Home » FEATURE STORY, INDYCAR

Newgarden Makes A Statement In Fort Worth

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 10 2019
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden grabbed a big victory on Saturday night in Texas. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – With his victory at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night, Joseph Newgarden officially served notice that the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship is his to win.

So bring it, Alexander Rossi.

The DXC Technology 600 was Race No. 9 on the 17-event schedule and the end of a stretch that saw the teams compete in five races at three disparate venues over 29 days. Newgarden exited the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the 2.439-mile road-course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11 with a six-point lead over Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing despite a 15th-place finish.

Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season Saturday at TMS extended his lead from 15 to 25 points over Andretti Autosport’s Rossi, who couldn’t get around his Team Penske rival during a relentless 10-lap shootout. Newgarden finished 0.8164-seconds in front of Rossi to collect his 13th career win and first on a superspeedway.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who swept the Month of May at IMS by winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix and 103rd Indianapolis 500, is 48 points out of the lead in third and still within one-race striking distance of a second championship.  

Newgarden’s first win in Cowtown also helped to further erase the memories of a grinding, high-speed crash the 28-year-old Tennessee native endured on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval during the rain-plagued race in June 2016.

Alexander Rossi came up short in his bid to track and pass Josef Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Feels awesome to win here,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet. “I knew we’d get it done here at some point. We’ve had fast cars (but) it never has materialized. Tonight, it happened.”

Starting seventh in the 22-car field, Newgarden didn’t lead until Lap 190 of the 248-lapper. A Penske-perfect final pit stop called by Team President Tim Cindric on Lap 198, accompanied by lightning-fast in-and-out laps, put Newgarden in position to retake the lead on Lap 202. And that was it.

“This win was down to the team,” Newgarden said. “I knew once we pitted and basically got back to where we were before the pit stop on the green-flag sequence, we had such a fuel advantage on everybody. If we could get to the lead, I could crank out super-quick laps and jump everybody. That’s what we did.”

Newgarden’s best finish in seven previous starts at TMS was eighth in 2013, when he drove for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Newgarden escaped career-threatening injury during a horrific, frontstretch crash here in June 2016, a race that was postponed by rain and eventually run in August. Newgarden suffered a broken collarbone and wrist injuries in that crash, but rallied to close his career with Ed Carpenter Racing. Newgarden joined Roger Penske’s juggernaut after the 2016 season as a free-agent and promptly won the championship in 2017.

Rossi, driver of the No. 27 Honda, was second behind Newgarden for the final restart on Lap 236. Time and again in the closing laps, Rossi pulled alongside as the pair launched into the 20-degree banking of Turn 1. Each time, Newgarden protected the low line and the point.

Josef Newgarden collected his third victory of the season at Texas.

Rossi admittedly was shocked to see Newgarden emerge as a player down the stretch. “It sucks, I didn’t see him up-front all day,” said Rossi, who has finished second in three of the last four races beginning with the Indy 500. “He (Newgarden) was really nowhere.

“I think we had a good car, could obviously get a good run on him off of (Turns) 3 and 4. Lane 2 (the outside line) was really never there for me. We could get halfway around the outside (but) would have to bail out.

“Ultimately, then it became about trying to beat him for the (start/finish) line. But we took out a lot of the tire life going in Lane 2 there, so we just didn’t have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him. All of a sudden, he appears in P1, so obviously they’re doing a good job (in the pits). He had a fast car once he got in front.”

Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finished third, his first podium result of the season. The top finishing rookie was Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing in fourth, reprising the run that led to his selection as 2019 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport finished fifth after leading a race-high 90 laps. It marked the first time Americans swept the top five spots in an INDYCAR race since 2001 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill., when Al Unser Jr., Mark Dismore, Sam Hornish Jr., Eddie Cheever Jr. and Robbie Buhl finished first through fifth.

Saturday’s event was the 31st INDYCAR race at TMS, which was among the first venues to align itself with Tony George’s fledgling Indy Racing League in 1996.

The race ran caution-free for more than the first half. The third/final yellow waved when the cars of five-time/reigning series champion Dixon and rookie Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing touched while battling for third place in Turn 3 on Lap 229, sending both into the SAFER Barrier. That caution set up the shootout to the finish between Newgarden and Rossi and was a blow to Dixon’s title chances. Dixon, who was 52 points behind Newgarden heading into Fort Worth, now is 89 points out.

“Sorry if that was my fault,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Honda. “I was just really pushing and trying to get the most out of it toward the end.” Dixon’s next start for team-owner Ganassi will be in Saturday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT.

Earlier, pole-sitter Takuma Sato paced the first 60 laps until making his first pit stop in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Sato inexplicably slid into his pit stall and made contact with front tire-changer Chris Welch. Sato was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for hitting a crewman. Welch was evaluated and released from the track’s infield care center.

