Elusive first podium for Newgarden achieved in Baltimore

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It’s a good feeling to be disappointed with second. For Josef Newgarden, it’s been a long time coming.

The promise and potential he’s been able to show flashes of over his first two seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series hasn’t yet been converted into a result, save for a pair of fifth place results this year (Brazil, Pocono). One finally came today, an elusive first podium for the 22-year-old who won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Newgarden started fifth from a career-best qualifying effort (Ed: His best start is second, at Long Beach 2012, after grid penalties were applied), and moved to fourth early but ran wide at Turn 12 as the first signs of brake wear began to emerge. Additionally, what had been a solid opening six or seven laps on the Firestone red alternates went south quickly as the tires began to fall off.

He fell as low as 17th after he got caught up in an accordion effect accident at Turn 1, as he nosed into the back of Helio Castroneves.

But through a mix of cars needing to pit ahead of him, other cars having contact in Turns 1 and 3 and not needing another late pit stop, Newgarden was able to re-emerge in the top five.

“There was like six races worth of incidents, with so many things that happened,” he said. “That (first) one, yeah, I went into Turn 1 and thought it was clustered on the inside, so I followed Helio on the outside. Then the outside wound up being clustered too, and ran into the back of him, then I heard on my radio from Mike, take the runoff. He said right when I turned in. I could have turned around! But then there was another incident where I did take the runoff and gained positions. Then we got everything back. We got lucky.”

In the last 10 laps, Newgarden was consistently able to take out four to five tenths of a second on leader Simon Pagenaud. But the brake issue emerged again towards the end – Newgarden hung on for dear life to save what brakes remained and avoid contact – and he had to ensure he brought the car home in second place.

“We wanted to challenge Simon but we had a bit of a brake mishap at the end,” he said. “We were trying to keep the pedal solid. It’s hard to keep the cars cool. That definitely bit us at the end.”

Newgarden’s podium is the second for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team overall (Ed Carpenter’s win at Kentucky, 2011) and first ever on a road or street course. With the podium, Newgarden is the 18th different driver to score an IZOD IndyCar Series podium this season.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.