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Josef Newgarden capitalizes on timely pit stop to win Detroit doubleheader opener

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2019

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Chris Owens

 

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

DETROIT – A timely pit stop catapulted Josef Newgarden to victory in the rain-shortened opener of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader, as well as back into the NTT IndyCar Series championship lead.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by James Black

Newgarden won Saturday’s race by 0.8237 of a second over Alexander Rossi and capped a perfect day at Belle Isle Park for team owner Roger Penske, whose team also won the IMSA sports car race in the weekend event promoted by Penske’s group.

CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 1 results

“It was great to have a victory here,” said Newgarden, whose best previous finish in 13 Detroit races was second place in the second race of 2017. “I think we’ve been strong here in the past. We’ve not been able to fully get a win.

“I think, as a team, we executed. We had the car. We definitely had the compliance, the speed from the car. I think Chevy gave us the power, the drivability. Today was a lot about drivability, especially in the wet. We had all that that we needed.”

Josef Newgarden. Photo by James Black

Newgarden, in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, made his lone pit stop of Saturday’s 75-minute race on Lap 17, among the first drivers to switch from Firestone’s grooved rain tires to dry-condition slicks. As Newgarden entered pit lane, a full-course caution was called when Ed Jones’ car slid into a tire barrier in Turn 7.

Newgarden credited race strategist Tim Cindric, Team Penske’s president, for making the critical call to the pits.

“I think when we pitted was the right time to pit,” Newgarden said. “You could tell the rain tires were starting to go off, the rears were overheating terribly because it was getting dry. You could see Rossi was struggling.

“We pitted at the right time and the yellow helped us even further. It was a great call.”

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Chris Owens

Newgarden inherited the lead when Rossi and the other frontrunners had to pit for slick tires on Lap 19 during the caution period, and he was never headed over the final 25 laps. It resulted in the 12th win of the Tennessean’s eight-year NTT IndyCar Series career and second this season. Newgarden won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March and retained the points lead until teammate Simon Pagenaud won the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge six days ago.

Newgarden now holds a 25-point edge over Pagenaud and 33-point advantage on Rossi heading into the second leg of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader that takes place Sunday. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Joe Skibinski

The start of Saturday’s race was delayed more than an hour after a thunderstorm moved through the area. INDYCAR adjusted the race from its scheduled 70 laps to a timed event, with 43 laps completed when the checkered flag waved for Newgarden.

The triumph was No. 267 in Indy car history for Team Penske, the most of any team. On the heels of Pagenaud’s May sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11 and Indianapolis 500 on May 26 – Team Penske drivers have captured the last three series races.

Rossi’s runner-up finish was his fourth top-seven result at Detroit in the past five races. The 27-year-old Andretti Autosport driver has finished first or second in three of the last four races this season – including a win on the streets of Long Beach, California, in April – but wondered what could have been Saturday.

Alexander Rossi. Photo by James Black

“Yet again we’re on the wrong side of the yellow,” Rossi said of the fateful caution that aided Newgarden. “It’s part of the NTT IndyCar Series. Josef did a good job, didn’t make any mistakes there on the last stint.

“I think (my) car was great. … Ultimately, (we) just got jumped by Josef coming in a bit earlier before that yellow. I tried to push him into a mistake. We were flat out, but he’s a great driver and isn’t going to make mistakes.”

Takuma Sato made a pair of memorable passes late on Ryan Hunter-Reay and Felix Rosenqvist to finish third in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver has been on the podium in three of the last five races, including a win at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato. Photo by James Black

“I think we played it well,” Sato said. “I think the rain definitely helped us and then (we) made some good position gains. In the end, I think fighting for the podium, on the wet parts and dry parts, were certainly exciting.

“I think it’s always great to be on the podium. Of course, as a race car driver, you always want to win.”

The treacherous conditions led to four full-course cautions in the race, including one when five-time and reigning series champion Scott Dixon clipped the wall in Turn 6 and crashed into a tire barrier. The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran, a two-time Detroit winner, was unhurt but finished last in the 22-car field and slipped to fifth in the championship, 92 points behind Newgarden.

