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Newgarden Spreads The Wealth After Road America Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 13 2022

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden sprayed his bonus money around after winning in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Sunday.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Meet Josef Newgarden, Team Penske philanthropist.

Newgarden’s victory in Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America _ his third of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season _ was sweetened by a $1-million bonus for charity. The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge rewarded Newgarden as first driver this season to win on all three types of INDYCAR’s racetracks _ road courses, street circuits and ovals.

Newgarden endured two late-race cautions and restarts en route to holding off pole-sitter Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport to earn his 23rd series victory and second at Road America. The win also tied Newgarden with Tommy Milton for 19th on INDYCAR’s all-time victory list.

Half of the $1-million payday is earmarked for Team Penske. Newgarden’s bonus share of $500,000 will be split between the SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. After pitting under a green flag on Lap 15, Newgarden exited pit road ahead of Rossi to take command on the challenging 4.048-mile/14-turn natural-terrain layout in Elkhart Lake, Wis. From there, the two-time series champion cycled in and out of the lead around various competing strategies.

“My team really put me in position on that first stop,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. “Rossi was not going to be easy to beat today. I felt like he was very strong. I felt like we were a little bit better than him, but he was by no means going to be simple to go by.

“That first stop is really what set the tone for us. Once we got in position, it was about getting through the lap markers, the alternate strategy quicker than him, building a gap, maintaining it. I felt like our PPG car was hooked-up and had it from Team Chevy on the power side pretty much as always this year.”

Newgarden previously won this season on Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked/1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth and the famed 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit in Southern California.

“I was just trying to stay focused on what I had to do,” said Newgarden, who started second. “Just so proud to win the PeopleReady Challenge. I keep forgetting about this million bucks. To finally get it done and most importantly give that money to charity _ half of that money is going to SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville. I hope they’re happy about it. That’s a lot of money coming their way.

“We want to help these groups as much as we can. To have something like this Challenge I think fires you up more competitively, that you want to get it done for them. You know it’s just a bonus and a plus for these two groups. I know how impactful it is, so I get really competitive and want to make it happen.”

For the record, Newgarden said his family dog, Axel, was adopted through Wags and Walks. “He’s (Axel) a mutt. He has a lot of different breeds. He’s a smart little fellow,” Newgarden said. “They save all sorts of dogs. All sorts. You should hear some of these heartbreaking stories that these guys go through to find these dogs homes. We need more of that.”

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson finished second in the No. 8 Ganassi Racing Honda, 3.3710-seconds behind Newgarden. Sweden’s Ericsson scored his fourth consecutive top-seven finish to regain the championship lead by 27 points over previous leader Will Power, who rallied to finish 19th in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet after being spun out by contact initiated by rookie Devlin DeFrancesco of Andretti Autosport.

“Man, you can’t really do much about it,” Power said. “He is a young guy and he’s made some big moves this year that resulted in some incidents. We didn’t want to go down a lap obviously. That made our day a lot harder. Yeah, nothing I could do about that one. That is INDYCAR. Not the best day…you have them.”

NTT P1 Award winner Rossi finished third in the No. 27 Honda. His second consecutive podium result this month continued a stretch of success for Rossi, who placed fifth in the Indy 500 on May 29, second to Power in last Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix outside Detroit and third on Sunday.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean finished fourth in the No. 28 Honda, with Andretti teammate Colton Herta rounding-out the top five in the No. 26 Honda after starting 11th.

Newgarden prevailed despite two cautions in the last 10 laps that evaporated his 2.8-second lead over Rossi. The first restart, on Lap 50, lasted less than half-a-lap when four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves spun his No. 06 Honda exiting the final turn on the uphill climb to the green flag. That bunched the field again for a restart on Lap 52 of 55, with Newgarden leading Rossi, Ericsson, Herta and Grosjean.

Newgarden rocketed away from the field on the second restart, as he had done on the first. Those rapid restarts built too big of a gap for any challenges. Newgarden thus avoided a repeat of last year’s disappointment at Road America, when he lost the lead to Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing due to a mechanical problem on a restart with two laps to go.

Newgarden led a race-high 26 of 55 laps, taking the top spot for good during a round of pit stops on Lap 43. “You’ve got to be on your toes at all times,” said Newgarden, 31, and series champion in 2017 and 2019. “You can go in with a plan, but you probably have to change your plan 90 percent of the time once the race starts to unfold. To be able to hit all these disciplines with this team, for me it’s the best series in the world.

“I think we genuinely had the potential for four or five wins up to this point. So we’ve done three of the potential five, let’s say. The other ones that we weren’t winning, we were finishing too far back. We’ve got to ‘up’ our consistency. It’s a little abnormal for us. I feel like we’re a fairly consistent group. So I’m not going to lose sleep on why that was happening. Sometimes you get in these little micro trends where we didn’t have the consistency we needed.

“Number One, we need to clean that up. We need to win a couple more races before the year is out because of the way the first part of the season went. We definitely have wins on the board. But definitely more than wins, consistency is going to rule the day this year, for sure.”

While Newgarden was locked into win-mode over the last three laps, a scramble for the next four positions unfolded. Ericsson dove under Rossi in Turn 1 on Lap 53 after the restart to take second. Grosjean then passed Herta for fourth place while crossing under the flag stand with the white flag unfurled to signal the final lap.

