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Might Miller Lite sponsorship be brewing for Newgarden?

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Since rejoining the United States racing scene in 2011, Josef Newgarden has established himself as one of its great characters.

Whether he was running around incognito at the streets of Long Beach or Texas Motor Speedway to promote his rookie IndyCar season (while also professing his fandom of Dario Franchitti) or giving a tour of St. Petersburg, Florida ahead of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 26-year-old has consistently illustrated a knack for entertaining fans and maintaining a polished demeanor for sponsors.

Those traits, along with supreme driving talent, made him an obvious fit for Team Penske.

Newgarden’s media prowess was on display again on Thursday when he posted a Twitter video promoting the 101 Days to the Indy 500 festivities. In the video, Newgarden is seen next to a small refrigerator packed with Miller Lite and offers to supply the beverage to everyone celebrating the upcoming 101st Indianapolis 500. The video turns humorous when the person filming Josef reminds him that there is not enough Miller Lite to supply everyone who may want to celebrate, prompting him to admit that you may need to purchase your own if you want to join in the festivities.

For roughly 35 seconds, the video appears to be little more than a promotional video again displaying Newgarden’s charismatic personality.

However, it concludes with Newgarden making a peculiar statement. “Make sure you buy some Miller Lite and support the No. 2 car with me driving for Team Penske,” he asserted as the clip ended.

The wording is curious and could imply that Miller Lite might be sponsoring him in some capacity during the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, possibly at the Indianapolis 500. Reddit users picked up on this facet relatively quickly, and a debate ensued.

While there are team owners, such Roger Penske, who run teams in multiple disciplines, it is rare that they’ll use a driver to promote a brand that supports a team in an entirely different discipline, even if that team competes under the same organization.

TALLADEGA, AL – OCTOBER 21: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, drives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 21, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Miller has been a staple with Team Penske for decades, most notably with their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team. The brand, now under Anheuser-Busch ownership, has sponsored the No. 2 NASCAR team for more than two decades, beginning in 1991 with Miller Genuine Draft. Miller Lite adorned the entry beginning in 1997, resulted in the famed “Blue Deuce” paint scheme, and maintains a presence to this day, though the color scheme of the car is now predominantly white, resulting in the informal nickname of the “Blanco Deuce.”

However, Miller is no stranger to Penske’s IndyCar program. It was featured prominently in the 1980s on Danny Sullivan’s car, with the combination winning the 1985 Indianapolis 500 and the 1988 PPG Indy Car World Series championship together. Miller branding was also featured on Bobby Rahal’s IndyCar teams cars from 1992 through 2003.

Of note, the No. 2 machine that Newgarden will pilot in the Verizon IndyCar Series has featured a series of rotating sponsors, including Verizon, DeVilbiss, PPG, and Hawk Performance, as well as Roger Penske’s Penske Truck Leasing, and Newgarden carried a Verizon livery at the recent Phoenix test.

Alexander Rossi’s Grand Prix of Alabama gamble fails to pay off

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Alexander Rossi bobbled for the first time in 2018 with an 11th-place finish in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

And to add insult to injury, Rossi also lost the points lead as a result.

Rossi got off to about as great a start to the season as possible. He finished third at St. Petersburg and sat third in the standings. He finished third again at Phoenix and climbed to second in the points.

Rossi won the Long Beach Grand Prix after starting from the pole and leading 71 laps. That put him at the top of the standings after three races.

Then, as quickly as he climbed to the top, he got knocked down a spot after finishing off the podium for the first time in 2018.

Rossi not only missed the podium, he finished outside the top 10.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Rossi said after the race. “That remains a mystery. But at the end of the day it was about survival. We couldn’t make the tires last; we couldn’t really get a great fuel number.”

The biggest negative was the one factor that was mostly out of his control. Rossi gambled that he was facing only a brief shower when rain began to fall with about 15 minutes remaining. He was wrong.

“We tried to be pretty aggressive on the dry tires and stay out and survive the rain, hoping it would dry out,” Rossi said. “And it didn’t really work.

“Sometimes you’ll have those days.”