Newgarden Gets Through New Jersey; Looks to VIR Title Showdown MILLEVILLE, NY, 31 August -- Before the penultimate weekend of the BF Goodrich / Skip Barber National Championship powered by Mazda at New Jersey Motorsports Park this weekend,...
Newgarden Gets Through New Jersey; Looks to VIR Title Showdown
MILLEVILLE, NY, 31 August -- Before the penultimate weekend of the BF Goodrich / Skip Barber National Championship powered by Mazda at New Jersey Motorsports Park this weekend, Josef Newgarden's primary goal was to finish both races and take the title fight to the last weekend at VIR. A pair of eighth place finishes accomplished just that, leaving Newgarden second overall in the title chase with five point deficit.
That's just fine by Newgarden, who knew all along that even with better finishes, a champion was not likely to emerge until VIR. Yet, had it not been for some challenges with his racecar's balance to get the weekend started, and some misfortune in both races, there may have been more fruit to bear.
A long standing feature of the Skip Barber National Championships is the identically prepared racecars are randomly selected by the drivers at the start of the weekend. While the organization does a stellar job of providing entrants with equal equipment, no two racecars are ever identical. Newgarden's weekend got off to rocky start when it was clear that the car he chose wasn't ideal.
"Looking back, I should have changed cars when I had the chance. Instead, I chose to stick with it and work through the balance issues. It didn't help to have the track time cut short due to weather and another session that was cancelled all together, but that's how it goes," said Newgarden.
Qualifying fifth for Saturday's race, Newgarden came home eighth. On a new track, where much of the lap is a high speed draft ending in a twisting technical section offering the only passing opportunity, the field was nervous with itchy trigger fingers. Newgarden attempted to pass for third place on the final lap going into turn 1, but was hit from behind in the process, breaking the suspension. Newgarden limped home outside the Top-10, but eventually race officials penalized three drivers, promoting him to eighth.
"That was a tough race, with everyone driving aggressively. Fortunately as far as the title goes, everyone was effected," said Newgarden.
Sunday's race began with an improved starting position of fourth. This time, a lack of drafting cooperation allowed the leader to get away. On the second-to-last-lap heading into turn 1, Newgarden was defending second place in a three-wide battle. Forced to the very dirty outside line with no grip to speak of, Newgarden spun a quick 360, and lost about six seconds in the process. "With another couple of laps, I could have caught back up. Unfortunately, there were only two left and I just ran out of time." recalled Newgarden.
Thus, the title will, as predicted, be decided at the final race. Newgarden stands second overall, but a complex matrix of dropping the lowest finish effectively makes the spread nine points among the frontrunners. That means only wins will do, and Newgarden wouldn't have it any other way. May the best man win.
Coming up next for Newgarden is a weekend of racing in the Canadian Formula Ford Series on September 6 and 7 at Mosport.