IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden and his CFH Racing team on Thursday made official that the Hendersonville native will again drive the No. 67 car in 2016. This summer, there was a good bit of chatter about the four-year veteran jumping to another team — including the powerhouse Ganassi and Penske squads — but that pretty quickly fizzled out.
Heading into the final race of the year, Newgarden was one of six drivers that remained eligible for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship and would finish 7th in the standings. The 24-year-old also captured his first career pole position at the Milwaukee Mile and started on the front row of the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. He led five of the final seven races of the year on his way to leading the most laps (345) of all drivers in 2015.
Josef Newgarden’s recent choices of vehicles outside of his Verizon IndySeries cars have generated a lot of speculation about what he will drive on the track in 2016.
Last week, the Hendersonville native posted his appreciation to Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta for the opportunity to see Tim McGraw in concert and to test-drive an old NASCAR truck at the Fairgrounds Speedway. Big Machine Records is a sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing teams.
A few days earlier, he posted a photo of him with his first personal vehicle, a BMW he purchased at Bobby Rahal BMW. That’s the same Bobby Rahal whose name leads the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing effort that has Graham Rahal in second place in the championship standings.
The whole thing led Motosportstalk.com to label him the “domino in the Verizon IndyCar Series silly season” that will trigger all of the movement prior to the 2016 season.
The 24-year-old Newgarden is on a one-year contract with CFH Racing this year. The team, co-owned by Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman, is not one of the circuit’s major players yet Newgarden has won twice, finished runner-up once and has notched five other top-10 finishes in 2015.
The combination of those two factors has led many to speculate for much of this season that Newgarden will move to an organization with a higher profile next year. He has done nothing lately to make anyone think otherwise.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Josef Newgarden is the first name on everyone's list as the IndyCar Series season nears its end and teams and drivers start to tend to their 2016 affairs. Chatter emerged last week that the Hendersonville native has met with Chip Ganassi about the possibility of joining the IndyCar powerhouse, which has won 10 series championships. On Sunday's broadcast of the Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, NBCSN's Robin Miller said it will be hard for CFH Racing to keep the two-time 2015 race winner who sits eighth in the points with two races to go.
But CFH co-owner Sarah Fisher on Monday told Racer that her team will do all it can to hang on to the 25-year-old Newgarden, who earlier this year also caught the eye of Roger Penske. Fisher said the interest from IndyCar's most prominent teams is "the nicest compliment they can pay us because that means we're doing a good job." But she's aiming for bigger things with Newgarden, who has driven for her organizations since the beginning of 2012.
"He works well with his engineers and mechanics and I'd love to go win a championship with him. And that's what we're focused on. We're not worrying about what other teams are doing; as a past driver, I'd answer the phone if Roger or Chip called..."
The planned sale of Nashville Superspeedway to locally based NeXovation has fallen through, but NeXovation CEO Robb Sexton says he's not giving up. He says a big reason his team hasn't closed on its $46 million deal is that its lender hasn't followed through and, as such, caused lengthy delays. Now that the Dover deal has expired, NeXovation can look for other funders to back its plans.
"We have invested millions of dollars in the Speedway sales process and we are not going to allow the negative actions of others to deter us from our goal," Sexton said in a statement issued late Friday.
SEE ALSO: Dover's new 10-Q, in which execs say they are in talks with other potential buyers
It is not clear where Josef Newgarden will race next season.
The Hendersonville native is competing on the IndyCar Series this season on a one-year contract with Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing. At 25 years old and with two victories and one runner-up finish in 2015, he could be a target for higher-profile teams in a sport desperate for more American stars.
For now, though, the first place to look for Newgarden is in first place. Through 13 races, he is the IndyCar leader in laps led this season.
OUT IN FRONT
A look at the 2015 IndyCar Series leaders in laps led:
Josef Newgarden – 296
Will Power – 270
Scott Dixon – 250
Tony Kanaan – 186
Helio Castroneves – 168
Newgarden led a race-high 111 laps July 18 at Iowa, the most recent race, and was out front for 30 (tied for the most), including the last one, June 14 at Toronto. In his first victory, he led 46 of the 90 laps at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
He has led 296 laps in 13 races this season. Prior to 2015, he was out front for 21 laps in 51 career starts.
Next on the IndyCar schedule is Sunday’s Honda Indy Car 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A year ago on the 2.258-mile road course that has 13 turns, Newgarden started on the front row and took the lead on lap 62. He stayed in front for seven laps, which at the time matched his career-high.
