Happy birthday to two of racing’s top personalities, Newgarden and Eversley

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Perhaps the mainstream public-at-large isn’t aware of Josef Newgarden and/or Ryan Eversley yet. But given these two’s outreach and social media presence, plus their popularity within their respective series’ paddocks, they should be.

Both have birthdays today. Newgarden turns 23, Eversley 30, and both seek even bigger 2014s after each made a bigger name for themselves with some of their 2013 efforts.

Newgarden completed his second season in IndyCar with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and was one of the year’s most improved drivers. Four top-five finishes also included a career-best second place in Baltimore, his first podium finish.

Off the track, Newgarden’s quirky persona carried over when he was featured prominently in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s attempt at the “Harlem Shake” fad in February and March (yes, it’s hard to believe that was a fad, and that it was this calendar year). Additionally, Newgarden raised awareness for animal cruelty for a campaign called “Show Your Soft Side” in Baltimore, and was so struck by the cat he did a photo shoot with that he adopted it.

Newgarden made his intro to IndyCar racing – at least in the social media realm – with a series of “Incognito” videos during 2012.

Eversley, meanwhile co-drove with Kyle Gimple to finish second in the ST class of the 2013 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, in the Compass360 Racing team’s No. 75 Honda Civic Si. The pair failed to win but had several podium finishes, and was only just denied the title at the last race of the season. He also finished on the podium in the GX class at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving a BGB Motorsports-entered Porsche Cayman.

Where Eversley’s star rose was on Vine. No driver mastered the series of six-second video loops better (Newgarden did a few of these too, but not to Eversley’s frequency) and it helped to put him on the map. One such example is below, with a Lego version of Eversley’s firesuit walking across a chopsticks-made bridge.

Eversley also had a starring role in two of the Taylor brothers’ music videos, culminating in the “you have to have seen this if you’re in racing” “Jordan Loves Stickers.” He took over the Continental Tire social media channels for the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November, as well.

But where Eversley has really stood out has been in his raising awareness for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, an organization that seeks to find a cure for individuals (mainly children) living with neurofibromatosis (NF).  NF causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and can lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, cancer, deafness, disfigurement, learning disabilities, and excruciating and disabling pain. As a way to do so, Eversley has sought votes via Eagle Rare Life to help raise money for that.

Good dudes, good drivers, and guys who are working both to raise awareness for their sport and for good causes – fitting they share a birthday.

MRTI: Barber Motorsports Park Preview

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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After a month break, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is back in action this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, with two of its series tacking the 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama.

Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires have double-headers this weekend, with Pro Mazda returning to Barber after not running there last year.

The season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was a tale of two completely different stories, with two different winners – Pato O’Ward and Santi Urrutia – and more than a fair bit of chaos for Indy Lights, while Pro Mazda saw Rinus Veekay sweep the weekend.

Talking points for both series heading into Barber are below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia heads to Barber leading the Indy Lights championship on the strength of finishes of second and first in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia displayed great patience at St. Petersburg, finishing second in Race 1 and winning Race 2 after rivals like O’Ward and Colton Herta faltered. However, Barber has not been one of his better tracks, with finishes of 11th, 15th, and 13th in three of his four Indy Lights starts. Yet, he did win Race 2 at Barber 2016, so he has had success there before, and he will be one of the favorites heading into the weekend.
  • Pato O’Ward looks poised to be a title contender in 2018 and will look to avenge a somewhat disappointing outing at St. Petersburg. O’Ward had the speed to sweep the weekend, winning Race 1 handily and dominating Race 2, but a mistake late in the race saw him overshoot Turn 4 and briefly stall before he could rejoin, relegating him to seventh. If O’Ward can show the pace he showed at St. Pete, he might end up being the man to beat.
  • Colton Herta will look to rebound from a St. Pete weekend in which he flashed the speed that caught everyone’s attention last year, but also committed the same mistakes that ultimately prevented him from taking a championship. After finishing third in Race 1, Herta crashed while chasing then leader O’Ward in Race 2. Herta won Race 2 at Barber last year, and getting another win this weekend, along with staying mistake free, would go a long way to erasing his problems from St. Pete.
  • Aaron Telitz is also looking to rebound after a down weekend, as his St. Petersburg weekend lasted all of two corners across both races – he won the Pole for Race 1, but crashed in Race 2 qualifying, and the Belardi Auto Racing team could not repair the car to allow him to race. After the team borrowed a chassis from Carlin for Race 2, Telitz get collected with Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni right off the start, and he crashed again, this time in Turn 2. Telitz finished on the podium at Barber in 2016, the year he won the Pro Mazda championship, and he’ll look for more of the same this weekend.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda weekend in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Rinus Veekay had a perfect weekend to open the Pro Mazda season. The Juncos Racing driver outdueled Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson for the Race 1 victory, and then ran away with Race 2 to complete the weekend sweep. Veekay was expected to be a title contender after moving up to Pro Mazda in 2018, and if he can repeat his St. Pete performance, then he may leave Barber as the heavy favorite in the championship.
  • Not to be forgotten, Parker Thompson sits second in the Pro Mazda title chase, and looks to avenge losing out to Veekay in St. Pete Race 1, and then fading somewhat to finish fifth in Race 2. Thompson was the only driver to regularly challenge Veekay and Oliver Askew in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season, and he and Exclusive Autosport have adapted nicely to the new Tatuus PM-18. If they can show the same form at Barber, and then finish the job with at least one trip to Victory Lane, then it could set the stage for another titanic Pro Mazda championship fight.
  • Last year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew had a quiet weekend in St. Pete, finishing fifth and sixth in the two races. He swept the Barber races in USF2000 last year, and will need a similar performance to vault himself forward from his current place of sixth in the standings.
  • Carlos Cunha and David Malukas head to Barber third and fourth in the championship after solid St. Pete weekends – Cunha had finishes of fourth and third, while Malukas had finishes of seventh and second. Neither was necessarily looked at as a title combatant entering 2018, but repeat performances in Barber could vault them into title contention.

A full weekend schedule, including the Mazda Road to Indy sessions, can be viewed here.

**Note: NBCSN will broadcast Sunday’s Indy Lights race (Race 2 from the weekend) on Monday, April 23.**

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