IndyCar: Newgarden’s, Kanaan’s Pocono fuel gambles come up shy of victory

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Either would have made for a feel-good story this afternoon, but neither Josef Newgarden nor Tony Kanaan was able to parlay a fuel gamble into a Verizon IndyCar Series victory party in the Poconos.

Kanaan’s was probably the harder luck story. The Brazilian had by far his best run of the season in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, leading a race-high 78 laps in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco.

After starting eighth, Kanaan opted to go for a full fuel-burn strategy, running flat out while leading as opposed to saving fuel, which the Team Penske trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Will Power all did.

This meant on average Kanaan stopped anywhere from three to six laps sooner on a given cycle. But he was able to catch up when he and Newgarden pitted as late as possible during the lone caution flag period of the race – Lap 161 – in the hope of being able to make it the final 39 laps to the finish without a stop.

The strategy backfired as the race went green from the Lap 166 restart. Newgarden was able to lead from Lap 190 until he pitted for fuel only on Lap 194; Kanaan stretched it to Lap 197 before peeling off for his own splash-and-dash.

Newgarden ended eighth, which equaled his season-best result (Barber, Round 4) while Kanaan fell outside the top 10 to 11th.

Neither result reflected the race they’d run. In Kanaan’s case, it was the first time all year a Target-backed entry looked like a world beater, with Kanaan having advanced from eighth on the grid with a car that had a higher downforce setup and was great in race trim.

Newgarden, meanwhile, drove methodically in picking up positions from 21st and last on the grid after a self-described “weird” qualifying crash. The top-10 is his first top-10 finish since April and that race at Barber, but it was disappointing given what could have been.

Kanaan echoed the sentiment, simply stating, “disappointed.”

Here are the starting times for 2020 NTT IndyCar Series action on NBC and NBCSN

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Another important tidbit for NTT IndyCar Series fans is out as INDYCAR and NBC announced starting times for the 2020 season. The full television schedule is also included.

There are different starting times at four races in 2020 from 2019. Those include the March 15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of the Americas on April 26, a later starting time for the Saturday night race at Iowa Speedway on July 18 on NBCSN

INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The August 16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be moved to an earlier starting time and will be broadcast on NBC. Previously, the race was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., but has been changed to a 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time green flag.

INDYCAR’s return to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, June 27 will begin at 8:15 p.m. ET. That is the only new event on the schedule.

Detailed broadcast information for the entire season will be announced at a later date.

Here are the notable changes to the starting times on the schedule:

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. ET this past season, will now have a 3:30 p.m. green flag. The race on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. ET green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. local) in 2020. The permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be better accommodated for an evening race under the lights with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

“The return of a night race for INDYCAR at Iowa Speedway is exciting news for our race fans, sponsors, and the entire region,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “The cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions. Our track provides some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, which will be good for attendance. This will be a can’t-miss weekend for all race fans.”

The return to a true night race at Iowa was the result of fans requesting it. The race will begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. And for fans and drivers, it is nostalgic, hearkening back to the first race many of them experienced … a night race on a short track.

The series hasn’t held a race that began after dusk at Iowa Speedway since 2015, and drivers and fans are welcoming it. Not only does it look more vibrant — and create sparks as cars bottom out — it also makes for better racing. Tires grip better when the track is cooler. Fans also avoid sweltering conditions during summer afternoons.

The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. ET start this past season, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Richmond Raceway – the only new addition on the 2020 schedule – for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 ET for the start of the first Indy car race at the .75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.