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Newgarden presses ahead despite injuries; keen to stay in title fight (VIDEO)

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden said his hand is hurting more than his collarbone following the first practice session for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but is determined to continue in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“Actually both hands hurt. I think the clavicle will hold up alright. It’s a little sore but I think it’ll be OK for the weekend,” Newgarden said in a quickly organized and brief media availability Friday at Road America.

“I think [the pain level] has levelled. I don’t think it’s getting worse through the session which is good. That would have been more of a problem, but it’s just kind of dealing with the inflammation really and just trying to keep it down on the weekend really that’s the battle.”

The 4.014-mile Road America circuit is known for its heavy levels of braking on the three long straights, but Newgarden said it wasn’t a huge factor or hurt him very much.

“I think it’s just really my hands in general what hurt’s the worst,” he explained. “The braking’s really not too bad. Braking actually feels great. It’s a little sore like I said, but it’s not been as big of a problem as I thought it would be, so I think the braking’s actually not an issue I would say.”

Newgarden had a bit of simulator work prior to getting back in the car today.

“Really my wrist was the issue actually after the accident,” he said. “I think I got the wrist sorted out, now it’s just the break and supporting the hand in general which I’ve got braces made for that now which have helped. But still trying to fight through a bit of the pain of it being supported.

“I think it just needs to be supported really well for me to feel good. I learned a little bit yesterday in the simulator and learned more now in the first session, and I think we’ll just keep tuning on it, like we would a race car just keep tuning on the body and get it where it needs to be.”

The fact that the race is at Elkhart Lake’s Road America, rather than a more demanding short oval such as Iowa Speedway, for example, was important for Newgarden to be able to drive this weekend.

“This being Road America, I actually caught a break,” he explained. “If we were racing at Iowa this weekend, I’d probably not be in the car. I just don’t think I would have be able to do something like Iowa.

“It’s too much loading on that side of the right shoulder. Here it’s mainly left shoulder loading where you’re getting compressed. It’s predominantly right-handers, you’ve got long straightaways.

“It’s still very physical here but it’s not like at Iowa. Just the circumstances of where it’s physical here and how it’s physical is a much more favorable track than what Iowa would have been for this weekend.”

The 25-year-old American has worked tirelessly to get back behind the wheel of his No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing to maintain momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series season and not lose a race.

“I don’t want to miss out on anything. I would have been so sad if I missed this race,” he said, as he enters the weekend fourth in points.

“I don’t want to miss any race. We’ve got a shot of winning the championship and I’d like to keep that alive. So that’s a big component for me, it’s a big component for why I worked hard to get to this point. Keep going, got a couple of more days and we’ll see where we end up.”

Newgarden also caught up with NBCSN during this morning’s first practice. That interview is below.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).