Josef Newgarden

Elusive first podium for Newgarden achieved in Baltimore

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It’s a good feeling to be disappointed with second. For Josef Newgarden, it’s been a long time coming.

The promise and potential he’s been able to show flashes of over his first two seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series hasn’t yet been converted into a result, save for a pair of fifth place results this year (Brazil, Pocono). One finally came today, an elusive first podium for the 22-year-old who won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Newgarden started fifth from a career-best qualifying effort (Ed: His best start is second, at Long Beach 2012, after grid penalties were applied), and moved to fourth early but ran wide at Turn 12 as the first signs of brake wear began to emerge. Additionally, what had been a solid opening six or seven laps on the Firestone red alternates went south quickly as the tires began to fall off.

He fell as low as 17th after he got caught up in an accordion effect accident at Turn 1, as he nosed into the back of Helio Castroneves.

But through a mix of cars needing to pit ahead of him, other cars having contact in Turns 1 and 3 and not needing another late pit stop, Newgarden was able to re-emerge in the top five.

“There was like six races worth of incidents, with so many things that happened,” he said. “That (first) one, yeah, I went into Turn 1 and thought it was clustered on the inside, so I followed Helio on the outside. Then the outside wound up being clustered too, and ran into the back of him, then I heard on my radio from Mike, take the runoff. He said right when I turned in. I could have turned around! But then there was another incident where I did take the runoff and gained positions. Then we got everything back. We got lucky.”

In the last 10 laps, Newgarden was consistently able to take out four to five tenths of a second on leader Simon Pagenaud. But the brake issue emerged again towards the end – Newgarden hung on for dear life to save what brakes remained and avoid contact – and he had to ensure he brought the car home in second place.

“We wanted to challenge Simon but we had a bit of a brake mishap at the end,” he said. “We were trying to keep the pedal solid. It’s hard to keep the cars cool. That definitely bit us at the end.”

Newgarden’s podium is the second for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team overall (Ed Carpenter’s win at Kentucky, 2011) and first ever on a road or street course. With the podium, Newgarden is the 18th different driver to score an IZOD IndyCar Series podium this season.

Porsche wins, champs crowned in rain-shortened Petit Le Mans

Photo: IMSA
Photo: IMSA

BRASELTON, Ga. – One of the more bizarre races in recent sports car history was called just prior to the eight-hour mark, as IMSA Race Director Beaux Barfield made the decision to end the 2015 edition of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda early.

It produced a surprise winner, as the GT Le Mans class No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR secured an overall victory courtesy of a storming drive from Nick Tandy and co-driver Patrick Pilet. Third driver Richard Lietz did not get to drive in the race.

Pilet has now secured the GTLM class championship, too, as a result.

Meanwhile Action Express Racing stormed from behind to win its second consecutive Prototype class championship.

The No. 5 Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais finished third overall – behind both the No. 911 car and No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE – but the result was enough to give it a class win and the class championship.

Other class champions include Jon Bennett and Colin Braun in Prototype Challenge in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia in GT Daytona. Like the Action Express pairing, Bell and Sweedler came from behind to win the title.

Other race winners were the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 of Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Guasch and Andrew Palmer in PC and the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America of Spencer Pumpelly, Patrick Lindsey and Madison Snow in GTD.

The race was slowed by 10 full-course cautions and a number of accidents, spins, and other off-course excursions.

It also featured a red flag of one hour and five minutes during the race, but the race was resumed.

Barfield explained the decision to call the race when he did in a post-race press conference with assembled reporters:

“So a big part of reconnecting with the drivers and competitors in this paddock has been really open communication,” Barfield said.

“For the basis of this decision, I go back to Watkins Glen. At Watkins Glen because of the imminent weather we had coming there and how it ended up being managed, we encouraged more open dialogue to gather as much information as possible for our decision process.

“As it turned out that was very successful how they communicated real time.

“So going into this event, with the weather being similarly predictably bad, we reestablished that. How we communicated and went about it the same way.

“Today was really similar to that with our attention to our attention to what was going on the track and on the TV screeens, and with looking at the radar. With my knowledge of this track having spent a lot of time here in the past. Having a quick car availbel for recon laps during the vents. All of our decisions were for gathering information from those different directions.

“Fast forward to the very end of the race, the last restart, I felt in my gut that with the visibility issues, you have to think about these issues that produce two problems.

“One is the grip, hydroplaning – whatever part of the world you’re from – where issues where drivers have less control. An often forgotten major issue is the visibility. Cars with downforce shoot up such a spray, it’s hard to see around.

“The grip issue was one and dealt with but we had some daylight. The visibility was a problem. But not as it great as it became in the last hour when we lost sunlight.

“The light with the track conditions gave me no comfort level to go back green that is. What I saw on track, the visibility issues I had with a Porsche on track, you had the speed they had, you’d have to drop into night with a sunset, I felt like I’d be putting driver out there completely blind.

“So this decision was made to pull the plug and do the checkered flag.”

Bottas: Williams turning focus to 2016 car

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car to set the third fastest time during the qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Belgium, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. The Belgium Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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Valtteri Bottas has explained how Williams is beginning to turn its attention to the development of its car for the 2016 Formula 1 season as the team settles into third place in the constructors’ championship.

Williams has struggled to put up much of a fight to Mercedes and Ferrari at the front of the field in 2015, picking up just three podium finishes.

With five races to go in the season, the team sits comfortably in third place in the constructors’ standings, knowing that neither the 129 point gap to Ferrari ahead or the 69 point difference to Red Bull behind are likely to be bridged.

As a result, the team is now turning attention to its 2016 car, the FW38, as explained by Bottas in his post-Japanese Grand Prix blog.

“As we get to this stage of the season some of the focus is switching to next year’s car and for sure we’ve been developing the FW38 for a long time,” Bottas said.

“That’s the target until the end of the season – to look ahead and put us in the best place for 2016. But if we can also find something that benefits this year’s car then we’ll use it as we would like to get more podiums before the season finishes. And if we can get closer to Ferrari then all the better.”

Williams has looked most comfortable at the high-speed tracks so far this season, and with the likes of the Circuit of The Americas, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and the Yas Marina Circuit all to come, the team should be in good stead for the final leg of the year.

“Most of the tracks we’re still going to this year should be good for us, so that’s very positive,” Bottas said. “I believe the upgrades we introduced for Singapore gave us more downforce and worked well, so they definitively worked here too.

“We ran the same bits on the car at Suzuka and were competitive but, obviously, Red Bull and Ferrari have made improvements too and they’ll be very difficult to beat in the coming races.”