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Barber IndyCar Race Becomes A Newgarden Party

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 23 2017

Team Penske new guy Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning the IndyCar Series race in Alabama on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Team Penske’s newest driver gave the team its first IndyCar Series victory of the season on Sunday when Josef Newgarden won the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham.

Newgarden took the lead late in the race when leader and teammate Will Power suffered a tire problem.

Once in the lead, Newgarden held off Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing to get the victory.

“It’s great,” Newgarden said. “Ever since I joined this team I felt just this awesome energy with this group. These guy work so hard on these race cars at Team Penske. But it’s a group effort. All these guys in all four cars are working together.”

The victory is the fourth of Newgarden’s IndyCar career and came in his 86th race. It was his first since he won at Iowa last summer while driving for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Dixon finished 1.04 seconds back at the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course.

Finishing behind Dixon were the Penske Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.

“It’s great,” Castroneves said Penske’s big day. “We would have probably finished with Will (Power) up there as well. But, just to show that we are working together. Yes, I want to win. I know Will and I know Simon and today was Josef’s day. So we only have to be a little bit patient and at the end of the day, everybody is going to get their share.”

Rounding out the top five was Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who started the race in 18th in his Honda.

Power, who started from the pole and led 60 laps, finished 14th.

Power’s car suffered its puncture on Lap 77 of the 90-lap race.

“I held on as long as I could, but I knew (the tire) was going down – you could feel it,” he said. “We’ll move on to the next one.”

Newgarden was asked afterward what he thought when he saw Power heading for the pits with flat tire.

“Well, first off,” the 26-year-old American said, “it’s tough to see that because nobody ever wants to deal with that. It kind of goes and comes in racing. You get the breaks and sometimes you don’t. I think it was shaping up to be a really great battle for me, Dixon, and Will; and it ended just being between Dixon and me. I feel bad for Will. I wish he could have been in that with us. But, sometimes that’s the way it rolls.”

Asked if he could have caught and passed Power had the tire problem not occurred, Newgarden said, “I think we had something for him. There’s no predicting how it would have gone if he would have stayed out and been fine, maybe I would have gotten him and Will would have been in Victory Lane. He was certainly very fast and very capable today. So, you can’t take that away from him. It’s a ‘wudda cudda shudda’ thing. I’m happy it worked out the way it did. This is a good one to have. I think we earned it. This is a great car this weekend. We were on it. The whole team has been on it. So, I’m happy that Team Penske got a victory and we’ll go to the next one and try to do it again.”

Dixon’s shot to win ended when he was passed for second place by Newgarden on a Lap 69 restart.

“I saw him late coming into (Turn) 15 or 16 on the last restart and I tried to turn down, but the car was just so neutral I just didn’t have the rear grip to pull it off,” Dixon said. “Kudos to Josef; he drove a hell of a race and the win was well deserved. The NTT Data car was strong in the race. I think we actually had the speed. I think if we would have had clean air in that race, we would have checked out.”

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Results Sunday of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar Series event at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 90, Running
2. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 90, Running
3. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 90, Running
4. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 90, Running
5. (18) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 90, Running
6. (6) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 90, Running
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 90, Running
8. (12) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 90, Running
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 90, Running
10. (8) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 90, Running
11. (5) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 90, Running
12. (9) Max Chilton, Honda, 90, Running
13. (21) Graham Rahal, Honda, 90, Running
14. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 90, Running
15. (15) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 90, Running
16. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 90, Running
17. (16) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 90, Running
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 90, Running
19. (19) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 90, Running
20. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 89, Running
21. (13) Marco Andretti, Honda, 87, Running

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 108.809 mph
Time of Race: 1:54:08.7076
Margin of victory: 1.0495 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 7 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Power 1-20
Castroneves 21-22
Dixon 23-24
Power 25-43
Dixon 44
Power 45-63
Kimball 64-74
Power 75-76
Newgarden 77-90

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Bourdais 117, Dixon 111, Newgarden 110, Pagenaud 106, Hinchcliffe 102, Castroneves 84, Hunter-Reay 65, Sato 65, Jones 62, Rossi 60.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 23 2017
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