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.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)