Newgarden fights through pain to end eighth at Road America (VIDEO)

Photo: IndyCar

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden may not win this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship but if the 25-year-old driver pulls it off for Ed Carpenter Racing, he can look back to both his and his team’s performance at Road America as reason for it happening.

Newgarden’s abnormal Road America weekend, where he fought through both a right clavicle and right hand injury sustained two weeks ago to the day at Texas Motor Speedway, saw him entered on Tuesday, cleared to drive on Thursday, cleared for the remainder of the weekend on Friday, spin in qualifying on Saturday and then rebound from 20th on the grid to finish eighth on Sunday.

All the while, it keeps him in the top-five in points. With 283 markers, Newgarden is 92 points back of Simon Pagenaud with seven races remaining, and with a sub-20th place finish looming at Texas as he won’t be able to restart that race.

His hand, he said, doesn’t feel much better than it did at the start of the weekend, but it didn’t regress.

“It hurts a lot. I don’t think it’s worse, but it’s not gotten better,” Newgarden told NBC Sports post-race. “I have to focus on getting it better before Iowa.”

For IndyCar’s upcoming test at Iowa Speedway this week, JR Hildebrand will be back behind the wheel of the team’s No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet while Newgarden rests and recovers. Newgarden is still expected to race the Iowa Corn 300 on July 10.

Newgarden, beyond driving, had a lot of abnormal demands placed on his time this weekend.

His children’s book – “Josef, The IndyCar Driver” authored and illustrated by Chris Workman – premiered this weekend and so that meant a lot of extra signing autographs and meeting fans for that at the Road America Paddock Shop.

More relevant to his day job, he had a lot more medical commitments to tend to beyond his usual team commitments, debriefing and working with the ECR crew.

“It was tough managing time this weekend. I wanted more time to myself, but it is hard to get that on these type weekends,” he explained. “You want to be fair to everyone else here that needs your time.

“I had a lot more personal stuff to do. Whether it’s, you might need to take shots, or take any medicine, or try to do some physical therapy on my hand, that’s all stuff you don’t normally account for.

“A lot of people cut me some slack. I have such a good working relationship with everyone that I didn’t need to check in that much.”

Newgarden recovered from his qualifying spin on Saturday to drive through the field, noting his car was better on long runs and that he didn’t mind the first 39 laps of the race running caution-free before the first yellow.

“Eighth is not bad from where we started,” he said. “But I think we had a better car than that. It’s down to me not getting it right in qualifying and putting us in a bad spot. We maximized what we could and tried to recover.

“It would have been nice to start up front. We could have had a podium car this weekend. We have a great team, great car to challenge at the front.

“I felt we were good on our long pace. That’s how we made up our time. The deeper we got on tire runs, the more it helped us today.”

Team owner and teammate Carpenter hailed Newgarden’s weekend performance.

“In a lot of ways it’s really nice, really proud of the effort that Josef put in,” Carpenter told NBC Sports.

“He battled through and could have easily scored zero points this weekend, and he has a top 10.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.