Phoenix IndyCar: Newgarden beats Wickens, Rossi in thrilling shootout

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Phoenix IndyCar: Newgarden beats Wickens, Rossi in thrilling shootout
David Malsher
By: David Malsher
Apr 8, 2018, 3:35 AM

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Josef Newgarden delivered a brilliant display to take his first IndyCar win of 2018 at Phoenix after a shootout with oval debutant Robert Wickens, James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi.

A clean start saw Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais get away well ahead of Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, but Andretti Autosport's Rossi got around Will Power to snatch third.

Behind, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Wickens was being pursued by the fast-starting Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) and Newgarden, as Hinchcliffe (SPM) fell back to eighth, just ahead of  AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan and the Chip Ganassi Racing car of Ed Jones.

By Lap 15, Bourdais was lapping Max Chilton’s Carlin-Chevrolet, while Pagenaud was able to use Chilton as a brief buffer between himself and the closing Rossi and Power.

Charlie Kimball proved a much tougher prospect for Bourdais to lap, and now Pagenaud, Rossi and Power were within one second of him. 

However, on Lap 41 IndyCar debutant Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing) slid up into the wall exiting Turn 4, and out came the yellow flag. The leaders had fallen to 160mph from best laps around the 177-78 mark, so the pitstops were inevitable.

Bourdais stopped too close to the wall and knocked over his left-front tire changer, thankfully without injury. Amazingly, Rossi did the same, and the pair fell to 13th and 19th respectively and would have to serve drive-through penalties which dropped them to the very back, two laps down. Pagenaud had also had a nightmarish stop and fell to 12th.

That left Power leading Newgarden, having gained three and five spots respectively, while Wickens was ahead of Hinchcliffe, followed by Jones, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon – up from 17th on the grid. However, on the restart, Ed Carpenter got around the Ganassi car.

The Lap 50 restart saw Power quickly build a 1.7sec lead as Wickens pressured Newgarden, chased hungrily by Hunter-Reay. By lap 64, Power’s lead was 2.5sec, but it reduced as he took his time getting around Chilton. So too, did Newgarden, which was just as well for Power as he couldn’t get around the other Carlin car of Kimball.

Again, all cars were down to 162mph as the tires went off, but there was little passing, suggesting everyone’s tires were going off at the same rate. It took until Lap 111 for Power to edge past Kimball, but he was immediately confronted by the tail of Spencer Pigot’s ECR-Chevy, with Gabby Chaves ahead.

Hunter-Reay was first of the front-runners to pit, on Lap 113, with Hinchcliffe and Carpenter following suit on 114, Wickens on 115, Dixon on 117, who also got a wing adjustment. With Pigot pulling onto pitlane, Power cut loose and pulled a major lead – 5sec – accentuated by Newgarden pitting.

Power didn’t pit until Lap 124, lucky that a yellow wasn’t thrown for Matheus Leist losing a wheel on pitroad.

The fast laps turned by the early stoppers paid off beautifully as Schmidt Peterson Motorsport ran 1-2, Hinchcliffe ahead of Wickens, with Hunter-Reay and Jones also ahead of erstwhile leader Power. Behind the 2014 champ, Newgarden ran sixth, ahead of Carpenter, Dixon, Kanaan, Rahal and Sato.

When Hinchcliffe lost momentum with a failed pass on Chaves’ Harding car, Wickens sliced past to take the lead on Lap 149. At the same time Power got around Jones for fourth – but when the charging lapped Rossi passed him, Power drifted up wide and pancaked into the wall. Rossi would go on to unlap himself from the Schmidt Peterson pair.

By Lap 170, with only 80 to go, Hunter-Reay was desperately trying to get past Hinchcliffe for second, but the pair of them had closed back on Wickens who was getting tangled in traffic.

Jones pitted on Lap 176, and rapidly the other front-runners covered him, the swiftest of these stoppers being Newgarden although he was warned he would need to save fuel. The driver who was really flying was Rossi, who whenever he had clean air was setting 172mph laps.

With Bourdais at last making his final scheduled stop on Lap 206, Newgarden was left one second ahead of front of Jones, Wickens, Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay – and the incredible Rossi, who sliced by his teammate for sixth on Lap 210.

On Lap 229, Jones crunched #10 Ganassi into the Turn 4 wall, and that triggered Newgarden to hit pitlane – and the Schmidt Peterson pair and Rossi to stay out.

Newgarden, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Carpenter, Kanaan, Rahal and Sato would line up behind and per IndyCar rules, the lapped cars were sent through pitlane to get out of the way of the leaders.

The green flag waved on Lap 243, and Newgarden zipped straight past Rossi and Hinchcliffe. Newgarden was all over the defensive Wickens and on Lap 247 he grabbed the lead around the outside of Turn 1. Wickens carefully brought it home second, just under three seconds behind, half a second ahead of Rossi.

Hinchcliffe fell back behind not only Rossi but also Dixon and Hunter-Reay, but the second SPM car took sixth ahead of Carpenter, Kanaan, Rahal and Pagenaud.

Newgarden’s thrilling victory was worthy of his status as defending champion, bringing his eighth IndyCar win and his third on an oval.

IndyCar Phoenix, race

Pos.DriverTeamGap
1 1 united_states  Josef Newgarden  Team Penske 250 laps
2 6 canada  Robert Wickens  Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 2.9946
3 27 united_states  Alexander Rossi  Andretti Autosport 3.4890
4 9 new_zealand  Scott Dixon  Chip Ganassi Racing 3.8175
5 28 united_states  Ryan Hunter-Reay  Andretti Autosport 4.0122
6 5 canada  James Hinchcliffe  Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 9.4497
7 20 united_states  Ed Carpenter  Ed Carpenter Racing 9.4731
8 14 brazil  Tony Kanaan  A. J. Foyt Enterprises 9.8650
9 15 united_states  Graham Rahal  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 10.1747
10 22 france  Simon Pagenaud  Team Penske 10.3247
11 30 japan  Takuma Sato  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 10.9443
12 98 united_states  Marco Andretti  Andretti Herta Autosport 1 lap
13 18 france  Sébastien Bourdais  Dale Coyne Racing 1 lap
14 21 united_states  Spencer Pigot  Ed Carpenter Racing 1 lap
15 88 colombia  Gabby Chaves  Harding Racing 1 lap
16 26 united_states  Zach Veach  Andretti Autosport 1 lap
17 23 united_states  Charlie Kimball  Carlin 2 laps
18 59 united_kingdom  Max Chilton  Carlin 3 laps
19 4 brazil  Matheus Leist  A. J. Foyt Enterprises 9 laps
20 10 united_arab_emirates  Ed Jones  Chip Ganassi Racing 22 laps
21  32 united_states  Kyle Kaiser  Juncos Racing 76 laps
22  12 australia  Will Power  Team Penske 97 laps
23  19 brazil  Pietro Fittipaldi  Dale Coyne Racing 210 laps
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About this article

Series IndyCar
Event Phoenix
Location ISM Raceway
Drivers Josef Newgarden
Teams Team Penske
Author David Malsher
Article type Race report