IndyCar: Newgarden, good, unlucky, then good again en route to Milwaukee P5

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – If the old adage “it’s better to be lucky than good” applied to Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at Iowa, when the team finished second, then their day at Milwaukee was a case of being good better than lucky… and then lucky again.

Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay had taken tires on the final caution at Iowa and the two rocketed through the field to the top two positions, in what Newgarden called a “video game.”

But this weekend in Milwaukee, in the Direct Supply-backed No. 67 Honda, Newgarden was consistently the best Honda-powered entry throughout the weekend. During the 250-lap Verizon IndyCar Series race, he was a top-five staple.

The only problem was, an off-sequence strategy negated what was a potential podium result – Newgarden ran third for most of the final stint – to a near finish outside the top 10.

Newgarden pitted on Lap 236 and on new tires, was the only driver in the field able to slice his way through traffic like a knife through butter. In doing so, he recovered six positions to get back to fifth, capping off the comeback with a last-lap pass of Ryan Briscoe.

“We had to stop for fuel and we weren’t planning on it,” Newgarden told MotorSportsTalk post-race. “I thought we’d run third to the end and we had to stop… so that put us all the way down a lap down in 11th place, and we had to take tires.

“Once we took tires, then was the advantage, and we could smoke as many people as we could. I can’t even believe we made it back to fifth. It’s awesome we didn’t lose as much.”

Newgarden was surprised to begin with that they even needed the extra stop.

“I didn’t realize it was that close. I thought we were good,” he said.

“We stopped I don’t know when before the (lone) yellow, but it was 15 laps or so, than stayed out with Montoya and Power. I figured we were good. Power stayed out, so I figured we were good to do so.

“We were taking a risk not taking tires at the time, but I thought we’d be able to make it work. It just didn’t pan out. We didn’t have the tires to make it. For us, we had a strong car.”

Team co-owner Sarah Fisher said the team was “evaluating their delta” in terms of figuring when to pit on the final sequence. A potential stop could have occurred 10 laps earlier and had it happened, Newgarden may well have had more time to drive back to the front.

But all told, between the Iowa runner-up, his near-miss at Mid-Ohio, and several other solid runs this season that haven’t produced results worthy of his pace (Long Beach and Barber immediately come to mind), it seems that Newgarden and SFHR are finally starting to hit their stride as a group, which is timely given his free agent status and SFHR’s integration with Ed Carpenter Racing to form CFH Racing in 2015.

“I think we were stronger here than Iowa. We were definitely a podium car,” Newgarden said. “Here, we were podium on pure pace. Iowa we were strong, top-five, but we’re a tick better here.

“We’ve had our ups and downs as a group. Made our miscalculations. But it seems like things are starting to gel. All we have to do is string two more together at Sonoma and Fontana.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.