IndyCar: Newgarden comes from 21st on grid to finish 2nd at Iowa (VIDEO)

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Going into Saturday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, the results had not been there for Josef Newgarden this Verizon IndyCar Series season. But the American and his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team finally put a big one on the board in the Heartland.

With 17 laps remaining in the 300-lap event, Newgarden took advantage of a caution period to pit for fresh tires in hopes that they’d help him make a late push for positions.

Ryan Hunter-Reay made the same decision and when the green flag came back out, both Honda-powered Americans sliced their way to the front of the field.

In the end, Hunter-Reay was victorious, while Newgarden captured his second career IndyCar podium by finishing second after starting 21st.

“I knew the laps were clicking down and at about five to go, I realized, ‘OK, this is going to get really good,'” Newgarden told NBCSN (for more of his comments, check out the clip above). “But there just wasn’t enough time to get Ryan. So, it’s really cool – obviously, finishing on the podium is a great job for our whole team, especially after qualifying. We made a bit of an error there.

“[But] we just did an amazing job tonight. Our team was solid. We had such good pit stops, really good strategy, just kept our head in the game the entire way.

“We didn’t have the best balance all race long, but there were parts where we were really fast. We just kept with it, and at the end, we made it when it counted.”

Prior to Saturday, Newgarden has suffered five DNFs in the first 11 races of the year and his best finishes were a pair of eighths from Barber Motorsports Park and Pocono Raceway.

Time will tell if Saturday’s result will be what he and the single-car SFHR team needed to begin a second-half charge. But Newgarden did note that instead of running into bad luck like he has repeatedly in 2014, the breaks went his way this time.

“It was great to have a run that I think was representative to our pace,” he said. “We were definitely a Top-10 car tonight, probably got a little more than we needed there by doing the new tire strategy.

“But this team deserves it…To get a result – every now and then, it’s something you need obviously, and we’ve been waiting for it.”

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”