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History, Pavement On Driver Minds At The Glen

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 15 2016
Josef Newgarden knows all about the history at Watkins Glen. The pavement? Not so much.

Josef Newgarden knows all about the history at Watkins Glen. The pavement? Not so much.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Rising Verizon IndyCar Series star Josef Newgarden says mechanical grip will be a major player when open-wheel racing returns to historic Watkins Glen International after a six-year absence for next month’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.

bugindynotesNewgarden, of Ed Carpenter Racing, was among series regulars participating in an open-test last Thursday around The Glen’s 3.45-mile natural-terrain layout, which underwent a $12-million repaving during the offseason. The race weekend is set for Sept. 2-4.

“I think this track has always been very iconic for North American motorsports when it comes to road-course races, and obviously F1 used to be here back in the day,” Newgarden said during his first visit to the facility in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region. “Indy car was very prominent here also. So a lot of rich history. Just excited to come here and see this track and the repavement.”

Will Power of Team Penske paced a field of IndyCar and Indy Lights drivers before rain forced the afternoon session to be cut shot. Power’s best unofficial lap time was 1-minute, 25.31-seconds in his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Newgarden (1:25.36) was second-fast while Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing (1:25.67) completed a sweep of the top three places for Chevrolet-powered teams.

Conor Daly of Dale Coyne Racing placed fourth as the fastest Honda-powered car (1:25.89) with Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing (1:25.90) fifth in another Chevrolet.

“The repavement is obviously the biggest discussion on how it will affect racing,” Newgarden said during a news conference prior to NASCAR’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. “I think for us we’ve seen pretty good improvement in our races whenever we increase grip. The track being repaved is really kind of a mechanical change for us. We have big, big aero on our race cars, so aerodynamics is a discussion, having more or less, what’s good for racing…and I think the track grip plays more than the mechanical side of the car, which is a good thing. Takes a little bit more of the aerodynamic element off the car but I’m excited to see that.

“I talked to a lot of the IndyCar drivers that had tested here three-four weeks ago and I heard some crazy stories. They said it was like a video game, which I don’t know is a good or a bad thing. Sounded like the grip level was so high that they kind of couldn’t believe it, it didn’t seem real.  I’m talking like five of six seconds (faster) than what they used to run around this place.

“Now that was also with the older version Indy car…we’ve had a newer Indy car since 2012 with our current (Dallara) chassis, but five or six seconds is _ for lack of a better term _ pretty ridiculous. It’s a substantial amount of time, so from a grip standpoint, that’s huge. You want to be able to bolt any part onto the race car to get that sort of track time. So it’s massive, it’s a huge grip change.

“I think it plays more to the mechanical side of the car, the mechanical grip in the tire…so I think it’s going to help us actually race better.  We’ll trim the wings out, use less of the aerodynamic side of the car and I think that’s going to make the racing better for us.”

Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth on the chart (1:25.90) in his Chevrolet while reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi of Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian was seventh (1:25.97) in a Honda-powered car.  Andretti/Honda teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was eighth (1:26.00) with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin ninth (1:26.00) and Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rounding out the top-10 (1:26.10) in Hondas.

WGI was added to the schedule in-mid May when a Labor Day Weekend event originally scheduled for the streets of Boston was cancelled. Promoters for that inaugural race pulled the plug after encountering opposition from groups citing noise, traffic and damage to city streets.

“I guess it was a sad deal that Boston got cancelled for many factors,” Newgarden said. “Boston would have been a really great market for us. Boston had its own hiccups in that the whole system, the city is a very difficult place to crack for events. It’s a shame it didn’t get pulled off.

“But then it was almost even more positive when we heard we were going to come here instead. You know, this is one of the greatest tracks in North America and one of the places I wish we were already racing at. So we took a negative and I think it turned right into a great positive being able to run here. Everyone was very supportive of it, not just from the drivers but all of our sponsors and everything were very receptive to it. This place is such a wonderful, iconic track and I’ve always wanted to race here. So having the opportunity to do it now is great.”

