Unfinished business for Newgarden at Barber

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Josef Newgarden and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team have fought through inconsistency throughout most of their two-plus year stint together.

Although they have rarely strung together excellent race weekends back-to-back., they have a good chance to do so this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, for Round 3 of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Like most in the field, how well Newgarden does depends on how well his No. 67 SFHR Honda gels with the track’s high grip level since it was resurfaced.

“Barber is a difficult place now because there’s such high grip,” the Tennessee native said in the team’s pre-race release. “With the new Firestone tires and the track surfacing with the grinding that they’ve done, it’s added a lot of grip to the racetrack, and IndyCars are crazy fast around there – which make is tough to figure out a setup.”

He qualified fourth and was in both podium and win contention at Long Beach before getting taken out. At Barber last year, Newgarden climbed from 22nd on the grid to ninth for his first career top-10 finish. That start-to-finish is the same as what he did at St. Petersburg to open the year.

But still, Newgarden feels there’s some unfinished business at this circuit.

“We still have some work to do around Barber,” he explained. “We had good testing time there over the last couple months, but the open test was cut short because of weather so we weren’t able to get through everything on our list. We have a good baseline frame for our setup. Now it’s about getting all the details around that starting point right. If we get the details right, we should be quick.”

We’ll see whether the team – now led by engineer Jeremy Milless – will be able to pull it off. See if they can Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Off-track, Newgarden’s run of enjoyable events (drifting in Long Beach; simulator work with HPD motocross rider Trey Canard) continues with a trip to NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. today and a cooking demonstration with Joe Namath on Sunday.

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.”