Newgarden Wins Rain-Delayed Barber IndyCar Race

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 22 2018

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden took the rain-soaked checkered flag at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

A native of Tennessee, Josef Newgarden considers Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park to be his home track. Once racing resumed on Monday at the Barber road circuit after being postponed from Sunday by rain, Newgarden feasted on Southern home cooking as he blew the field away in winning the IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Alabama.

The victory was the Team Penske driver’s third at the 2.38-mile circuit in four races.

“I like it here,” he said. “We could do the whole series at Barber. It would be great.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport finished second in a Honda.

Third was James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda while teammate Robert Wickens finished fourth.

Rounding out the top five was Sebastien Bourdais in a Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda.

Monday ended the way Sunday ended: With rain falling.

The final 15 minutes of the event were marked by teams deciding whether to pit for grooved tires or say on slicks. One by one they began to peel off and pit.

Newgarden, with a big lead, was the first to move to the wet rubber and it paid off.

“I couldn’t believe how long everybody stayed out” on slick tires, he said. “It was really risky, what they were doing. I’m glad we made the call to come in so soon.”

They were doing it in hopes the rain would not get heavier and that the fastest car on the track – Newgarden’s Chevrolet – had made the wrong decision.

He had not. Eventually, all other drivers pitted for wets and when they did, Newgarden was unbeatable.

The race began in mid-afternoon on Sunday. But with heavy rain falling and water pooling on the track, the race went yellow and then red with just 22 laps run as the wet conditions worsened and played a part in a couple of wrecks.

Once racing resumed under sunny skies at Noon on Monday, Newgarden, the defending series champion, quickly blew out to a big lead; a lead that reached double-digit seconds. As the race reached the 30-minutes-to-go mark in the two-hour timed event, Newgarden’s lead was upward of 20 seconds on second-place Bourdais.

With just over 20 minutes to go, light rain began to fall. Then the rain got heavier.

Five minutes later, Team Penske ordered Newgarden into the pits for rain tires – the first team to do so.

That handed the lead to Bourdais, who was still on slicks.

“Yeah, I knew what he was doing,” Newgarden said. “It was the same thing with Hunter-Reay when he came up on me, and I asked if he was still on slick tires. At that point you could still probably manage them, but man it just kept getting worse and worse every lap; so, more and more risky.

“The problem is we put the rains on a little bit earlier to protect and I kind of fried the fronts because you know, these things aren’t designed to work in the dry. So, in the dry I kind of over-cooked the front end. And then I had to deal with that when the rain actually came. Fortunately we had a big gap. That’s really what I think helped us win the race was just building that gap over the beginning part.”

The lead expanded to just over 10 seconds with 10 minutes to go. But hopes that the rain would subside and that Bourdais could go the distance on slicks, were finally surrendered.

With eight minutes to go, Bourdais had to give in and pit for wet tires and back to the lead went Newgarden.

“It just kept getting worse and worse and worse and worse,” Bourdais said driving on slicks as the rain came down. “Dale wanted to go for the win (and stay out on dry tires) so I tried to give him my best, but it bit us. We were going for the win.

“It was looking perfect. We executed the plan to perfection. I started on scuffed Firestone red (alternate) tires, so we had a lot of tire degradation, but were still able to save more fuel than almost everyone. Josef  went for the push and it looked like we were still going to beat him because he pitted the second time and we got ahead. I had enough fuel to finish, but unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to open the skies and there wasn’t anything we could do about that. We tried to stay out and it bit us. On top of that, when we put on the wet tires, I don’t know what happened but the car was diabolical. I couldn’t do anything.”

With six minutes to go, the lead was 20-plus seconds over Hunter-Reay, who also had hoped to stay out on slicks while running third.

From there, Newgarden was able to go conservative on the wet track.

The rain at the end, Newgarden said, “made it more eventful than I would have wanted.”


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

1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 82, Running
2. (4) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 82, Running
3. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 82, Running
4. (10) Robert Wickens, Honda, 82, Running
5. (3) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 82, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 82, Running
7. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 82, Running
8. (18) Takuma Sato, Honda, 82, Running
9. (9) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 82, Running
10. (7) Marco Andretti, Honda, 82, Running
11. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 82, Running
12. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 82, Running
13. (11) Zach Veach, Honda, 82, Running
14. (19) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 82, Running
15. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 81, Running
16. (22) Rene Binder, Chevrolet, 80, Running
17. (20) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 80, Running
18. (23) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 80, Running
19. (16) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 80, Running
20. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 64, Mechanical
21. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 53, Off Course
22. (13) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 34, Mechanical
23. (14) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 10, Contact

Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 93.335 mph
Time of Race: 2:01:14.4486
Margin of victory: 9.9607 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 14 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 2 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden, Josef 1 – 49
Bourdais, Sebastien 50 – 54
Newgarden, Josef 55 – 71
Bourdais, Sebastien 72 – 75
Newgarden, Josef 76 – 82

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 158, Rossi 145, Bourdais 119, Rahal 119, Hinchcliffe 118,  Hunter-Reay 113, Dixon 107, Wickens 97, Andretti 88, Power 81.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 22 2018
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