“I tried to be really aggressive on that last restart, and it cost us,” said Ross, the 2016 Indy 500 champion. “But we were trying to win the race; ultimately a good day. Josef certainly had a little better base than us, and it took us until the last stint to dial-in the balance of the car. We were coming back on him pretty quickly. I don’t think we could have beat him, but all in all, it was a good day.”

The runner-up result for Ericsson came despite contact with CGR teammate/reigning series champion Palou while racing for third in Turn 5 on Lap 4. The seemingly slight contact damaged Palou’s left front suspension and ended the day for the Spaniard, who expressed disappointment with Ericsson’s decision-making. Palou finished 27th/last in the No. 10 Honda.

“First of all, I’m really sorry,” Ericsson said. “You never want to have contact with a teammate. From my point of view, the door was open, and I was already side-by-side. If you see a gap, you go for it. It’s important at the beginning of the race to get track position.

“It was a really good race, and we had a really strong weekend. Super-happy with P2.”

Next on the schedule is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the All-New Civic Type R on Sunday, July 3 (noon EDT) on NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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Danish driver Christian Rasmussen scored his breakthrough Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory Sunday in the Indy Lights Grand Prix at Road America. Rasmussen beat Andretti Autosport teammate and pole-sitter Sting Ray Robb to the finish line by 2.3573-seconds in the No. 28 Road to Indy/Stellrecht car.

Rasmussen pulled off a daring move to the outside of Robb’s No. 2 Sekady car in Turn 1 on a Lap 11 restart and never looked back. It was a move similar to one he completed on Robb on Lap 1 of the 20-lapper.

Rasmussen, who won the 2020 USF2000 championship and the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 championship, led 18 of 20 laps after starting third. The win came after he finished 13th in both races of the doubleheader last weekend at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

“It feels amazing,” Rasmussen said. “I think Detroit was the worst weekend of my life, so to bounce back with a win like this is definitely an amazing way to show everyone that we’re here and we’re able to compete for wins.”

Rookie Hunter McElrea drove to a stout third-place finish in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car, holding off championship leader Linus Lundqvist in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car over the final nine laps. Jacob Abel rounded-out the top five in the No. 51 Abel Speedwagon.

The race featured three cautions, the most notable of which came on Lap 9 and resulted in a red flag and nearly four-hour break in the action after Christian Bogle drove his No. 7 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car over the curb outside Turn 5. The contact lifted the front of the car into the catch fence, damaging the fence and requiring downtime for extensive repairs. Bogle, who was uninjured, finished 12th.

The time needed to fix the catch fence forced the final half of the Indy Lights race to be postponed until after the NTT IndyCar Series main event won by Josef Newgarden of Team Penske.

Pole-sitter Robb now has scored five podiums in seven races this season to inch closer to point-leader Lundqvist, the Swede who has enjoyed a dominating first half of the season. Lundqvist’s fourth-place finish allowed him to remain 82 points in front of Robb, who moved from fourth to second on Sunday.

Rasmussen advanced one position to sixth in the championship, 115 points back of Lundqvist. While Rasmussen has been strong in his rookie Indy Lights season, he’s rarely had the finishes to show for it. He was on his way to a win in the season-opening race on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., where a mechanical issue coming to the white flag dropped him to 12th.

“I feel like we’ve deserved it a few times now, so finally being able to do it is a great feeling,” Rasumssen said.

Indy Lights will return to action after a two-week break with the eighth race of the season, at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) Sunday, July 3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing). 

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Results of the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR NTT IndyCar Series event on the 4.048-mile/14-turn Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis., with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

  1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    2. (4) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 55, Running
    3. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
    4. (6) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 55, Running
    5. (11) Colton Herta, Honda, 55, Running
    6. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    7. (8) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    8. (22) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
    9. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
    10. (13) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 55, Running
    11. (12) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    12. (10) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 55, Running
    13. (20) Jack Harvey, Honda, 55, Running
    14. (18) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    15. (19) Takuma Sato, Honda, 55, Running
    16. (14) David Malukas, Honda, 55, Running
    17. (17) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    18. (21) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 55, Running
    19. (15) Will Power, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    20. (24) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    21. (27) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    22. (16) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 55, Running
    23. (23) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 55, Running
    24. (26) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 54, Running
    25. (25) Tatiana Calderon, Chevrolet, 54, Running
    26. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 46, Mechanical
    27. (3) Alex Palou, Honda, 36, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 117.174 mph
Time of Race: 01:53:02.8097
Margin of victory: 3.3710-seconds
Cautions: 5 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 10 among 7 drivers

Lap Leaders
Rossi, Alexander 1 – 14
Ericsson, Marcus 15 – 16
Sato, Takuma 17
Rosenqvist, Felix 18 – 24
Newgarden, Josef 25 – 27
Rossi, Alexander 28 – 29
Grosjean, Romain 30
Lundgaard, Christian 31
Newgarden, Josef 32 – 41
Ericsson, Marcus 42
Newgarden, Josef 43 – 55

NTT IndyCar Series point-standings (top-10): 1, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 293; 2, Will Power, Team Penske, 266; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 261; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 248; 5, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 246; 6, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 224; 7, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 218; 8, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP, 203; 9, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 199; 10, Simon Pagenaud, Meyer Shank Racing, 197.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 13 2022
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