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Newgarden secures crucial pole at Sonoma in Penske 1-4 sweep

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden delivered his second – and easily his most important – career pole position for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in qualifying today.

Newgarden’s eventual lap of 1:15.5205 was a new track record and only edged teammate Will Power at 1:15.5556 for the top spot. The pole is Newgarden’s first since Milwaukee 2015, which was done on the same day as the race.

Beyond the front row it was Simon Pagenaud third and Helio Castroneves fourth, with Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon completing the top six.

The Team Penske team has now qualified in the top four positions for the third time this year after also doing so at Road America and Gateway. Castroneves and Power had the two pole positions at those two races.

Newgarden enters the weekend with a three-point lead but now garners a crucial bonus point.

“We were first out. I think it would have been risky for us to save a set of reds like the second group. And we knew we knew we’d be on our back foot there in the Fast Six. But, this car was phenomenal. It’s cool because this is the Verizon P1 award. I’ve been driving a Hum car many races this year by Verizon and I haven’t been able to get it in this place, so I’m happy to have those guys on board. They do so much for this sport. And it’s a good start for our weekend,” Newgarden said.

The full report is below.

In Q1, Josef Newgarden laid waste to the previous track record. The driver of the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet obliterated Simon Pagenaud’s previous mark of 1:16.2530, with Newgarden lapping the 2.385-mile circuit at a lap of 1:15.7917.

Beyond Newgarden, Andretti Autosport’s trio of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato were next, followed by two of Chip Ganassi Racing’s drivers in Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon, at more than 1.1 seconds behind Newgarden, had to be left stupefied by the pace displayed.

Those knocked out included Conor Daly, best of the rest in the first of two ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets for A.J. Foyt, fellow Americans Charlie Kimball and Spencer Pigot, and Indy Lights veterans Jack Harvey and Zachary Claman DeMelo. Claman DeMelo, in his maiden IndyCar start, was less than a tenth behind Harvey and will roll off 21st in his No. 13 Paysafe Honda.

Q2 saw the other three Penske drivers only run on blacks, and Helio Castroneves gambled by running only once in the session. Still, his time held up enough at a best time of 1:16.5534 to be fifth in his group.

Will Power led it at 1:16.1236 with Simon Pagenaud second at 1:16.2220 – both times ahead of Pagenaud’s previous track record mark – and with both times on blacks. Marco Andretti was third, top Honda in the session, at 1:16.3298 on the reds ahead of Graham Rahal, Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais.

Those knocked out were Max Chilton, who said this was one of his better qualifying efforts even if the result didn’t back it up, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, JR Hildebrand and Carlos Munoz.

All the Penskes needed to go to reds in Q2, and one by one they set their mark.

First Power dropped a 1:15.9919, followed by Castroneves at 1:15.9602, then Newgarden at 1:15.7325, and then Pagenaud at 1:15.7120 – which beat Newgarden’s earlier track record set in Q1.

Behind the Penske quartet, Sato and Dixon upheld Honda’s honor versus the four Chevrolets to advance.

Dixon though had to dodge several bullets to advance through to the Firestone Fast Six for the ninth time in as many opportunities this season. And with all of Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Rahal, Bourdais, Andretti and Kanaan coming short, Dixon made it through.

Several fast laps were exchanged in the Fast Six but ultimately it was Newgarden prevailing – only just – by 0.0351 of a second.

RESULTS

SONOMA, California – Qualifying Saturday for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile(s) Sonoma Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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