Ryan Newman wins Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis

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Indiana native Ryan Newman has realized his childhood dream of winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capitalizing on a slow final stop from Jimmie Johnson and going on to win the Brickyard 400 from the pole position.

Johnson and Newman were first and second, when the five-time Sprint Cup champion made his final stop with 27 laps to go. However, the four-tires-and-fuel stop clocked in at a slow 17 seconds for Johnson. Newman then pitted from the lead one lap later for fuel and right-side tires only, and was able to get out in front of Johnson on the track.

Once the green-flag pit cycle concluded, Newman re-assumed the lead with 12 laps remaining and went on to take the checkered flag by 2.65 seconds over Johnson, who led a race-high 73 laps but was denied what would have been a fifth career triumph at Indy.

“[Crew chief] Matt Borland made an awesome call,” Newman said to ESPN in Victory Circle. “I’ve won more races with him on old tires and [being] out of gas than I have with four tires and the best car…This is a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to go and push my lips against those bricks!”

As for Johnson, he accepted his defeat gracefully.

“It’s definitely a disappointment, but it’s racing – stuff happens,” he said. “I’ve given away a couple [of races] while leading myself this year. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and that’s just how it is. I wouldn’t take another race team out there.”

The victory comes at a very opportune time for Newman, who will leave Stewart-Haas Racing and become a free agent at season’s end. But while he’ll have to look for a new ride for 2014, Newman maintained that his focus remains on finishing strong for SHR.

“We still have a championship to go after and we still have the Chase to do,” he said. “There’s still plenty of racing left. This is a great day for us in the points, but it doesn’t mean anything. Tomorrow’s a new day and come Pocono, this will be in the past.”

Kasey Kahne finished a solid third, while Newman’s boss, Tony Stewart, finished fourth. Matt Kenseth rounded out the Top 5.

After Stewart climbed out of his machine, he eventually made his way to Victory Circle and wrapped Newman in a bear hug as a very proud car owner.

“I was scared to ask where he was at and how big of a lead he had and finally, with three to go, I couldn’t wait any longer,” Stewart said. “Finally, I asked and wanted to know what was going on – I didn’t want to jinx him.

“I just kept watching the Jumbotrons every time we’d come off of [Turn] Four, and was watching to see where he was at. I’m just very proud of him. He’s a great teammate and an even better friend. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Newgarden, Chevy top Phoenix practice

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Friday’s two-hour practice for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix started out slowly, with only a handful of drivers turning laps in the opening 30 minutes. However, the second hour, and the final 30 minutes in particular, turned into a frenzy, with drivers making several runs and completing qualifying sims.

Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts with an average speed of 192.108 mph, the only lap above the 192 mark of the session.

JR Hildebrand enjoyed a strong run on his return after suffering a broken hand at Long Beach to run second in practice. Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power completed the top five, making it a Chevrolet sweep of the top five spots.

Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the session, with sand blowing onto the track surface throughout practice. Conditions became severe enough that practice was halted a couple minutes prior to its scheduled conclusion.

Of note: driver Ed Carpenter, in his first race outing of 2017, suffered a shortened practice due to mechanical issues and the crew reportedly was working on swapping out the fuel cell on his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Times and qualifying order are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 p.m. ET (8:00 local time).

 

 

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

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Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Friday edition (VIDEO)

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While the drivers may be the stars of Formula 1, their on-track escapades would not be possible without the titanic effort from those behind the scenes at their respective teams, making it key for us to hear from the people who make racing possible from time to time.

Following on from the special Friday edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ in Bahrain, Will Buxton is back with all of the interviews from the team bosses in today’s FIA press conference in Russia.

In part one, we hear from Otmar Szafnauer, COO at Force India, who gives his verdict on the team’s showing in 2017 so far and new driver Esteban Ocon’s start to the season. We also catch up with Renault technical boss Nick Chester and Pirelli’s new F1 chief, Mario Isola.

In part two, Ferrari’s engine boss Luigi Fabroni offers his thoughts on the Italian marque’s strong start to the 2017 season following Sebastian Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain. At the other end of the success spectrum, McLaren’s Matt Morris and Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa discuss the ongoing rebuilding project at woking.