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.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”