretch when they told me [that I had the pole],” Newman said in a post-race press conference. “It’s special to me because it’s Indiana, but it’s even more special because it’s the Brickyard and the history of auto racing at this facility. So many drivers who were my heroes, so many drivers that I’ve admired, so many drivers that have worked so hard in their career to get to here – and on this day, to be the fastest one, that is what’s special.”

“…My parents still have a house in South Bend, so I still have the Indiana roots. That didn’t make me any faster today, but it makes it more gratifying to win the pole.”

The pole was the 50th of Newman’s Sprint Cup career and made him the ninth driver in series history to reach that mark, joining Richard Petty (123 career poles), David Pearson (113), Jeff Gordon (72), Cale Yarborough (69), Darrell Waltrip (59), Bobby Allison (58), Mark Martin (56), and Bill Elliott (55).

But there’s still 400 miles to contend with tomorrow, and Newman is expecting to see track position remain the most important element at Indy even with the quickness of the new Generation 6 cars.

“It’s always going to be a track position race,” Newman said. “The flatter the track is and the faster we go, as far as the aerodynamics and the way the drafting works, you really can’t make up in the draft what you lose in downforce in the corners.

“The track position is going to be key and because we’re faster than we’ve ever have [been], I say it’s gonna be more important than it ever has been.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.