Josef Newgarden is playing the IndyCar silly season game really well

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Upon speaking to Josef Newgarden at Mid-Ohio a couple weeks ago, I made the comment after we were done with our official conversation that he’s risen to become the domino in the Verizon IndyCar Series silly season for 2015 – a role previously held by Simon Pagenaud (2014) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012) in recent years.

It’s a lofty title and one the 24-year-old American rising star is fully worthy of, having finally become a race winner this season and with several options theoretically in play for him in 2016. Newgarden is on a one-year deal with CFH Racing for 2015 with a one-year option to continue next season.

The one thing he told me pretty definitively is that the racing in IndyCar is “the best racing on the planet right now,” and while he’s been mentioned as a possibility for Haas F1 Team next year, that’s more of a long shot for him at this stage.

With a two-week lull in the IndyCar schedule, the news has primarily been about schedule changes (Road America in, Phoenix maybe in, Fontana out) and lawsuits (Andretti vs. Andretti, because that doesn’t make anyone’s head hurt). But there hasn’t been any movement on the driver front.

Luckily, Newgarden has amped up his already strong social media game lately with a couple tweets you might not necessarily expect to see from a driver currently racing with CFH Racing.

First up was this one last week, that the four-year IndyCar veteran has a new street car, from Bobby Rahal BMW.

Graham Rahal offered this follow-up volley in return:

He’s also retweeted Newgarden a handful of times here in the last week.

But that’s not the only entity outside CFH appearing on Newgarden’s timeline.  Newgarden went home to Nashville last weekend and took in a Tim McGraw concert.

“Thanks for the love @BigMachine,” says part of his tweet.

Big Machine, of course, is Big Machine Records – a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, which has adorned Sage Karam’s car for the 2015 season. Taylor Swift is also a Big Machine artist, and her likeness was on Tony Kanaan’s chariot at Detroit – on the same weekend T-Swift played Ford Field there.

Lest that be the only form of Big Machine back-and-forth, Newgarden also had a test in what appeared to be an old NASCAR Truck in Nashville thanks to Scott Borchetta, who is President/CEO of the Big Machine Label Group.

Twitter has caught on, including notable IndyCar link hound Matt Archuleta (@indy44).

It’s pretty fascinating to watch, because Newgarden is playing the game really well in making public positive declarations about other outlets.

That, or it’s a freaky series of coincidences all coming back-to-back.

My idea? Since the IndyCar season is coming to a close here in two weeks, why not have the Newgarden Courtship play out as some form of reality show, maybe over a four or six-week period, since those seem to attract more viewers than they realistically should?

Have teams continue putting out their best offerings to sign him, and have Newgarden extend a Sharpie to teams he wants to carry on with to the next episode. Have the stakes get higher with every successive week.

Then, when it finally comes time to sign, Newgarden extends the final Sharpie and signs on the dotted line.

It would help pass the time… at least for the first month of what is shaping up to be another looooong offseason.

UPDATE: Who says Newgarden’s current team isn’t getting the love? In this faux commercial for Fuzzy’s Vodka, the non-drinking Nashville native can play a pretty good pitchman.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III