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)

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”