Josef Newgarden wins at Texas; Jimmie Johnson finishes career-best sixth in IndyCar

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Josef Newgarden nipped teammate Scott McLaughlin on a last-lap pass for the victory at Texas Motor Speedway while Jimmie Johnson shined Sunday with his best finish yet in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Newgarden, who led only three laps, slipped by off Turn 4 to edge McLaughlin, who led a race-high 186 laps but came up 0.0669 seconds short after scoring the first victory of his career in the Feb. 28 season opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was the eighth-closest IndyCar finish in Texas history.

Marcus Ericsson finished third, followed by Will Power and Scott Dixon in a 248-lap race that turned into a fuel-savings run in the second half.

RESULTS, POINTS, STATS: A full rundown after Texas

‘JIMMIE MANIA’ BEGINSJohnson is eyeing an Indy 500 win after a career best at Texas

It was the 600th victory for team owner Roger Penske, who paid off a $600 bounty to Newgarden in victory lane.

Newgarden told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider in victory lane that it was the most dramatic victory of his career.

“Oh my gosh,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I was fuming in the car. We had all this traffic, and it wasn’t helping me and then right when I needed it to help me, literally last corner, last lap, traffic helped me out.

“Unbelievable PPG car in victory lane. Also, our XPEL car. How about Scott? I think he led like 95 percent of the laps. I hate doing that to a teammate, but I was going for it just like he was. We were driving hard. Man, I was loose. I was driving things sideways off of (Turns) 3 and 4 every lap.

“Last lap, last corner that’s what it’s all about at Texas. I hope we come back. Let’s come back.”

Johnson patiently worked his way to a career-best finish from a career-high 18th starting position, achieving his two postrace goals at the track where the seven-time NASCAR champion has a record seven Cup Series wins. He narrowly missed a top five when he had to slow down in the final 10 laps to conserve fuel, ceding fifth to teammate Dixon.

“Once we hit the halfway point in the race, I could sense and feel the car, and it became second nature, and off I went,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I’m just very thankful for the support from Chip Ganassi Racing. We knew going oval racing would help, and today got us in a competitive mix.

“When I was racing with (Dixon) at the end, I thought that was pretty cool and pretty fun. We had a little trouble with our telemetry and didn’t know how much fuel I had saved, so I had to really go into conserve mode at the end and couldn’t fight for that top five, but what a special day. Just very thankful.”

The next oval on the schedule for Johnson is his expected debut in the Indy 500. As soon as he took the checkered flag Sunday, engineer Eric Cowdin radioed, “Let’s go win the Indy 500.”

“Yeah, no pressure,” Johnson said with a laugh. “This is a huge step in having a successful month of May at the Brickyard. Granted, it’s going to be a new track and a whole new learning curve but all the laps I’ve logged the last few days are going to be so helpful heading to the Indy 500.”

The race got off to a choppy start with four caution flags for 52 laps before halfway.

Andretti Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was involved in three yellows that took out five cars. The last eliminated his No. 29 Honda, the No. 15 of Graham Rahal and the No. 06 of Helio Castroneves.

DeFrancesco clipped the apron while attempting to go three wide on the bottom in Turn 3, sliding up into Rahal (who collected Castroneves).

“I was certainly trying to give Helio as much room as I can,” Rahal said. “It’s just tight confines. As I said to Devlin, I think he’s got a bright future, but he punted Takuma (Sato) earlier in the race. You’ve got to learn from these mistakes. It’s tight in there, but you’re hoping you realize you’ve got bail out at speeds like this.”

DeFrancesco earlier had a wobble that led to contact with the left front of Sato, who slid up to brush the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 and cause a caution on Lap 99.

On the lap after the Lap 113 start, rookie Kyle Kirkwood spun into the Turn 4 wall after losing control while trying to pass DeFrancesco on the outside.

“I was good at first, around outside of Devlin,” Kirkwood said. “He wiggled a little bit and came up on me and pushed me just too far. Once, I caught it, and the next time, there was no catching it. Unfortunately, I was just forced up there.”

After a disappointing 20th in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener, Alexander Rossi’s start to the 2022 season got even worse at Texas.

Rossi was ruled to have jumped the start, but before the Andretti Autosport driver could serve the drive-through penalty, his No. 27 Dallara-Honda began slowing on the backstretch to trigger the first caution on Lap 12.

“We were losing voltage from the start of the race,” Rossi told Lee. “It just got exponentially worse until the battery just died. Here we are.”

It was the second consecutive race at Texas in which Rossi retired within the first 20 laps. Last year, he crashed coming to the start.

He will leave Texas buried in the points through the first two races of a contract year that he said needed a strong start after two winless seasons.

“At least we saw the green flag, so that’s cool,” Rossi deadpanned. “At this point, what do you say? It is what it is. The car was amazing. The NAPA/AutoNation boys did a wonderful job, and all weekend, it was really nice to drive. Green-flag call. It’s a shame. I think the car was fast, and I had a really good idea of how to get to the front. To not get that opportunity is pretty sad.”

Andretti teammate Romain Grosjean also retired from the race with an engine problem during a caution period just past the 100-lap mark of his second oval start.

“We lost power; we need to look into it,” Grosjean told Snider. “Obviously not great to be scoring points today and also not great to get experience on track. The car felt really good, but there’s nowhere you can pass here, so it’s very frustrating. There’s still things I need to do better on ovals but getting there.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.