Photo: IndyCar

Newgarden’s race debut with Penske thwarted by first yellow

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If not for an untimely caution period, Josef Newgarden might have battled for the win on his debut with Team Penske. Instead, after starting fourth, he ended eighth – which also ended the respective streaks of winners at St. Petersburg starting fourth and the No. 2 Penske Chevrolet in victory lane at four and two years in a row, respectively.

A lap 26 caution, caused by contact between Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin that spread pieces of bodywork across the track, put the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at a strategic disadvantage. Newgarden ran mid-pack when racing resumed on lap 30 and, like everyone else caught out by that caution, had difficulty moving forward. He did manage to finish eighth, a respectable result all things considered.

Newgarden was not overly disappointed by the outcome, noting that cautions are a part of racing and that he has benefited from them before.

“We were on the bad end of the yellow today. We’ve been on the good end before,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “I’ve certainly been on (the good end). Some days it helps you, some days it hurts you, and today we were just on the bad end of it, which put us in the back,” Newgarden said of the caution’s impact on the team’s strategy.

Surprisingly, eighth is actually Newgarden’s best finish on the streets of St. Petersburg. His previous best was a ninth place finish in 2014, his only other top ten at the Florida street circuit. “I’ve never had much luck at St. Pete,” Newgarden quipped. “It’s always been one thing or another, today it was the yellow.”

Yet, while the 26-year-old acknowledged that he wanted a better result, he walks out of St. Petersburg happy with the performance of the No. 2 team. “It would’ve been nicer to walk away with something better here. But, I’m happy that we got a solid result to stand on,” he asserted. “Top 10 in our first race together: not bad, but we want to be better. So, let’s go to the next one and we’ll try and get some redemption on the results side and just keep marching forward.”

The newest member of Team Penske, Newgarden also needed to adapt to extra responsibilities away from the race track, such as an increase in PR appearances for team partners and sponsors. However, Newgarden described them as nothing out of the ordinary and he is not bothered by the extra responsibilities.

“We try and look after all our partners and there’s a lot,” he explained. “There’s a lot of partners within Team Penske. But, it’s just like anything I’ve experienced in the past with ECR and teams before. You’re working hard to please everyone on the team. This weekend was a little busier, but not too different from what I’ve experienced in the past.”

Hamilton, Red Bull teammates both go to NASA before USGP

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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One of the more intriguing United States Grand Prix adventures occurred on Wednesday, as both Lewis Hamilton and the pair of Red Bull Racing teammates, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, all went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – in separate sessions – before heading onto Austin.

Hamilton posted on his Instagram story on Wednesday that he’d “quit his day job in a second” to work at NASA and become an astronaut, and the unbridled enthusiasm spoke to the three-time Formula 1 World Champion’s love of different life aspects entirely outside of racing.

“(I) had an incredible day yesterday, having a bit of a comedown today,” Hamilton said today at the FIA Press Conference. “I was just buzzed all day yesterday because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something I’ve been fascinated about, space and space travel particularly.

“So to actually go there… and I had a million questions. I’m sure the guy got fed up with me. I asked a lot of questions and I got to see a lot of great things, some of the new technology they are working on and yeah, I want to go back.”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team posted a gallery of Hamilton’s adventure on its website, linked here, and a few samples are below.

As for the Red Bull pair, the young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen were equally awestruck by the experience.

“There really are a lot of similarities between this and F1, just the technology alone,” Ricciardo said. “I had a guest come to a race last year, when they got into the garage they were like: ‘this is like a space station’. We went to mission control here and it’s really like what we have in the Ops Room in Milton Keynes. Even the safety technology is similar. The astronauts go through the same measurements, a similar kind of HANS device etc. It’s really cool.”

Verstappen added, “There are quite a lot of comparisons, if you really want to talk about it we could go on for an hour! The control center looks pretty similar to ours. We share a lot of the same technology. It was really interesting for us to see that and I bet it would be the same if they could see ours.”

Here’s a link to Red Bull’s gallery and some teaser shots below.