Photo: Corvette Racing

Milner OK after accident, but ends repeat hopes for No. 64 Corvette

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A challenging race for the Corvette Racing team got a bit worse in the 16th hour at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when Tommy Milner crashed on the run up to the Dunlop Chicane.

Milner, driving the No. 64 Corvette C7.R he shared with Oliver Gavin and Jordan Taylor, clipped a curb and then lost control of his car in a rare accident. Milner got out of the car under his own power, which was great to see.

“I feel fine. Just lucky to be in this Corvette, we’ve seen some big accidents here over the years and drivers walking away fine. I feel fine, just disappointed. It’s not how we wanted to finish this race. If my Dad were here he’d told me I ran out of talent. We just made some setup changes when I got in the car to go a bit faster to the end of the race. At the end of the day it’s up to me that that kind of stuff doesn’t happen,” Milner told Radio Le Mans.

It has affected the front of the car, which causes a bit of front end damage that will need to be repaired before the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next round at Watkins Glen on July 3.

Milner was running eighth in the GTE-Pro class anyway and the car never looked like having a realistic shot at repeating its famous class win here last year, Corvette Racing’s eighth at Le Mans.

It also takes away one shot for the team in its quest of both its 100th win as a race program overall, and a shot at a second straight endurance Triple Crown sweep of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Milner and Gavin won the first two this year with Marcel Fassler – the Audi factory driver on loan – Stateside, while Taylor comes on board for Le Mans.

Milner got up to fifth at one point and reflected on the race at the halfway mark, via Corvette Racing:

“We’re doing everything that we need to do,” he said. “Maybe I was unlucky getting caught up in traffic in some wrong spots and being near LMP cars that hit each other. Maybe I could have given myself a little more of a gap from them, but it’s hard to slow yourself down. The car is good. We tried a triple stint there, and the car liked that. The tires held in great.

“We’re still figuring out what the car needs. The brakes are good. We just have to keep making laps and keeping it out of the pits. Hopefully as time goes on, some other guys will have issues and we can keep moving up. It’s still pretty busy out there. It seems like there are a lot of LMP2 cars. They’re not awful, but I’m trying to be as nice as I can to them so they’ll be nice to me in return.”

Meanwhile Gavin – ever the statesman – was diplomatically frustrated over BoP during a post-accident interview on FOX Sports, speaking with Andrew Marriott.

“We had some chassis balance problems through the day. Maybe we had a bit too much rear bias,” Gavin said. “I’m just glad he’s out and OK. We can rebuild the car. It shows how fantastically strong the C7.Rs are. Corvette Racing works so hard on the safety. It’s great. But obviously that’s the end of our race.

“[This Le Mans] was… a little bit of a mystery. Test Day, we showed everything. Many other people were not. Much to the protest of a few manufacturers… but obviously after they swept the sand out of their garages, you can see how quickly they go. Tough to compete here. We do still have one car which is fantastic.”

The No. 63 car carries on with Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Ricky Taylor still running, with eight hours to go.

Newgarden tries to regain control of IndyCar championship race at Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – There are just six races left in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden has a hard-charging Alexander Rossi closing in on his gearbox. Newgarden’s lead is down to just three points after last Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

Newgarden has been the leader in the standings after every race this season, with the exception of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, when he trailed Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden by one point.

Is Newgarden worried entering Saturday night’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway?

“I’m confident we have good cars,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “You can have bad weekends here and there. I think we can have a good result the rest of the year. But there are a lot of guys still in it. Rossi is the guy who is the closest, but you can’t count out Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon or Will Power. It’s going to be a fight until the end for this championship.

“We briefly lost the points lead after the Indy 500. Simon and I were one point apart. We’ve had better consistency this year. That is what is going to pay off at the end. We’ve been consistent up to this point and we have to continue it to the end.

“Look at all of these championship runs, most of the times it goes to the most consistent driver. You have to have clean finishes for every run. If you don’t, it’s pretty tough to make up the deficit.”

Newgarden has had a remarkably consistent season with three wins, six podiums (top three) and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

Rossi has nearly matched him with two wins, six podiums and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

These two drivers are nearly in a dead heat, so as the championship leader, can Newgarden force his fiercest foes into making mistakes?

“I’m a little bit boring,” Newgarden said. “I do the same thing every time. It puts more pressure on guys like Scott Dixon, who has to win races to catch up. They are going to be more aggressive. Our program is boring and that is trying to maximize each race individually. That is what we have to do.

“I don’t know if it is that different than being in a fight with Will Power or Simon Pagenaud or Scott Dixon. They have different tendencies. Alex is the more aggressive of those other drivers. It’s fun going up against all of them. Alex is really good. He has a certain style you have to play against. If it was Scott, it would be just as exciting, but it would be a different game.

“Alex brings a more aggressive side to the conversation.”

That aggressive fight continues to the .875-mile short oval at Iowa Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Iowa 300.

It’s one of Newgarden’s better tracks. He set an IndyCar Series record for leading the most laps in a single race when he was in front for 282 laps in his 2016 Iowa win with Ed Carpenter Racing. That was preceded by two straight second place finishes at Iowa in 2014 and 2014.

Since joining Team Penske in 2017, Newgarden finished sixth that season and fourth in 2018 in a race where he led 211 laps.

“We were pretty good there last year,” Newgarden admitted. “We qualified well, but we were a little shy of what we needed last year. The race didn’t pan out the way we needed it to. Our strategy wasn’t perfect there. But those are things we can clean up. We have a really capable group. I think we’ll have a good car there, again. I feel good about it. We’ve had good cars there in the past, we were just a tick off. I think we will be better there this year.

“We should be fine.”

Short oval racing is a unique form that adds diversity to the schedule as drivers have to get on an off the accelerator and on and off the brake, all while dealing with traffic throughout the 300-lap contest.

It’s that type of close quarter racing that real racers love.

“Iowa, for sure is a racer’s track,” Newgarden said. “It’s very bumpy, with a lot of character. It’s one of my favorite short ovals that we go to. I love that place. A lot of the tracks we go to are racer’s race tracks. There aren’t a lot of bad ones of the schedule. There are tracks with diverse challenges and you like that. Going from Toronto to Iowa to Mid-Ohio, they are all different tracks that require different setups, different driving styles.

“It’s like the championship is a driver’s championship. That is what it demands.”

An NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway is a special experience because it’s played out in front of grass-roots racing fans. These are the fans that following auto racing on a regular basis, many of which are regulars for sprint car racing down the road at Knoxville Speedway in Knoxville, Iowa.

“They are all different race fans,” Newgarden said. “Toronto has a bustling city vibe. Iowa is a bunch of farmers. Really nice people who are salt of the earth farmers who come out and enjoy racing. Mid-Ohio is a hybrid. It’s very much a Midwest race but different from Iowa.

“You get these different pockets of different fans, different people, different racers but they all like IndyCar racing and that’s pretty cool.”