IndyCar: Newgarden confirmed for 2015 with merged CFH Racing

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden is at the end of his three-year deal with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at the end of this year, and now he’ll be moving over with the merged CFH Racing team in 2015.

Fisher’s group, which is merging with Ed Carpenter Racing next season, confirmed Newgarden has signed a one-year extension with an option for a second year. He’ll continue in the No. 67 car.

“Over the last three years, we have focused to build our team with Josef front and center, and we are extremely excited to continue that progress into 2015,” Fisher said in a team release. “In working with our guys, everyone is proud to build on the continuity that it takes to be successful in an increasingly competitive Verizon IndyCar Series.

“I know how much effort Josef and our team put toward being the best and am looking forward to delivering even more tools for them to work with at CFH Racing next year.”

Added Newgarden, “I’m really excited about the merger between Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing,” Newgarden said. “Wink and Sarah extending an offer to keep me around for another year is first and foremost. They are the ones who gave me an opportunity to start my IndyCar career, and I’m happy to continue that with them for another year.”

Fisher’s team partner, Wink Hartman, confirmed the team’s plans to continue with two cars.

“Sarah and I have the best of both worlds,” Hartman said. “Josef will be in the seat of the 67 car next year as we are now a two-car team. Continuing with Josef gives me great pride. He is the next star of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Carpenter, who spoke highly of Newgarden last week, looks forward to working with him.

“I am very happy that Josef has signed with CFH Racing,” Carpenter said. “I think he has shown great potential, and it is my hope that CFH Racing will help him fully reach his potential and that we can win many races together.

“I have seen Josef mature a lot over the past few years, and I really look forward to working with him and continuing his development. I see him as one of the premier talents in this series for the future, and we are very proud to have him on our team.”

The team has not yet confirmed whether it will use Honda or Chevrolet engines from 2015.

Newgarden will start second for today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT), behind Verizon P1 Award winner Will Power.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.