Monday, April 09, 2018 1:00 am
Newgarden wins Indy race late
JOHN NICHOLSON | Associated Press
1. Newgarden Chevrolet
2. Wickens Honda
3. Rossi Honda
4. Dixon Honda
5. Hunter-Reay Honda
1. Newgarden 77
2. Rossi 72
3. Bourdais 70
4. Rahal 63
5. Hunter-Reay 62
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Josef Newgarden had eight laps to catch rookie Robert Wickens. He barely needed half that.
Newgarden used four new tires to easily run down Wickens in the IndyCar race Saturday night at ISM Raceway.
“You never know if you make the right call, but they did,” Newgarden said. “It was good we were on the offense.”
Newgarden started fourth on the restart, and got around Wickens with 3 1/2 laps to go on the 1.022-mile oval. The defending series champion raced to his eighth IndyCar victory and third on an oval, finishing 2.994 seconds ahead of Wickens.
“I was patient all night,” Newgarden said. “I wasn't forcing it. I struggled with the balance in certain parts of the stint. We were just working on the car. The engineers were doing a really good job getting it back and I knew when it was time to be aggressive.”
Owner Roger Penske won his record ninth series victory at the track and 198th overall.
“It's a Team Penske win tonight, I'll tell you that,” Newgarden said. “It wasn't me. This was a team effort tonight that got it done. ... They gave me the pit stops. They had the strategy. I was working with a rocket scientist on the pit stand.”
Wickens was making his first second career start – and first on an oval – for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“I feel like I'm setting the bar a little bit high for myself,” the 29-year-old Canadian said. “But I never would have expected the first two races to go as well as they did.”
Last month in St. Petersburg, Wickens was heading to a victory until two late cautions gave Alexander Rossi a chance to take it away. On a restart with two laps left, Rossi tried to dive inside Wickens, they made contact and Wickens spun off course, handing the win to Sebastien Bourdais.
Rossi was third on the hot night in the desert, overcoming a drive-through penalty for hitting a crew member.
“It was at that point kind of up to me to try to dig us out of it,” Rossi said. “I was really hoping we would get a yellow to unlap ourselves. We never did. To be in the position that we were with 10 laps to go was a blessing and a huge shout out to the whole crew and the car they gave me.”
Scott Dixon was fourth, and James Hinchcliffe fifth as Honda swept the first five spots in the first oval race of the season.
Ed Jones, running second when he hit the wall in Turn 4 with 20 laps left to bring out the final caution, finished 20th.
The 250-lap race was the first oval event for the sleek new car designed to improve competition and cut costs.