BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – official release — SCCA photo — 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.