Will Power, another two-time winner at Belle Isle, saw a strong run slip away when he left his pit on Lap 19 without the right-front tire secured. The tire came loose, forcing Power to limp around the 2.35-mile temporary street course on three wheels until he could pit for a new tire and front wing for the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power finished 18th.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Race 1 of Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet):  “How about that call by Tim (Cindric)? It was the perfect call to get us in position that we needed. I was hoping it would dry up, I thought that would give us more opportunity to do something. But our Hitachi Chevy car was awesome. The Chevy engine was perfect. I had the horsepower I needed. The fuel mileage; the drive-ability. In Chevy’s backyard, this was a big one.  It’s great to have Hitachi with us. So many people here from Japan. It is an honor to have them here. So pumped to have them here.  So pumped to be with Team Penske. We really wanted this one. I can’t tell you how hard our whole team worked the whole off season to make sure our street course cars were ready, and they were ready today.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Not the best day at the track today. Unfortunately we had a lot of problems and we didn’t have the pace. I feel sorry for the team but we’ll work on it for tomorrow and try to have a better day.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):  “Tough day at the office. The Arrow car was quick in certain stages of the race, but unfortunately the way the yellows fell, it wasn’t to our benefit. A lot of guys that made mistakes today ended up catching a lucky yellow and ended up ahead of us. Ninth certainly isn’t the result we deserved for the effort we put forward and keeping our nose clean. We’ll move on to tomorrow and try and finish further up.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):  “I thought it was a decent race. Obviously, it was my first experience on these wet Firestone tires, because I missed out on them that part of the race in Indy, so I had zero previous experience (with them). It made the first part of the race a bit difficult to sort of get up to speed in the wet, but I thought when I got going, we were looking quite strong towards the end of the wet tire stint. In the damp conditions on the slicks (primary Firestone tires), we were quite competitive. We were making up a few positions, picking off a few guys in the Arrow car and moving up the field. Of course, in conditions like that, it’s difficult to make moves because the track was wet off (race) line. We couldn’t really progress more than that, but I think it’s all part of the learning curve. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was unfortunate. I just clipped the inside wall and got into the tire barrier. Driver error. I think we broke the suspension and the upper toe link. The PNC Bank car was really good and we were setting up for a good finish I thought. I’m glad the tire barrier was there. Whenever you go right toward a wall you never know. But I’m fine and we’ll have to bounce back strong tomorrow.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We had a big battle going on with (Takuma) Sato. I got him and he got me back. I respect him, but there were some questionable moves for sure. I really wanted a podium out of it today, but that’s the way it goes. We are moving in the right direction in the NTT DATA Honda and hope to continue to show that tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet):  “We just have to rebound tomorrow. Simply put, we just have to go out there and execute in every way. We’ve made a lot of little mistakes this year, some with strategy and some on me making a mistake in qualifying; we just need to do a better job and we have an opportunity to do that tomorrow. It just seems like one of those seasons where things don’t go your way, but I’ve had it the other way before too. We have really fast Verizon Chevys so I know it can turn around quickly.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet):  “We got a good recovery. We tried different things for qualifying to find the right way. The only way we’re going to be making improvements is trying and unfortunately qualifying didn’t go well. We had a pretty good race. I loved the pit stops, the guys did an awesome job. We gained some spots there and I passed some cars on the race track, so we’re just going to keep going. It was a mistake-free race for me so I’ll take it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank/United Rentals Honda):  “The car in the wet wasn’t great; the rear was pretty sketchy in the rain.  When Ed Jones went off, I think everybody was close to doing the same thing. Once it went dry, the car was very good. It just seemed like we gave up a little in the rain but when it dried out we were pretty good. Tomorrow it’s going to be dry and I think we’ll be strong.  The changes that we made were better in the race than in qualifying this morning so hopefully that carries over. I will try to get a good night’s sleep tonight and be ready to go again tomorrow.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda):  “In a short race like this it’s tough to make anything happen. It was really difficult in the wet. I struggled to keep the rear tires together. We were going to pit a bit early and sure enough the yellow came out right when we were deciding what to do, so we missed the shot. After that everyone went on slick tires. I made up one or two spots. There were a couple of mistakes and we recovered to 11th. There just wasn’t enough time to make much happen. The cars in front were doing a good job. I felt I was a bit faster at times, but not enough to make moves. Not the greatest day, not the worst day. We’ll keep working on the No. 18 SealMaster and see what we can do tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “We had an OK start, you can’t really pass in the rain at the start because you can’t see, so we weren’t really able to move up. Then, we pit early for dry tires and we thought that we’d be able to move up the field when the yellow came out but the cars in front of me didn’t pack up and that set us back in the field. Nothing really went our way today, there’s nothing we could really do other than now prepare for Race 2 tomorrow and hope for a better result aboard our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): “It was an interesting race in the wet conditions. I had a good start, made up a few positions and got into the Top 10. We were running pretty well. Everyone’s tires were going off quite a lot and we just lot the fronts. I made a mistake just as we were about to pit and unfortunately lost us a lap and a strong result. I’m sorry to the team and hopefully we can have a stronger day tomorrow!”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):  “It was a tough race out there with all of the different conditions! We were able to move forward a decent amount of positions which was good, though we would have liked to have finished a little higher up. It could have been a lot worse! Thank you to my guys, we made a good call no when to come in for slicks. We’ll go back tonight and see where we can improve for tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet):  “My race was awesome. That was some of the most fun I’ve had in a race, well, I had fun last week and in the Indy GP too. I guess when you have fun you go fast. We had a tremendous DXC Technology Chevrolet. It was phenomenal. I had fun in the rain, that’s my favorite. We passed a bunch of cars. In the dry conditions we were super fast but the track was so damp on the inside I couldn’t make moves without risking to go off. Quite frankly, I did start thinking about the championship today and with how tired I was this morning I was very content with sixth-place because I think that will go a long way at the end of the year. We should be pleased with today. Very happy for Josef and Team Penske, at least we got one win for Roger here this weekend.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda):  “It was a rollercoaster day. Qualifying was good – we lined up eighth, but then I made a mistake on the pace lap and spun with the wet conditions. We went back to 22nd for the start and worked our way up. Great strategy from the team to get me back towards the top 10 and then I passed cars one by one on restarts. [Colton] Herta and I, I think, put on a good show together for three corners – it was hairy. I think we could have been higher; we kind of got hurt by conditions. We should have restarted third or fourth, but they didn’t pack the field up, so we got hurt there. But, all-in-all to come away with a top 10 after starting 22nd – I’m pretty happy with it.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda): “These yellows are tough – they’ve killed our race three times this year, but it’s part of the game in INDYCAR, (and) it’s the same for everyone. We had a really good car under wet conditions. We were able to control the race and control the gap to Scott (Dixon). Track position on a one-line track is obviously key. There was really only one dry line; there was not much I could do. Josef (Newgarden) did a good job. I tried to push him into a mistake, but it didn’t come. It’s hard. I’m frustrated. I think we had the best car again today.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda):  “Today was kind of a mess. We had a braking issue which made it challenging. I don’t know why, but they were pulling hard left. So, I was a wounded duck out there in the wet. Then I had some contact with Sato, he got under me and kind of ran wide. But, all in all, it was clean racing. We made a risk and came in early for dry tires, when it was still wet, hoping for a yellow. The yellow came, but we weren’t given the have a chance to pack up. I have no idea what was happening there with Race Control. All things considered, we got away with one and salvaged something today. We’ll take the points for fifth and look to gain more ground tomorrow.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda):  “Graham (Rahal) and I struggled a second off the pace from the pole sitter, but I think we played it well. I think the rain definitely helped us and then made some good position gains. In the end, I think fighting for the podium, on the wet parts and dry parts, were certainly exciting. Thanks to the Detroit fans for staying after some extremely difficult (weather) conditions here.” (About learning anything today that can be used for Race 2) “I am sure. We need to go through it everyone with the engineers. Hopefully we can have a better car tomorrow and I don’t know we’ll see.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet):  “That was a tough one to take. We qualified really well and the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet felt strong right out of the gate, but once again we just didn’t have luck on our side. Sato put us into the wall on the first green lap and at the time I didn’t think there was much damage to the car, but we found out later we actually had some damage to the suspension. Even with the suspension damage we were moving up through the field and got as high as eighth I think, but we had an issue on our last pit stop that cost us a few spots. We’re still working through what exactly went wrong, but I know whatever it is will get worked out by tomorrow. I’m obviously frustrated that we finished where we did, but if we just keep showing progress as a team and how good we can be I know it’ll all come together soon.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet):  “It was a very active, short race today. I think it was equally exciting for the drivers and the fans and even though our result wasn’t where we wanted it, I did actually enjoy it. The No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet had good pace at the end of every stint, we just lacked that pace at the start. There were cars that were overtaking us at the beginning of our stints, but we were able to get those positions back when we were on both wets and slicks toward the end of each stint. I mean honestly there’s not much different we could’ve done – we just needed to start higher than we did.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda): “Not the best day today for the #88 GESS Capstone Honda guys. We qualified fifth and finished 12th. We were really quick in qualifying, so hopefully tomorrow we can find the speed again to start tomorrow’s race up front. The guys worked so hard again today and we’ll continue finding the speed for the remainder of the weekend.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda):  “We did a great job on strategy and took a big risk. We outsmarted people [going to dry tires first] and kept if off the wall – then they didn’t let us pack up and opened the pits. I’ve never seen that in my career. It was tough, I wish we got the reward we deserve.”

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