April 7 in Motorsports History: Late tire stop propels Josef Newgarden

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In the final restart of IndyCar’s April 7, 2018 race at Phoenix Raceway, Josef Newgarden had eight laps to charge from fourth to first.

He was able to do it in just under half the time.

Almost immediately after the green flag waved, the Team Penske driver raced past Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe on the outside. He then set his sights on the race leader, Robert Wickens.

With four and a half laps remaining, Newgaden made his move on the rookie, passing Wickens on the outside as the cars entered Turn 1. He then scooted away and won by a margin of 2.995 seconds over Wickens.

As effortless as his charge to the front looked, Newgarden mostly was able to do it thanks to the help of his pit crew. With 18 laps remaining in the race, Newgarden, the leader at the time, came into the pits to get a fresh set of tires.

While the stop meant he would lose the lead, the fresh rubber clearly was superior, and for the eighth time in his career, Newgarden was a winner in IndyCar competition.

“I don’t think I did anything tonight, this was a team victory,” Newgarden told NBC Sports in Victory Lane. “They gave me the pit stops. They had the strategy. I was working with rocket scientists on the pit stand. Those guys are awesome!

“You never know if you made the right call, but they did. That Firestone rubber is good when it’s new.”

Despite finishing seconod, Wickens was also proud of his result. In just his second race in the series, the Canadian already had his first podium.

“To be honest, I was never expecting to win,” Wickens said. “When I found out that only three of us stayed out, I was just ecstatic to come home P2 because I thought we were kind of going to get killed there at the end.”

Also on this date:

1974: Bobby Unser won a 200-mile USAC Champ Car race at Trenton Speedway in Trenton, New Jersey. Trenton was a unique 1.5-mile kidney bean-shaped oval with a 20-degree right-hand dogleg on the backstretch. The facility hosted its last USAC race in 1979 and closed the following year.

1996: Damon Hill won the Grand Prix of Argentina, the third of eight victories in his championship season. Damon (son of Graham Hill) and Nico Rosberg are the only two Formula One champions whose fathers also won F1 titles.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).