Tickets for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen are available for purchase at www.theglen.com. The race on Sept. 4 will be telecast live on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 2 p.m.

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Pocono Raceway, site of the next race on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, will remain on the calendar through 2018, track President/CEO Brandon Igdalsky confirmed last week. “The Tricky Triangle,” a 2.5-mile triangular oval, will host the ABC Supply 500 weekend on Aug. 20-21. Race dates for 2017 and 2018 will be announced at a later time.

“We are thrilled to share this great news that we will host the Verizon IndyCar Series through 2018,” Igdalsky said in a statement. “Our track was originally designed for open-wheel cars and our fans really enjoy the action on the track. We also received positive feedback from teams and drivers and worked together with INDYCAR to make sure Pocono Raceway stays on the schedule.”

Indy car racing enjoys a storied history at Pocono. This weekend’s race will be the 23rd in the Pennsylvania track’s history, with previous events run from 1971-89 and every year since 2013. A.J. Foyt Jr., the all-time leader in Indy car wins with 67, also holds the record for most Pocono victories with four. Other winners include Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Johnny Rutherford, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser.

“We’re thrilled to announce the two-year extension with Pocono Raceway, an iconic oval track with a long history of hosting great open-wheel racing events,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “It’s very clear that Pocono is one of the favorites amongst the drivers, teams and fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series and we look forward to competing there for the foreseeable future.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, defending event champion, was pleased to learn of the extension. “The on-track show, the product we put on last year was phenomenal,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. “Lead changes throughout the race, six-wide throughout the straights, passing throughout the field. You couldn’t ask for a better product and hopefully we can do it again for the fans.”

Tickets for this year’s ABC Supply 500 start at $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 12-and-under. Tickets may be purchased online at www.poconoraceway.com or by calling (800) RACEWAY.

Six Verizon IndyCar Series drivers turned laps Aug. 8 around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval as part of a test to determine Firestone’s tire specification for the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter, owner/driver of the team bearing his name, were the primary testers for the day-long session, running through an assortment of experimental compounds and constructions. Also turning laps were Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan, Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Alexander Rossi.

Kanaan (2013), Hunter-Reay (2014), Montoya (2015) and Rossi (2016) represent the last four Indy 500 winners. Hunter-Reay and two-time Indy 500 pole-winner Carpenter, in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, spent the morning alternating short runs on a “control set” of Firehawk tires _ the 2016 Indy 500 specification _ and experimental sets that varied in tread compound and/or construction on at least one tire position.

The afternoon was reserved for full-stint runs on a few preferred specs from the morning, as Carpenter noted, “To kind of close the loop on the tires that they think they might want to move forward with. Firestone’s a great partner for INDYCAR so to be part of helping them come back here with another great tire for next year is always rewarding.”

Dale Harrigle, chief engineer and manager of race tire development for Bridgestone Americas, said the testing regimen was smaller in scope than some years due to how well the 2016 Indy spec functioned. “We were very happy with the performance of the tire in 2016 so we actually came with a relatively small test,” Harrigle said. “We only have two (experimental) right-side compounds and a couple of constructions, so it’s a pretty small, focused test for us this year.”

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Former open-wheel regular Bill Alsup, who drove in 57 Indy car races from 1979-84, died Tuesday, Aug. 9, in Colorado at age 78 when a crane he was operating rolled over and pinned him underneath, according to the Silverton (Colo.) Standard & the Miner. Alsup was the 1979 CART Rookie of the Year and finished 11th in his only Indianapolis 500 appearance in 1981, driving for Roger Penske. … The family of Bryan Clauson, the short-track racing star and three-time Indianapolis 500 starter who died Sunday, Aug. 7, from injuries sustained at the Belleville (Kan.) Midget Nationals, reported via the Bryan Clauson Racing page on Facebook that Clauson donated five organs that may help save the lives of others. “The gift of life is the most amazing gesture and Bryan will live on not only through us and all the people he touched along the way, but from the lucky individuals that will benefit from Bryan making a decision to be a donor,” the Facebook post read.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 15 2016
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