After first pole, Josef Newgarden happy to be disappointed with fifth in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE – When fifth place is a disappointment, it’s a good day.

And thus, that was the story of Josef Newgarden’s ending to a Sunday, and a weekend, which held so much promise after sweeping the preliminary sessions at the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

Newgarden led both first and second practice in the No. 67 Direct Supply CFH Racing Chevrolet, and then backed it up in warmer temperatures for his first career Verizon IndyCar Series pole Sunday afternoon at the Milwaukee Mile.

In the race, he looked dominant when in the lead. Newgarden led the opening 54 laps and again from Lap 60 to 100, so for 94 of the opening 100 circuits, as was good in clean air.

But after the second round of pit stops, Newgarden lost a spot to Scott Dixon, and the ensuing first caution flag after James Jakes had a mechanical issue meant a flurry of caution flag stops. The jumbled order left Newgarden in 11th.

From there, he rebounded to fifth, and led 14 more laps for a total of 109 in the race – a career-high.

“Probably when we got behind Dixon that didn’t help,” Newgarden told MotorSportsTalk post-race. “Then when we followed him in we lost track position, and Bourdais had track position.

“That was what it was all about. You had to have track position. Even if he had newer scuffed tires, Bourdais could hold him off because he had track position. I think we had the fastest car in clean air. In dirty air we weren’t the best. We didn’t have it all day.”

Newgarden’s fifth place finish was his first top-five of the year that wasn’t a win, after winning the Barber and Toronto rounds earlier this summer.

“You finish fifth and you’re not happy about it, that’s a good thing,” he said. “We needed better track position. But it was still a great effort and a good team run.”

Newgarden ranks ninth in points going into Iowa Speedway, where he finished second last year.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”