Josef Newgarden wins shortened Detroit GP Race 1


Josef Newgarden won an accident-filled Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix,  which was condensed into a 75-minute timed race after severe weather delayed the start for over an hour.

Newgarden held off pole sitter Alexander Rossi over a final green-flag run of 12-and-a-half minutes to take his second victory of the season (St. Petersburg).

In a near-repeat of last week’s Indianapolis 500, a Team Penske driver led Rossi to the checkers, followed by Takuma Sato in third place.

“How about that call from Tim?,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “It was the perfect call to get us the position that we needed.”

The call Newgarden referred to was one made by Tim Cindric, his race strategist, to pit with 44 minutes remaining in the race – just before a yellow flag came out.

With the race leaders yet to pit, Newgarden took the lead during the yellow-flag cycle of stops. It was later reported that Newgarden had not received a full fuel load during his stop, but with help from multiple late-race cautions, Newgarden had enough fuel to make it to the end.

“We really wanted this one,” Newgarden said. “I can’t tell you how hard we worked in the off-season. This whole team made sure our street course cars were ready, and they were ready today.”

Entering 2019 with a focus on getting consistent results, Newgarden has followed through with two wins, four podiums and only one finish worse than fourth (15th at IndyCar Grand Prix – Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course) through the first 7 races.

And with today’s victory, Newgarden has reclaimed the NTT IndyCar Series championship lead by 25 points over Penske teammate and new Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden tied Pagenaud earlier in the day by being the fastest driver in his qualifying group, which earned him one championship point.

Pagenaud minimized damage with a nice recovery drive on Saturday, finishing sixth after qualifying mid-pack in 13th. He’s seeking to become the first Indy 500 winner to claim a victory in Detroit the following week.

Also having good runs were rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who broke a rough stretch by finishing fourth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished fifth to collect his third Top-5 so far this season.

On the flip side, two of IndyCar’s biggest names had costly setbacks.

Will Power climbed from 12th at the start into the Top-5, but on his stop with 40 minutes to go, the right front tire on his Chevrolet was not tightened enough. Moments later, Power lost the tire at pit exit. A subsequent drive-thru penalty for equipment out of the pit box and an unsafe release added further insult for the Australian, who finished 18th.

Then, with 31 minutes to go, it was Scott Dixon’s turn for trouble. After taking a restart in third, the defending series champion appeared to clip the inside wall in Turn 6 before stuffing his Honda into the tire barriers. It marked his first DNF since the 2017 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Live coverage of Race 2 from Detroit begins with qualifying tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by the main event at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. The forecast for tomorrow looks much better with clear skies and temperatures in the 60s expected come race time.

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With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”