“I’m deeply sorry,” said Sato, who had discussed his evolving “race-craft” with the media Friday after qualifying on-pole. “The guys built a great car today and then I blew it. I overshot the pit, and fortunately, no one was seriously injured.”

Ferrucci was ecstatic after his career-best fourth-place finish in the No. 19 Honda. “I can’t thank my crew enough,” said Ferrucci, the 20-year-old from Woodbury, Conn. “We had a stellar crew in the pits, they did fantastic stops and we just made our way to the front while avoiding a couple of incidents in front of us. I can’t thank my spotter Pancho (Carter) enough to get me to push my limits in the car, coaching me throughout the race.

“To bring home a top-five, my first one in the NTT IndyCar Series, feels pretty good. For someone who had no experience on ovals, I’m starting to say I love them. I’m happy with a fourth place. After Indy, knowing what kind of car we had, how hard our crew has been working and how much power we have from Honda as well, I knew we could do something special here, regardless of what happened in qualifying, and we did.”

Tony Kanaan finished 16th in the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, in the 369th race of the Brazilian’s brilliant INDYCAR career. Kanaan tied team-owner A.J. Foyt Jr. for second place on the all-time list. Kanaan also extended his record streak of consecutive race starts to 309.

After an off-weekend, the schedule will resume with the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Sunday, June 23. Live coverage starts at noon (EDT) on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

###

TMS President Eddie Gossage is confident the Cowtown Pit Stop Challenge presented by Speedy Cash will become an annual prelude to the NTT IndyCar Series’ June visit into the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

Thursday’s inaugural event saw reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud and his Team Penske pit crew defeat rookie Felix Rosenqvist and his Chip Ganassi Racing crew on a straight-line course laid out on West 2nd Street in downtown, behind the Fort Worth Central Library. The event was staged to draw attention to “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” at TMS.

Featuring four high-profile drivers and teams from two of the series’ powerhouse organizations, the event allowed a lunchtime crowd to get up-close to the participants and equipment competing at TMS. Pagenaud was joined by Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, while five-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon also represented Ganassi.

“We’d like to make that into a really big thing,” Gossage said Saturday in the track’s infield media center. “It had a great air about it the other day, so one of the things offered up to us was maybe we ought to look at doing it in the evening, like a Wednesday evening because of a Thursday evening practice.

“We’ll talk to the powers-that-be in Fort Worth and see how they felt it went. We know it went great, from our perspective. I see no reason not to do it again and again and again as an annual affair.”

Gossage said downtown Fort Worth offers an ideal setting. “It’s not our only option but it’s our first choice,” Gossage said. “It’s not going to be a long event _ it’s good content for an hour. So to have it where there’s restaurants and bars and people walking is ideal.”

A key participant was three-time Indy 500 champion Johnny Rutherford of the River Oaks section of Fort Worth, who was tapped to signal the start of each heat race.

###

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was looking forward to the conclusion of Saturday night’s race for a variety of reasons.

“I tell you what the last days…I don’t even know when was Indy. It’s a bit of a blur,” said Pagenaud, alluding to the obligation-packed two weeks since he won the Indy 500 on May 26.

Pagenaud said he plans to spend time on his boat in North Carolina with fiancee Hailey McDermott, get back into a training routine and try to respond to the 2,000 messages he has received since winning the Indy 500. Finally, the Frenchman is awaiting delivery of the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Grand Sport Pace Car he earned as champion of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I can’t wait,” Pagenaud said. “You know I’m a car guy so, man, that thing is sweet. I love the burgundy (paint scheme). I sent a picture to my dad. He was a bit mad the next day because I woke him up in the middle of the night (in France), but we’re both big car guys. Adding that one to the collection is pretty sweet. Going to have to find a special place for it.”

###

Dallas Morning News sports staffer Gerry Fraley was honored for his motorsports coverage at TMS during a ceremony in the foyer of the infield media center Saturday afternoon. Fraley died on May 25 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 64.

TMS President Eddie Gossage added a black plaque with Fraley’s name on it to the TMS Wall of Fame, which recognizes race-winners as well as entertainers and special guests ranging from The Rolling Stones and Willie Nelson to iconic Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

“It’s a terrible loss for all of us,” Gossage said. “Gerry was a good man and I always looked forward to being around him.  We just want to make sure we remember him.”

A photo of Fraley conducting an interview marked his assigned seat in the media center over the race weekend, along with an information box marked “Gerry Fraley/Dallas Morning News.”

###

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 367; 2, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 342; 3, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 319; 4, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 278; 5, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 272; 6, Will Power, Team Penske, 254; 7, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 252; 8, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 211; 9, Santino Ferrucci , Dale Coyne Racing, 193; 10, Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing, 190.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 10 2019
No Comment

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.