Barber IndyCar: Power puncture hands Newgarden the win

Will Power led 60 of the 90 laps at Barber Motorsports Park, but when a rear tire deflated, it left the door open for Josef Newgarden to score his fourth victory in IndyCar and his first for Team Penske-Chevrolet.

Barber IndyCar: Power puncture hands Newgarden the win
Race winner Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Race winner Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Race winner Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

At the drop of the green flag, front-row starters Power and Helio Castroneves headed into Turn 1 in orderly fashion, but their teammate Simon Pagenaud found himself sandwiched between Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda and the fast-starting Andretti Autosport-Honda of Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Dixon stuck with it and muscled ahead of reigning champion Pagenaud, while eventually Hunter-Reay saw his extra tight line to Turn 1 wouldn’t work. He backed off, which gave James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda a chance around the outside, giving himself the inside for Turns 2/3.

The pair banged wheels all the way down to Turn 5, and the rubbing cost Hunter-Reay part of his right-front wing and cost Hinchcliffe momentum, so that he had to cede fifth to Newgarden, who was unusually running on black primary tires.

Hunter-Reay’s front wing started shedding more debris, forcing a full-course caution on Lap 3. Not only did Hunter-Reay stop for a new front wing; Graham Rahal, Zach Veach, Ed Jones (another broken front wing) and Marco Andretti – whose car had failed to start for the pace laps and had to start from the back – all took advantage of the yellow to dive in the pits and top up their fuel.

The race restarted on Lap 6, the primary mover being Sebastien Bourdais, running primary tires on the Dale Coyne Racing-Honda, diving down the inside of Max Chilton to grab 10th place. Up ahead of Bourdais, Power led Castroneves, Dixon, Pagenaud, Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, a charging Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin, and Takuma Sato.

Alexander Rossi and Jones pitted on Lap 14, and Charlie Kimball did the same a lap later.

Up front, Power had pulled only 2.4sec on Castroneves at this stage, while the Brazilian, Dixon, Pagenaud, Newgarden and Hinchcliffe were running only a half-second apart. Indeed, Newgarden was getting impatient behind Pagenaud, and eventually made a very aggressive move down the inside of the Frenchman at Turn 5 to grab fourth. Pagenaud had to run so wide to minimize contact that he lost fifth to Hinchcliffe. Yet Newgarden then pitted on Lap 19, switching to red alternates, while Pagenaud switched from reds to blacks on Lap 21 and emerged well behind.

Power stopped for primary tires at the start of Lap 22, after stretching a four second lead over Castroneves, and rejoined in fifth, while on Lap 23 Hinchcliffe made that same switch to the harder compound rubber.

Castroneves stopped on Lap 23, handing the lead to Dixon who with a clear track ahead set about trying to lay down a fast time to jump at least Castroneves. Job executed perfectly, he nonetheless emerged third again – behind Power who had re-assumed the lead, and Newgarden who had charged hard ever since his early pitstop for red (softer) tires.

Behind Dixon, Castroneves was having to defend vigorously from Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe, while Rossi’s strategy  – start on blacks, stop early for reds – had him up to seventh ahead of Kanaan, Bourdais and Spencer Pigot’s Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevy.

By Lap 34, Newgarden’s reds had started to show their age and he had fallen to around two seconds behind Power, while Dixon had closed his deficit to the #2 Penske from six seconds to two. At the same point, Castroneves had fallen away from Dixon to the tune of 7sec but was 3.7sec ahead of Pagenaud who was running only 1sec ahead of Hinchcliffe.

Rossi, meanwhile was 12sec adrift and working hard to keep Kanaan, Bourdais, Pigot and Sato out of lunging distance, before pitting on Lap 40 and switched back to primary hard tires. Unfortunately, it tumbled him all the way to 18th, exactly where he started the race, but once everyone stopped, he'd be back up to seventh.

On lap 42, a mistake in Turn 3 saw Newgarden lose momentum on the long drag up and then down to Turn 5, and Dixon drew fully alongside – albeit on the outside. That appeared to trigger the #2 team to pit Newgarden at the end of that lap (as Castroneves’s crew did the same). Now with a clear track, Dixon would have to try and close the 4.5sec deficit to Power – or pit. He pitted but it was a long stop and he would once more find himself behind Newgarden. Power’s squad, meanwhile, had responded the following lap and the Aussie remained in charge.

Behind this lead trio, Pagenaud’s #1 Penske crew and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #5 team had responded to Castroneves’ stop and both Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe had managed to emerge ahead of the #3 Penske.

