IndyCar: Newgarden confirmed for 2015 with merged CFH Racing

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden is at the end of his three-year deal with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at the end of this year, and now he’ll be moving over with the merged CFH Racing team in 2015.

Fisher’s group, which is merging with Ed Carpenter Racing next season, confirmed Newgarden has signed a one-year extension with an option for a second year. He’ll continue in the No. 67 car.

“Over the last three years, we have focused to build our team with Josef front and center, and we are extremely excited to continue that progress into 2015,” Fisher said in a team release. “In working with our guys, everyone is proud to build on the continuity that it takes to be successful in an increasingly competitive Verizon IndyCar Series.

“I know how much effort Josef and our team put toward being the best and am looking forward to delivering even more tools for them to work with at CFH Racing next year.”

Added Newgarden, “I’m really excited about the merger between Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing,” Newgarden said. “Wink and Sarah extending an offer to keep me around for another year is first and foremost. They are the ones who gave me an opportunity to start my IndyCar career, and I’m happy to continue that with them for another year.”

Fisher’s team partner, Wink Hartman, confirmed the team’s plans to continue with two cars.

“Sarah and I have the best of both worlds,” Hartman said. “Josef will be in the seat of the 67 car next year as we are now a two-car team. Continuing with Josef gives me great pride. He is the next star of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Carpenter, who spoke highly of Newgarden last week, looks forward to working with him.

“I am very happy that Josef has signed with CFH Racing,” Carpenter said. “I think he has shown great potential, and it is my hope that CFH Racing will help him fully reach his potential and that we can win many races together.

“I have seen Josef mature a lot over the past few years, and I really look forward to working with him and continuing his development. I see him as one of the premier talents in this series for the future, and we are very proud to have him on our team.”

The team has not yet confirmed whether it will use Honda or Chevrolet engines from 2015.

Newgarden will start second for today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT), behind Verizon P1 Award winner Will Power.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”