Newgarden, Penske soar to pole at Road America

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Qualifying for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) saw Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden continue what has been a perfect weekend as he secured the pole with a quick lap of 1:43.202. Newgarden was also quickest in both of Friday’s practices. It is Newgarden’s third pole of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

What’s more, Newgarden’s pole lap came on his final run, and it upset a Honda applecart at the front – Honda drivers Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais ran 1-2-3 in the final seconds.

However, Will Power jumped ahead of them to take P1, but it was his teammate Newgarden, who has been fastest in all but one session all weekend (Robert Wickens led Saturday practice) who seized the pole only seconds later.

Josef Newgarden has been fastest in nearly every session so far at Road America, and will start the KOHLER Grand Prix on the pole. Photo: IndyCar

“It’s nice when you have the car to do it. We had the speed on Friday, so to finish it off today is nice,” Newgarden revealed after his run. “It’s only goal one. Two races; one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out. Verizon has been very good to us, and Team Chevy as well. Engine package has been phenomenal to get the most out of it. You see how well we work together with Team Penske and Team Chevy. We just have to be smart and get through the first couple laps.”

Though he missed out on the pole, Will Power made it a Penske 1-2 on the front row, as he qualified second with a quick lap of 1:43.250. Power detailed afterward that he was actually surprised to challenge for the pole, as he didn’t think his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet had enough to challenge his teammates twin No. 1 Verizon Chevy.

“That was close. We were off the whole time. I gave it everything the last lap. A surprise front row,” Power explained. “I keep getting front rows every weekend. Not the pole, but yeah, I’m pretty happy. But only five hundredths off, come on. I think I did a really neat lap. Josef (Newgarden) did a great lap. That was all I had.”

The Andretti Autosport teammates of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will start third and fourth, while Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the Firestone Fast Fix.

While Newgarden and Power are on the front row, teammate Simon Pagenaud failed to advance out of Round 1 and will start 14th.

Scott Dixon, last year’s winner at Road America, was another notable driver who was absent from the Firestone Fast Six, as he qualified eighth.

Other notables include Graham Rahal (ninth), Zach Veach (11th), Ed Jones (12th) Marco Andretti (15th), James Hinchcliffe (16th) and Tony Kanaan (18th).

Full results are below:

1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:43.2026 (140.020 mph)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:43.2508 (139.954)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:43.3811 (139.778)
4. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:43.4361 (139.704)
5. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:43.7121 (139.332)
6. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:43.7332 (139.304)
7. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:43.1108 (140.144)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:43.1769 (140.055)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:43.1874 (140.040)
10. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:43.1995 (140.024)
11. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:43.2265 (139.987)
12. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:43.3544 (139.814)
13. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:43.7356 (139.300)
14. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:43.4153 (139.732)
15. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:43.9843 (138.967)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:43.8591 (139.135)
17. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:44.0189 (138.921)
18. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:44.1165 (138.791)
19. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:45.1161 (137.471)
20. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:44.3438 (138.488)
21. (32) Alfonso Celis Jr, Chevrolet, 1:45.5584 (136.895)
22. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:44.3442 (138.488)
23. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:44.6258 (138.115)

 

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The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.