Power appeared to be nursing his new red tires at the start of the next stint, but Newgarden could afford no such luxury, given the half-second proximity of Dixon, and so he was charging hard, closing to within 1sec of his teammate by Lap 52, while also watching his mirrors. Two laps later the top three were covered by just 1.4sec, while Pagenaud was 12sec behind but 5.5 ahead of Hinchcliffe.

Sure enough, Power had kept something in reserve with his tires. By Lap 60, he had stretched out his lead to 1.8sec, with Dixon falling a similar distance behind Newgarden. For genuine side-by-side action, fans were watching the battle for ninth between Bourdais, Kanaan and Chilton.

That became eighth when Pigot spun out of Turn 6 and brought out the second full-course yellow. The rush for the pits was inevitable, and Power won the race off pitroad but the #9 crew did a great job of getting Dixon out ahead of Newgarden, and they were followed by Pagenaud, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Rossi, Kanaan and Bourdais.

But Power was not at the head of the line on the restart. Well off strategy but on the same lap was new leader, Kimball’s #83 Ganassi-Honda, and between him and Power was Pigot (recovered and retrieved but now 1 lap down).

The restart came with 22 laps to go. Kimball would need to stop again, but it was going to be no-holds barred between Power, Dixon, Newgarden, Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe, all on blacks. And there was rain spitting down…

Following the restart, Newgarden muscled Dixon aside on the penultimate turn to grab third overall, and didn’t take long to close on Power who had been wary of tackling Pigot. Once Pigot ducked into the pits and out of his way, Power was 2.4sec behind Kimball who was on light fuel load (his last stop had come 14 laps before the yellow) and red tires but the #12 at least had a 1.2sec margin on the duelling Newgarden and Dixon. 

Kimball pitted on Lap 75 so Power took the lead, but now he had a new race-changing drama in the form of a deflating rear tire. After a two-lap debate with his team, Power bowed to the inevitable and pitted on Lap 77. He emerged a gutted 17th.

Newgarden was now in front but Dixon was still within half a second. Pagenaud was only 1.6sec in arrears, but was having to save fuel.

However, Dixon never quite got close enough to take a serious stab at repassing Newgarden, who took his second win at Barber Motorsports Park in three years. Dixon racked up his seventh podium finish at Barber without ever having stood on the top step, with Pagenaud only 1.5sec behind.

Castroneves took fourth while Rossi’s strategy – and victory in a close battle with Hinchcliffe – produced fifth place ahead of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver.

The fraught battle between Bourdais and Kanaan was resolved in the Brazilian’s favor and resulted in seventh place for the #10 Ganassi team. Sato and Aleshin completed the Top 10, the Russian gaining this spot after a wheel-banging battle with Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Power finished 14th and tried to console himself with fastest lap, five laps from home.

Race results:

1 2 united_states Josef Newgarden  Team Penske 1:54'08.7076
2 9 new_zealand Scott Dixon  Chip Ganassi Racing 1.0495
3 1 france Simon Pagenaud  Team Penske 2.5706
4 3 brazil Helio Castroneves  Team Penske 11.1592
5 98 united_states Alexander Rossi  Andretti Autosport 12.0469
6 5 canada James Hinchcliffe  Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 12.5905
7 10 brazil Tony Kanaan  Chip Ganassi Racing 15.4105
8 18 france Sébastien Bourdais  Dale Coyne Racing 16.0651
9 26 japan Takuma Sato  Andretti Autosport 20.1764
10 7 russia Mikhail Aleshin  Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 20.7064
11 28 united_states Ryan Hunter-Reay  Andretti Autosport 22.2061
12 8 united_kingdom Max Chilton  Chip Ganassi Racing 22.9713
13 15 united_states Graham Rahal  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 24.3457
14 12 australia Will Power  Team Penske 26.3177
15 83 united_states Charlie Kimball  Chip Ganassi Racing 35.4868
16 19 united_arab_emirates Ed Jones  Dale Coyne Racing 39.5644
17 14 colombia Carlos Munoz  A.J. Foyt Enterprises 50.3679
18 4 united_states Conor Daly  A.J. Foyt Enterprises 51.2029
19 21 united_states Zach Veach  Ed Carpenter Racing 56.2545
20 20 united_states Spencer Pigot  Ed Carpenter Racing 1 lap
21 27 united_states Marco Andretti  Andretti Autosport 3 laps
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