So what does a Verizon IndyCar Series driver do during an off weekend? How about going to a Formula Ford race and kicking everyone butt! That’s exactly what Josef Newgarden did this past weekend down at the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL. I contemplated going to this event, and now I wish I’d done so! Here’s the official recap from the SCCA…
Official Release from the Sports Car Club of America
Newgarden Wins Formula F 45th Anniversary Feature Race at Barber
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Aug. 10, 2014) – Taking a break from his busy Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, Josef Newgarden called racing in Sunday’s SCCA Summer Speedfest Formula F 45th Anniversary feature race the “most fun he had all year,” running from last to first to win at Barber Motorsports Park. Sixteen year-old sensation Max Mallinen finished second.
Newgarden, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was testing his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing machine Saturday, which allowed Franklin Futrelle to drive the HPD/Honda Performance Development Piper DF-5/Honda to victory in a wet sprint race. Newgarden arrived in time to see the Saturday race, and later joined the teams, officials and friends Saturday evening at the Formula F “birthday” celebration, presented by HPD/Honda Performance Development.
Sunday morning provided Newgarden, the only American to ever win the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in England, an opportunity to run a few laps in the car. He became the first driver all weekend to run a sub 1:33 lap, serving notice that, despite starting 11th and last on the grid, the IndyCar ace would be a force with which to be reckoned.
Polesitter and three-time SCCA Runoffs® Formula F Champion Tim Kautz got the jump on field to lead early in his No. 88 Braeburn/Two Dogg/Hoosier/Euroquipe Piper DF-5/Honda. Kautz and Mallinen’s No. 1 Spectrum 014H/Honda were never more than one second apart in the opening stages of the 21-lap, 49.98-mile race, but Newgarden was on the charge.
Newgarden was to third by lap three and had caught the lead duo by lap five. The three-way lead battle allowed Cliff Johnson to close in his No. 4 Alpine Lotho-Graphics/Farley Engines Piper DF-5/Honda to make it a four-way scrap. Newgarden went to the lead on lap nine, only to see Kautz re-take the position a lap later. Newgarden went back to the lead on lap 11, a position he held for the final 10 laps.
“This is the most fun I’ve had this racing season,” Newgarden said. “You just can’t race any better than this. You can drive the car sideways. You can go three-wide into the brake zones. You can race the guys for two- to three-corners at a time. It’s just the most fun you can have in an open-wheel car.
“Tim [Kautz] and Max [Mallinen] were really good—they drove really clean. I ran them really hard. I had to. They were strong at latching on, and it was hard to get rid of them once I was up there. I knew if I could break away, we’d be in good shape, but I just couldn’t. They kept battling. Really clean, good drivers. It was fun to mix it up with them.”
As Newgarden was beginning to pull out a gap, Kautz had an issue and ran off on lap 15, leaving Mallinen, of Liberty Lake, Washington, by himself and leaving Johnson, of Stilwell, Kansas, solidly in third.
“Today was really cool,” high school junior Mallinen said. “We were all fighting really hard, but still respecting each other. There were a lot of opportunities to catch wheels, but I’m glad that everyone was able to keep it clean. At one point, the three of us went three-wide into the chicane. That was exhilarating!”
Formula F veteran Johnson stayed close, but was just off the battle for the lead.
“When I was running fourth, I could see that they had just a little more talent than I have,” Johnson surmised. “I just tried to keep up with them, but they’d pull me by little bits here and there. I’m okay with finishing third today. This is a tough crowd!”
Bob Perona, of Indianapolis, Indiana, drove his Piper DF-3 to a fourth-place finish, followed by Kautz.
Newgarden set a new track record for Formula F at 1:32.440 (92.687 mph). After the race, he noted the class’s importance in the motorsports development ladder.
“Formula F is one of those training grounds that should never go away,” he said. “I think it is the best open wheel training ground for a young driver. If you want to get the best experience and training, Formula F is the place to go. Honda is obviously very involved in this and for them to invite me down here to do this, I can’t thank them enough. They’re always so good to me. I hope that I can do this some more.”
In other SCCA Summer Speedfest action, Stevan Davis, of Danielsville, Georgia, led flag-to-flag in his No. 80 Hoosier/Butler Engines/Roxannes Headers Racer’s Wedge SB-1/VW to win Formula Vee in a field that saw five drivers break his existing track record. Steve Oseth and Laura Hayes completed the podium.
“It’s a tough field,” Davis said. “We only have 12 cars, but there are five or six really tough, competitive cars. It was good to run out front. I was amazed that I was able to get away!”
Hayes came away with the new lap record, a 1:44.884 (81.690 mph) in her Protoform P2/VW.
W. Clint McMahan, of Covington, Georgia, dominated Formula 500, beating Thomas Edwards in his Nova KBS/Honda Formula 600. Chris Forrer, of Pensacola, Florida, doubled up on the weekend in Club Formula Ford, winning in his Scurvydog Motorsports Tiga/Ford. In the opening race of the day, Kevin Ferah, of Montreal, won in Spec:RaceAtom, driving his Ariel Atom.
For a full listing of results from Sunday’s four race groups, please visit www.scca.com/ff45th.