Newgarden and kitten photo shoot: A podium combination

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Not a ton to report in the IZOD IndyCar Series ranks as we await their next weekend in Houston, still some three weeks from now. Here are the on-track and off-track stories yet to emerge.

However, IndyCar registered highly on the “Awwwwww!!!” meter yesterday with a tweet showing a finalized ad of Josef Newgarden’s photo shoot with “Marc Jacobs the Cat.” Newgarden’s shoot was done for Show Your Soft Side, a Baltimore-area public service campaign designed to combat the alarming incidence of animal abuse in the city.

Newgarden had some fun with the shoot on site and exchanged a couple tweets with fans yesterday after IndyCar put out the tweet showing the finalized picture:

Interestingly, perhaps, Newgarden emerged after the shoot with his strongest, most complete weekend yet in nearly two full seasons in IndyCar at Baltimore. He made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his career (although his best start is still second at Long Beach in 2012, thanks to engine penalties to Chevrolet drivers) and had a yo-yo race day where he ran in the top five early, fell outside the top 15, then rebounded to finish a career-best second for his first IndyCar podium with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Is it a coincidence the result came after the photo shoot? I’m inclined to think not. Whether Newgarden is able to match his Baltimore weekend at Houston will determine whether “kitten power” was merely a one-off or the good luck charm that changed his season for the better.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”