Josef Newgarden has finally breached that glass ceiling and earned his maiden IndyCar victory.
In Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman Racing’s third race as a marriage of two Verizon IndyCar Series teams, it has seen success thanks to the efforts of driver Josef Newgarden at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Newgarden started fifth behind three cars from Team Penske and Scott Dixon but managed to get around Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power on the first lap to start the next stint of the race in second place.
Newgarden hounded Castroneves and was able to leapfrog him on the first set of pitstops right before the first full course yellow on lap 20.
Coming out of the pits on the first round of stops, Power went almost directly onto the racing line when Takuma Sato was heading into turn 2 and the two of them collided.
The resulting debris led to a full course yellow and sent several drivers into the pits, splitting the field up into two separate three-stop strategy groups.
After six of the top ten (including the top four) drivers pitted, the race went back to green on lap 24 with Newgarden leading over Castroneves, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, and Power.
Power’s time near the front was short lived as he was assessed a drive thru penalty for avoidable contact with Sato. This penalty dropped Power to dead last out of 23 cars.
Newgarden then kept the lead from Castroneves, who kept hounding the driver from Hendersonville, TN until a caution came out on lap 34 for contact between James Jakes and Stefano Coletti.
After the next set of stops took place, Rahal led the field back to green over Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais and Luca Filippi.
The notable move of the race took place on the lap after the restart. Coming off of the restart, Newgarden was able to find a gap heading onto the front straight and got around Castroneves, making him the de facto leader for when the second round of pitstops cycled through.
“I snuck up on the inside of him into 16. Thankfully it worked fine. Really that set the tone for us where we could control the pace from that point and we could control the outcome of the race,” Newgarden said.
Rahal’s actual lead was short-lived as he pitted on lap 47, handing the lead to Hinchcliffe. The lead cycled back to Newgarden after Juan Pablo Montoya pitted on lap 51.
Newgarden held the lead, but was being chased by Dixon after Dixon was stuck behind Castroneves until lap 57. Dixon was then able to set his fastest lap of the race and started to carve into Newgarden’s lead when Newgarden’s team called him into pit lane on lap 63.
Dixon then came in the next lap and was unable to leapfrog Newgarden, but Dixon’s troubles were not over yet.
Rahal flying through the field
Rahal had pitted on lap 70 and started going through the field left and right. He overtook Power on lap 72, Hunter-Reay on lap 80, Castroneves on 82, set his fastest lap of the race on 85 and then got past Dixon with only six corners to go in the race.
However, he couldn’t get around Newgarden, who took the checkered flag by 2.20 seconds over Rahal with Dixon third, Power fourth and Hunter-Reay fifth.
Newgarden was happy about finally getting his first IndyCar win after getting two second place finishes and the frustrations of Mid-Ohio in 2014.
“We've been there before, things have gone wrong. Today nothing went wrong. We had everything we needed to to win. Just a nice, solid day for our group with everyone involved,” Newgarden said.
Rahal’s drive to second showed a resurgence in Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing, but strategy was a big help for them as they put on brand new red tires on the last pitstop. Dixon’ was not able to keep Rahal behind on the last lap as Dixon’s car wasn’t as good on tire management.
Dixon rounds out podium
“Today, on any tires, we didn't maintain. The car always had the speed for the first, you know, sort of 15 laps, 20 laps. It was probably one of the fastest cars out there. It was just trying to keep the tires underneath it. We didn't do a good job of that,” Dixon said.
“When you have a race like this where you got to maintain tire degradation, it just makes [for] fantastic racing,” Dixon said.
“The car was consistent on tires. That's why we were able to make a charge there,” Rahal said.
|1||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||1h55m53.0630|
|2||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||2.2061|
|3||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||4.8371|
|4||Will Power||Team Penske||19.4903|
|5||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||22.0663|
|6||Carlos Munoz||Andretti Autosport||24.0595|
|7||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||24.6529|
|8||Sebastien Bourdais||KV Racing||25.4534|
|9||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||30.6139|
|10||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||33.4777|
|11||Luca Filippi||CFH Racing||34.1607|
|12||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||34.6792|
|13||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||35.3334|
|14||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||36.6361|
|15||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||39.4194|
|16||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||45.8965|
|17||Takuma Sato||A. J. Foyt Enterprises||50.8442|
|18||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||55.1372|
|19||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing||55.4160|
|20||Rodolfo Gonzalez||Dale Coyne Racing||1m07.9855|
|21||Jack Hawksworth||A. J. Foyt Enterprises||1m13.1828|
|22||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1 Lap|
|23||Francesco Dracone||Dale Coyne Racing||1 Lap|