IndyCar

Best way for Newgarden to forget Iowa: Earn third win in four years at Toronto

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Josef Newgarden loves everything about Toronto: the people, the food and the cosmopolitan feel.

Oh yeah, one other thing: he loves to win INDYCAR races there.

The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion has won two of the last three Honda Indy Toronto races on the temporary street course around Exhibition Place just west of downtown T-town.

This Sunday, Newgarden goes for 3 wins in the last 4 starts at Toronto – not to mention what he hopes will be his fourth win of 2018, adding to wins already at Phoenix, Birmingham and nearly three weeks ago at Road America.

“Toronto has been kind to us, for sure,” Newgarden told MotorSportsTalk. “I think with both of our victories there, we had a little bit of luck thrown in, no doubt.

“We had a fast car there last year and capitalized on it when we got the lead. I thought we were a podium threat before that, but the yellows are really the story of Toronto because they can happen at the wrong moments or the right moments.

“And for us, they generally happen in the right moments. You just don’t want to get caught out there. I think if you start from pole around Toronto and have a fast car, you want to make sure you don’t get caught out by something like that. It’s capitalizing if you’re not in the right position or protecting if you are in the right position around that place.”

Needless to say, racing at Toronto is something Newgarden looks forward to each season.

“It’s certainly one of my favorite events,” he said. “The track itself is very fun to drive.

“It’s very unique. I mean, all the IndyCar circuits are, but Toronto is kind of its own thing. It’s probably most closely related to Detroit, but even Detroit is different because of the changes from asphalt to concrete to asphalt in the corners, so that’s a really big challenge on the setup.

“But the event is so well supported and we have such great Canadian fans, I love going there. It’s a fun city, kind of like New York, great fan support, awesome atmosphere and yes, it’s a fun, challenging track to drive.”

Newgarden will be going to Toronto this weekend still feeling the impact of losing this past Sunday at Iowa. He dominated more than the first three-quarters of the race before being passed by James Hinchcliffe with 42 laps to go.

The Canadian native would hold on to claim his first win in over a year (last win came in 2017 at Long Beach).

Now that he’s going to race on Hinchcliffe’s home turf, Newgarden isn’t necessarily seeking revenge for falling short of Iowa. Rather, he is determined to finish what he didn’t at Iowa and once again leave Toronto exclaiming to himself in celebration, “Oh, Canada!”

“I feel motivated and I know the team is motivated to do our job and just go do it again,” Newgarden said. “That’s really all you can do.

“It’s always tough to lose a race at the end of the day. We had a car that was capable of winning, but the thing is we just got beat at Iowa. For three-quarters of the race, we had a car to beat, and the last quarter, we didn’t.

“We just have to learn from that and try to make it better next time, try to go to Toronto and work harder and try to win again. No doubt, we feel motivated that we have speed and can find it if we don’t have it, and we can execute as a race team, so that gives a lot of confidence to just go do a great job at Toronto and try to win.”

There are six races remaining on the schedule and Newgarden finds himself second in the standings, trailing series leader Scott Dixon by 33 points. There’s still plenty of time for Newgarden to overtake Dixon and earn a second consecutive IndyCar crown.

But at the same time, Newgarden is not obsessing about it. His philosophy is fairly straight-forward: he’ll do the best he can in the remaining races and if the championship happens, it happens.

“It’s simple in my mind,” he said. “I’ve always said that a championship takes care of itself.

“You focus on each individual weekend in its own section. Each weekend is its own individual thing and you just try to maximize your performance for each weekend you go to and each track you’re at.

“If you can do that, you maximize your potential for each individual weekend and, to me, the championship kind of sorts itself out. I just kind of focus on that from my standpoint, but the team, mainly Tim (strategist and Team Penske president Tim Cindric) and the engineers, they really try to see the whole picture and if we need to protect for something in the championship in a certain race, then I think they look at that and try to make that decision.

“But me as a driver, I’m more so just trying to maximize our potential and our result every weekend. That simplistic way of looking at, to me, has always worked out well.”

While Dixon is the main guy right now in Newgarden’s sites, he’s not the only one.

“There’s a lot for sure,” Newgarden said. “Dixon, without a doubt, is in the mix and he’s always going to be tough to beat.

“And (Alexander) Rossi and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay from Andretti (Autosport), and for sure Will Power is always going to be in the mix and he needs to be. We’re representing Team Penske both, so I think both of us want to be as high as possible.

“I think those five (including himself) are the real strong championship contenders. There’s always the potential for someone else to creep up in there like Robert Wickens, who has had a great season, or maybe you see more of an emergence from Graham Rahal.

“I think this top five is really, to me, the guys you have to compete against. You never say never because it can flip so quickly in IndyCar, so you have to be careful not to get too confident. But to me, looking at the landscape, I think that’s probably the best bet, to look at those five the most clearly.”

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Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.