“We had a strong event there last year so we should be able to put really good race cars on the track this year,” Newgarden said, according to nextgenindy.com.
Chances are he’ll even put it out front, at least for a time.
(Photo: Getty Images)
As far as Josef Newgarden is concerned two wins are still too few. Far too few.
The Hendersonville native scored his second career IndyCar Series victory Sunday (also his second this season) and conceded that there is a big difference between one win and two.
Yet the 24-year-old believes he has a long way to go to establish himself as a consistent checkered flag threat and a proven performer on America’s open wheel circuit.
“You get one win and people go, 'Oh, you won a race, that's great, but can you win more?'” Newgarden said, according to FoxSports.com. “But I think two wins doesn't solidify it either. It is nice.
“I'm lucky enough to be driving an IndyCar, and to get two wins is really fortunate. There's not a lot of people that have won two IndyCar races, but I think if you really measure it, as a driver you don't want to win a couple of races. You want to win a lot of races. You want to win consecutive races, hopefully. I don't know if we're quite there yet, but I would like to get there.”
He is a lot closer than he’s been.
Newgarden is one of three IndyCar drivers with two wins this season. The others are Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon. Montoya has won multiple Indianapolis 500s, including this year’s race, and Dixon has won multiple IndyCar championships and the 2008 race at Indianapolis.
Montoya’s and Dixon’s two victories this season each came in a span of seven races. The same is true for Newgarden, who has won races in Birmingham and Toronto. Montoya, though, has 14 career wins in IndyCar and Dixon has 37.
“It's nice to have two, but I don't think it means anything,” Newgarden said. “It doesn't mean you're safe in a sport. I think you can always get kicked out. You never know if you're going to be here next year; you always got to prove yourself, and that case still stands, in my opinion.
“… It's not like we're going to get to the next race, and we are magically going to be better than those guys. I think we need to keep working.”
NeXovation has paid $200,000 to Dover Motorsports to extend its contract by another several weeks to buy the Nashville Superspeedway. Unlike past payments totaling $1.7 million, this check will not be applied to NeXovation's tab. The extension — check out the document here — pushes the target closing date to Feb. 25, which will be five months after the date of companies' initial goal.
The Automobile Racing Club of America announced it is returning to Fairgrounds Speedway for the 2015 season.
On April 11, ARCA — a non-NASCAR affiliated stock car circuit that features a mix of professionals, amateurs and up-and-coming drivers — will contest a 200-lap race on the 0.596-mile track (that'd make it 119 miles, though one figures it'll be branded as a 120).
It will be the 24th ARCA event in the track's history but the first since 1992. Between 2001 and 2008, ARCA contested 15 races at the Nashville Superspeedway in Gladeville in Wilson County.
The first ARCA Racing Series race at the historic track, held June 21, 1959, was won by 3-time ARCA champion Nelson Stacy, who would go on to win 4 races in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Other notable race winners include Jack Bowsher, Red Farmer, Ramo Stott, Coo Coo Marlin and David Green. A long list of talented local drivers including Darrell Waltrip and Marty Robbins also drove in ARCA races at the storied Fairgrounds oval.
“We at Track Enterprises are excited and proud to bring the ARCA Series back to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville,” said Track Enterprises President Bob Sargent, a recipient of the national RPM Workshops Promoter of the Year Award. “The ARCA race events we present at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, and annually at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile dirt tracks in Springfield and DuQuoin, are very popular with the fans and always competitive and exciting. We feel very confident we can have the same success with this event. The effort to bring the ARCA Series to Nashville has been a team effort, and Executive Director Buck Dozier and his staff at the Nashville Expo Center have been great to work with. Our plan is to bring the national stature and exposure of the ARCA event to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and blend it with the existing schedule of motorsports established by Tony Formosa, Jr. We feel this is a significant development for auto racing in this market, and one we intend to commit to long term.”
While racing began at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as early as 1904, the track which evolved into the current day Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville held its first race in 1958. The track was home to 42 NASCAR Sprint Cup races from 1958-1984 with Richard Petty leading all drivers with 9 wins followed by Darrell Waltrip with 8. Other Cup winners include Joe Weatherly, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Benny Parsons and Dale Earnhardt. The NASCAR Xfinity Series raced there 9 times from 1984-2000, and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series held 5 races from 1996-2000. Under the management of promoter Tony Formosa, Jr. the track continues to present regularly scheduled races throughout the summer months, highlighted by the annual All American 400.
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