It’s back to work for 2019 NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden at Richmond test

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Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After three weeks of celebration, with various trips around the country to honor Josef Newgarden for his second NTT IndyCar Series championship in 2019, the alarm rang on Tuesday morning and it was time for the Team Penske driver to get back to work.

This time, it was at Richmond Raceway, a 0.750-mile short oval that returns to the NTT IndyCar Series schedule on June 27, 2020 with a 300-lap race. Tuesday was a Firestone Tire test session, and also the first time INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen ran laps at a short oval measuring under 1.5-miles in length.

Newgarden returned to his Team Penske Chevrolet for the first time since clinching the 2019 championship on September 22 at the Firestone Grand prix of Monterey. He was part of a Firestone Tire Test at the 0.750-mile Richmond Raceway on Tuesday. The Chevrolet driver for Team Penske joined five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda on a test that had three different levels including a tire test, Aeroscreen test and returning to Richmond Raceway.

“It’s nice to get back to work,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com during a break in Tuesday’s test. “We’ve been enjoying the spoils of this year’s championship. It’s always good to get back going for another season. It’s really early days. We’ve got four or five more months to go in the offseason, but this is step one.

“To get the wheels turning, how we can win another championship? It’s exciting. I love doing this.”

It was the first time Indy cars had been on the track at Richmond since the last time the series raced here on June 27, 2009. That was the 2009 SunTrust Indy Challenge, a 300-lap race won by Dixon.

It had a rather successful run of races from 2001 to 2009.

After 10 years apart, Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier and INDYCAR President Jay Frye were able to bring the two sides together. That’s important for IndyCar as it returns to a part of the country that includes Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and North Carolina within a few hours driving distance of Richmond Raceway.

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo

“It’s exciting to get a new addition,” Newgarden said. “We’ll treat it like a brand-new track because the cars that ran there back then were different. It’s a blank slate, very similar to our season finale this year at Laguna Seca. People had run at Laguna Seca 15 years ago, but the cars were so different, and teams were so different, it was essentially a new race track.

“That is what we get next year when we come back.”

It was the first time INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen has been tested on a short oval measuring under one mile in length. The past two weeks, the effort spearhead by INDYCAR, Dallara, Red Bull Advanced Technologies and Pankl was tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and Barber Motorsports Park on October 7.

One more test remains for the driver cockpit safety screen on November 5 at Sebring Raceway.

Newgarden loves short track racing and is a two-time winner at Iowa Speedway, including his win this past season on June 20 when he led 245 of 300 laps.

“Indy cars on short tracks are nuts,” Newgarden said. “That’s why I love short track racing in an Indy car. We’ll probably be doing 185 or 190 miles an hour around here. I wish we could fit in more short track racing with IndyCar. I would be the No. 1 advocate of it.

“I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite tracks because I like the other short tracks on the calendar. When you get 25 other Indy cars around here, it’s going to be chaotic. Iowa races so well because we can get two lanes going and Richmond has that possibility as well. If we can get two lanes going here, I think the race is going to be fun.

“Turns 1 and 2 you have to turn the car very late. It’s an easy corner that can invite you in, so you want to dive into the corner quickly, but you have to be patient because the exit tightens up. In Turns 3 and 4, it’s the complete opposite. You don’t want to dive into Turn 3, but it opens up on the exit. It gets your mind thinking a little bit. I like that variation.”

Because it was a Firestone Tire test, the important factor for both Newgarden and Dixon was to get consistency so the Firestone engineers could compare one type of tire construction and compound to another.

The tire test is important to help Firestone develop the proper tire for next year’s race.

Bruce Martin Photo

So far, however, Newgarden is able to draw favorable comparisons between Richmond and Iowa.

“This honestly feels like a smooth Iowa,” Newgarden continued. “That was my first though, this is a smooth version of that. It feels a little tighter, a little more compact and that makes it feel a little more intense. That’s exciting to have that extra intensity.

“I’m a big fan of short-track racing, specifically with INDYCAR. Iowa is really the only experience I have with short-track racing. I’ve always loved it.

“To get another one on the calendar has been very cool for me. I used to watch these races at Richmond when I was younger in karts. I always thought they were exciting races here.

“I’m excited to be here. Pretty easy morning for the most part just getting going. Like Scott said, we’re kind of just running through a big program for Firestone to make sure that we get everything checked off the list for them.”

If it were up to Newgarden, he would like to add six more short ovals to the NTT IndyCar Series.

“For me, as a first-timer here, I’m really excited about getting a chance to race here,” Newgarden said. “I think it’s going to be a great race on the IndyCar Series schedule.”

Tuesday’s test was also the first time Newgarden has driven a car with INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen. The October 2 test at Indianapolis featured Dixon and Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Will Power. The October 7 test at Barber Motorsports Park had Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel for Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay driving the No. 28 Honda.

“It is very different from a perception standpoint,” Newgarden said. “When you get in the car for the first time, which today was my first experience, it feels like a different race car because visually it is quite different. But the more you drive it, the more you get used to it, the more it feels the same. The car feels the same and I’m driving it the same. All of the things that needed to stay the same, did.

“It’s been pretty easy for me to be positive because I don’t have any issues. I can see clearly through it. It took maybe 30, 40 laps, after that you’re used to it. It feels kind of normal at this point.

“It’s the third test of INDYCAR trying to confirm what the Windscreen is, how it can be improved. We’ve found solutions to get airflow better. Everyone at INDYCAR that has worked on the Aeroscreen has done a really good job.”

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage