Newgarden holds off Hunter-Reay at Road America
On a perfect day for racing at Road America with a huge crowd in attendance, Josef Newgarden drove a perfect race and led 53 of 55 laps from pole to get his first IndyCar win on the 4.04-mile road course.
Newgarden had Ryan Hunter-Reay breathing down his back the entire race but he never put a wheel wrong and Hunter-Reay never was close enough to make a pass attempt. He backed off on the last lap and brought it home 3.3s behind.
Scott Dixon came home third with Takuma Sato and Robert Wickens rounded out the top-5.
It was Newgarden's third win of the year and he is closing on the point leader Scott Dixon who has a 45-point lead in the points over Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi who had miserable luck and lost almost a lap with loose bolts on his left front suspension and out of the points.
"It was a hard-fought day; it was not as easy as it looked," Newgarden said. "I was looking at my mirrors half the day at Ryan closing in on me. I think that Team Chevy engine made the difference. I had the fuel mileage that I needed, good power, good reliability - everything that you'd expect from Team Chevy. At the end of the day, to me, that's what made the difference."
Newgarden wound up leading 53 of the 55 laps to give Team Penske its fifth win at Road America and victory No. 202 for the team in 51 years of Indy car competition. The race ran caution-free for the ninth time at Road America and first since 2000, with Newgarden's speed average of 132.101 mph establishing a race record.
"It was a day of executing. Team Penske did a great job," Newgarden said. "You're trying to juggle fuel economy and driving fast and the tires are wearing out, so you're nearly wrecking towards the end of the stints in all the high-speed corners. It's really difficult to manage the whole thing but our car was phenomenal. Our car was great on Firestone reds (alternates tires). I was loving the reds today so that's why I kept choosing them."
Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 DHL Honda, secured his best Road America finish in five tries with the runner-up finish. It moved the Andretti Autosport driver into second place in the championship after 10 of 17 races, trailing Dixon by 45 points.
"Good, fun day. One position short."
Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2017 winner at Road America, recovered from his worst starting position in five starts at the track (eighth) to finish third.
"Had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today," Dixon said. "Speed-wise, we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn) 14, got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.
"All in all, great points day for us, lead in the championship, which is important."
There are 7 races left in the season, can anyone catch point leader Dixon?
The standings after 10 of 17 races have Dixon in the lead with 393 points, followed by Hunter-Reay (348), Rossi (348), Newgarden (343), Power (328), Graham Rahal (278), Robert Wickens (274), Simon Pagenaud (255), Sebastien Bourdais (235) and Marco Andretti (232).
ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a tough start to the race. We kind of got sandwiched in when one of the cars had an issue, so my line got stacked up and I had nowhere to go. We dropped back, but the First Data car was good and we were able to pass a lot of cars and gain the ground back. That cost us a ton of track position which was hard to get back, but the team did a good job in the pits and we'll keep fighting in the races to come."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (About what happened to cause him to retire early): "Literally from as soon as I started warming it up, there was something amiss. I have no clue. They replaced the exhaust and it still didn't take, so the Chevy guys will take a deep look at it." (About his up and down season): "It is unbelievable the amount of DNFs I have had this season. I have never had this many in my career in such a short period of time. Yep, that's racing. Goes one way and then the other. As quickly as it is down, it can swing the other way quickly in a good way. When I think about it, we came into the Month of May, I think, fifth in points and left as the leader, so it can change, man."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We missed on the setup. No excuses. We need to get better."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): "The SealMaster Honda was so strong again. We were holding with the lead group and I felt like the guys in front of us were starting to lose their tires faster than we were. The prospects were looking good, then I lost all shifting for about 30 seconds. It started to work again when I got on pit lane. We rebooted, but at that point, the race was basically over, as there was never a yellow to reset the field. Because we pitted early we had to save a massive amount of fuel, so that was pretty much a double penalty, the time lost and the amount of fuel I had to save the rest of the way. As usual, when you need a yellow it never comes. It's a shame. A really solid run that turned into no result. It is what it is. We will just keep at it, and hopefully, catch a break every now and again the rest of the season."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "I had a decent start, but I made a mistake at the end of the first lap and that put us back. We just kind of stayed where we were for the first stint. Our pace was much better in the middle of the race, and things were looking good as we were heading into the final stint, but then, unfortunately, we had an electrical issue with the engine and that cost us at the end."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): "No, definitely not. The start was pretty eventful for us. Obviously, Will (Power) had an issue and I got boxed in and the field was just kind of streaming past me on the inside. We fell back a bit on the first lap, but we were able to pass a lot of guys and move up. But the Direct Supply Chevy was really good for us, and the guys did really good on pit lane. It was a little frustrating to get passed by Simon (Pagenaud) there on the last lap, but we did the last stint there on used reds (Firestone alternate tires) and we were just hanging on there and he just got me. Overall, it was a great race and I had a lot of fun. There were a lot of really good battles, and a clean race, but a lot of hard driving."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a good weekend. Qualifying was a real shame. We definitely had a good car. We made big improvements throughout the weekend, but we over-balanced and barely missed Q2 where we could have adjusted and probably contended for the pole. It would have changed the whole race because the Menards Chevy was really good in the race. We managed to have a really good fuel saving during the race, so strategy was really good. Tires - when to have to the reds (Firestone alternate tires); when to have the blacks (Firestone primary tires). Made a lot of passes on track. We had a blast today. Coming from starting 14th to finish seventh on a track like this with no yellows is pretty outstanding. Very proud of my team. It was a really exciting race. I would like to have been up front more, but it was pretty good where we finished."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "It's been a character-building weekend for everyone here at Carlin. I'm proud of the guys for trying something different on strategy for the race today. We knew that it was a possibility that the race would go full green here, which meant that our strategy for the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet might not work as well, but we felt like that was a risk worth taking. We'll go back and look at all of the data, keep learning, and keep taking steps forward. I'm looking forward to going to Iowa in a few weeks. We had good race pace on the last short oval we raced on in Phoenix, so we're optimistic about our starting point there."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): "We had something come loose on the steering racks. Basically, one of the lock nuts that keep the toe-links in their position with the steering racks came loose. At the start, I had a good start up to P8 into Turn 1, and then the steering wheel started going left-hand down further and further to the point where I was going down the straightaway with my hands at seven and two (o'clock position), so it was kind of strange. Our fear was it was going to put us in the wall so we stopped, luckily. My crew did a great job - they found it and fixed it, but from that point on it set our fate to have no yellows here at Road America. We keep showing people we belong in the top 10 and we keep having performances to get us there, but little things keep taking us out of it. I think people are noticing the speed that we have - we just need a little bit of luck."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Hats off to Josef (Newgarden) there, he did a great job. I thought we had the pace for him early on, but after he took that second to last set of reds (Firestone alternate tires), and then at the end, for him on the new reds, I could keep with him for a bit, but then in the dirty air, just couldn't do anything with him. It's about all we had today. I thought the car was really good. I was hoping to make it a better show for the fans, I was hoping to get up there and make it interesting, but I gave it 110 percent the whole way. Big thanks to the No. 28 DHL team again, rock stars in the pit lane and continued consistency."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): "We had a fast car. It's a shame that we missed the podium, but we need to find a little more speed. Thanks to the fans for all the support. It was another great event at Road America. We struggled at the beginning of the season and lost too much ground, but Graham (Rahal) and I are working close with the engineering side and shared a lot of stuff and picked up speed. I made a good start at the beginning and it was really fun. At one point, I was side-by-side (with Rossi) and pushed hard, and obviously, not very happy with that, but in the end we got the spot back and close to the podium. In high-level, professional racing, you shouldn't really be bumping each other. Obviously, I gave him room enough and he came inside. He just couldn't stop and came into me and bumped me. He did exactly the same thing to (Robert) Wickens at the start and I'm surprised the stewards didn't take action. I'm OK with side-by-side, just don't touch me. The guys did a tremendous job over the weekend and we hope to carry momentum to Iowa."
ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "I finally have my first race under my belt. It was a lot of learning and a lot to take in. It was important to finish no matter what, so that's good. I made some mistakes during the race. I had contact in Turn 1 at the start of the race, so we had to replace the front wing during the first pit stop. I am happy to finish the race and look forward to moving on from here."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "We made such an improvement in today's race from where we started this weekend. I very much enjoyed that race - it's such a pleasure to drive this Road America circuit. Obviously, it was a really clean race with no yellows and ended up being a fuel mileage race. We picked the right strategy and we had great stops, but we just didn't start off in the right place to fully maximize everything we did right. I feel like I extracted everything out of the car that I could and it's a shame that we can't do qualifying again and see where we'd end up after seeing how we did in our race today. I'm looking forward now to Iowa - I've had some success there, so hopefully, it'll translate into a good result for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet in a few weeks."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "It felt like we made some good changes overnight and we were able to pass some cars, be aggressive and have fun out there in the first few stints. Unfortunately, we had an issue with one of the air guns, I'm not quite sure what happened, but we ended up running over one of our air hoses. That cost us a drive-through (penalty), which obviously, on a long pit lane basically ended our day. Anyways, it's been a very positive change to challenge a bit more and race some cars! We were unlucky at the end, but we made a lot of progression which was the goal. Really looking forward to Iowa now."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): "I made the call to go to blacks (Firestone primary tires) at the end when we should've gone with reds (Firestone alternate tires) - so, I think that cost us a top-10 finish. I just completely lost the front and went off the track. I made an error there at the end of the race. I think I cost us a top 10 today."
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