Dennis: McLaren demise was painful to watch

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McLaren chairman Ron Dennis has said that it was painful to watch the team languish in the midfield for much of the 2013 season, which prompted him to reinstate himself as CEO and return to the day-to-day running of the team.

Dennis took a step back from McLaren’s Formula 1 operations in 2009, handing control over to former team principal Martin Whitmarsh. However, after the team’s worst season since 1980, Whitmarsh was relieved of his duties and replaced by former Lotus team principal Eric Boullier. After such a period of failure, Dennis felt that such drastic action was required.

“It was, of course, painful,” he explained in an interview with the official Formula 1 website. “If you pass executive responsibilities, the only way you can judge the outcome is if it is one hundred percent, otherwise you can accuse yourself of influencing the decisions.

“In the end I felt that the right thing to do was to change direction – to refocus the team and remove from the team anything that was not contributing to a focused effort. There were too many in the team that were distracted by other activities.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Dennis also spoke about his decision to promote Kevin Magnussen into a race seat so quickly and replace the more experienced Sergio Perez.

“The decision to take Kevin was mine,” he revealed. “It was only possible to take Kevin because of my decision – that would be accurate. I took the decision because I felt that we needed to see if he could meet the expectations of our engineers, and so far he has done a great job.”

Magnussen has indeed justified the decision to take him on, having finished his debut race on the podium in Australia last month.

After a few years away, the time is right for Dennis to have returned. His no-nonsense approach had rustled a few feathers in the sport, including those of former FIA president Max Mosley and Lewis Hamilton’s father, Anthony. With both of those figures no longer in the sport, though, he is able to once again rule McLaren in his distinct and – it must be said – successful style.

Josef Newgarden dominates from pole to win KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America

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There’s a reason why Josef Newgarden calls Road America his favorite racetrack – and he showed why Sunday, dominating to victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Newgarden led all but two laps from the pole and was in a class of his own throughout the 55-lap caution-free race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in central Wisconsin, defeating runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay by 3.3759 seconds.

“(I wanted this one) really bad,” Newgarden told NBCSN in victory lane. “I wanted to win here since last year. This car has been a rocket all weekend. It wasn’t easy. Ryan was very quick and I knew Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.

“I kind of knew what I had to do, but it was a lot of work. Ryan was really pushing me. It’s good to get a win. It doesn’t matter what car, as long as it’s Team Penske.”

It was Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season in the first 10 races (also won at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama), pushing him past Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Will Power and Scott Dixon, who both have two wins in the 2018 campaign.

“I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans here at Road American and on TV,” Hunter-Reay said. “The last two stints, when he put on used red and I had blacks, he was really hooked up. … I was pushing 110 percent, that’s for sure.

“Unfortunately, I just couldn’t catch up to Josef. I was able to close up the gap a little bit here and there, but not like I was early in the race. He found his own way for sure. Definitely, the clean air out front helps, but hats off to him: he had a great race and deserves the win.”

Dixon finished third, followed by Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot (his best finish of the season), Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe.

Dixon (393 points) maintains the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, Hunter-Reay (348) moved up two spots to second place, Alexander Rossi (tied with Hunter-Reay for second at 348) dropped one spot to third, Newgarden (343) climbed one spot to fourth and Will Power (328) dropped two spots to fifth in the standings.

“It’s so tight … so tough,” Dixon said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series, right now, the competition is through the roof. To get a podium these days is tough enough, yet to get a win. But we’ll keep pushing and see what we get.”

There was action right from the opening lap, including misfortune for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who suffered engine issues that sent him to the pits after the opening lap.

After trying to work on his car in the pits, Power’s team pushed it back to the paddock to attempt further repairs, but those efforts failed and the car was retired.

Power was third in the IndyCar points standings coming into the race, 36 points behind series leader Scott Dixon. He finished last (23rd) in Sunday’s race and will likely drop to fifth in the standings.

“They replaced the exhaust, and it just blew straight back out,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “So, there’s obviously something going on in there that’s gone wrong.

“I feel bad for all the guys. It’s just one of those things, you know – you’ll get that every now and then at some point. No good, but we’ll move on to the next one.”

Also, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had an issue with what appeared to be brakes- or suspension-related that resulted in a lengthy pit stop after 38 laps. Rossi finished 16th in the 23-car field.

“Hugely disappointing,” Rossi told NBCSN. “It was good enough for fourth … but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

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