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

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.