Newgarden Wins Indy GP; Closes In On Dixon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 3 2020

Josef Newgarden streaks to victory in Friday’s IndyCar Series race in Indianapolis. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Josef Newgarden’s “Penske perfect” victory in Race 1 of the inaugural INDYCAR Harvest GP doubleheader ultimately may emerge as the tipping point of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

The two-time/reigning series champ, Newgarden started on the outside of the front row and led a race-high 34 of 85 laps around the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course en route to a caution-free victory over Alexander Rossi.

Newgarden’s third win of the season allowed the Team Penske ace to shave 32 points off the championship lead of Scott Dixon heading into Saturday afternoon’s Race 2 _ penultimate round of the COVID-19 reduced, 14-event schedule. Newgarden’s victory _ by a massive 14.2940-seconds _ left him 40 points behind Dixon.

NBC’s live broadcast of Race 2 will start at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, with additional coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network. Qualifications for the 75-lap/182.925-miler will be conducted in two groups of 12 cars for 12 minutes each at 10:20 a.m.

“Awesome day. We had a rocket ship. I knew we did (Thursday) in qualifying,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. “Team Chevy did an amazing job, and you can’t ask for more as a driver. It’s still a bit of a hill (to catch Dixon) but we made it a little smaller today, which is really good news. We needed three perfect races to finish. This is one of them down. Two to go.”

Newgarden made a decisive move on Lap 60 as he pressured Colton Herta for the lead on old  tires. Entering Turn 1, Herta locked up his tires and overshot the corner, handing the lead to Newgarden and putting him in control with 25 laps left.

“I don’t think I can think about the race; I’m so excited to be up here on this platform,” Newgarden said after an event that featured fans in attendance at IMS for the first time this season. “Thank you to everyone that came out. I was so surprised by how quick the car was. It was a great fight today. It was strategy, it was close combat, it was everything you wanted in an INDYCAR race and I had the quickest car.”

Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta put on a show at Indy.

Rossi, of Andretti Autosport, scored a career-best finish on the IMS road-course in the No. 27 Honda. Rookie pole-sitter Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing placed third, his career-best series finish in the No. 21 Chevrolet. Herta, who led 29 laps, finished fourth in the No. 88 Honda fielded by Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport. Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Newgarden’s points haul came in combination with a mistake-marred result from Dixon, who won July’s GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road-course. Dixon was running seventh with two laps to go in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda when pressure from Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Honda forced an error. Dixon went off-course in Turn 7 and lost two positions, finishing ninth.

“I’m not really sure what happened,” said Dixon, a five-time series champion. “We just really struggled on the primary (black) tires with the PNC Bank car today. We had a really bad start where Rahal just moved us out of the way. Once that got us out of line, we just started to fall back and that really hurt. The other stint on blacks just really hurt us again for some reason. We must have lost 15-20 seconds. But that’s the way it goes some days, I guess. It was just really weird, and we need to get it figured out fast before Race 2 here.”

Newgarden ran in the top-three the entire race before capitalizing on the Lap 60 mistake by Herta. After he was passed by Newgarden, Herta drove onto pit road to start the day’s final pit cycle. Following the round of pit stops, Newgarden retook the lead and cruised to victory. It was his first win at IMS since the 2011 Freedom 100 Indy Lights race on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Newgarden’s previous best finish on the IMS road-course was seventh in July’s GMR Grand Prix. It also marked Team Penske’s first win at IMS since team-owner Roger Penske purchased the historic racetrack and the series in January.

“I wish I could’ve been up here in August (after the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500) for ‘The Captain.’ He’s done such an amazing job with this facility,” Newgarden said. “To see people back here socially distanced in the stands at least getting to watch a race, I’m sure he’s really happy today. I’m happy to be up here representing him and Team Penske, everyone at INDYCAR, IMS. I’ve always wanted to get up here. I want to get up here during the ‘500,’ but this is cool.”

The race began with an epic battle between Herta and VeeKay, the two youngest drivers in the field at age 20. Herta started third but made a daring pass into Turn 1 on Lap 1, passed VeeKay for the lead and paced the first lap of the race.

VeeKay went wheel-to-wheel with Herta on Lap 2 and attempted a pair of daring passes before charging into the lead in Turn 7. VeeKay led the next 15 laps for his first laps-led in the series. Following the green flag pit stop cycle, Herta returned the favor to VeeKay with more intense racing. After another pair of exciting pass attempts, Herta overtook VeeKay in Turn 7 on Lap 21.

“Well, pretty good weekend so far,” said VeeKay, a native of The Netherlands. “First pole yesterday, first podium today. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m very happy with a podium finish. I struggled on the blacks but I had a great last 15 laps on the reds (alternate Firestones). I wish I could have done a little bit better, but a podium is a podium. Tomorrow is another day, we will have one less set of reds, but it’s 10 laps shorter of a race. Tonight, I’m happy.”

As the laps wound down, the remaining drivers in the top-five duked it out as Rossi and VeeKay charged to the front and Herta and Rosenqvist lost track position on older tires. The second- through fifth-place drivers finished within 4.164-seconds of each other.

“The start and overall (pace) of the race was kind of what I was expecting, because of the switch-up of tire choices and how a lot of people were starting on blacks and not so many on reds,” Herta said. “I thought it would give a good chance in the second stint to move forward. In the end, we were just too loose. We wore out the rear tires and just didn’t have the pace to make the strategy work. We tried to do all we could and ended on blacks.

“Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace at the end, but we’re really happy with the Gleaners car and proud to carry the No One Runs On Empty message today. I hope everyone remembers that you can donate now, 88-cents a month at Gleaners.org, and help save 135 families from hunger.”


Results Friday of the INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1 presented by GMR NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

  1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    2. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
    3. (1) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    4. (3) Colton Herta, Honda, 85, Running
    5. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running
    6. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    7. (11) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
    8. (6) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
    9. (12) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
    10. (15) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 85, Running
    11. (9) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    12. (14) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    13. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
    14. (18) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
    15. (20) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 84, Running
    16. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 84, Running
    17. (17) Alex Palou, Honda, 84, Running
    18. (24) Takuma Sato, Honda, 84, Running
    19. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 84, Running
    20. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 84, Running
    21. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 84, Running
    22. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 84, Running
    23. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 84, Running
    24. (25) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 83, Running
    25. (5) Marco Andretti, Honda, 79, Mechanical

    Race Statistics
    Winner’s average speed:119.060 mph
    Time of Race:1:44:28.5561
    Margin of victory: 14.2940-seconds
    Cautions: None
    Lead changes: 12 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders
Herta, Colton 1
VeeKay, Rinus 2 – 16
Newgarden, Josef 17 – 21
Ferrucci, Santino 22
Newgarden, Josef 23
Herta, Colton 24 – 36
Newgarden, Josef 37 – 43
Rahal, Graham 44
Herta, Colton 45 – 59
Newgarden, Josef 60 – 61
Rosenqvist, Felix 62
Rahal, Graham 63 – 66
Newgarden, Josef 67 – 85

NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 478; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 438; 3, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 360; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 346; 5, Will Power, Team Penske, 334; 6, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 328; 7, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 312; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 291; 9, Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing, 275; 10,  Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 271.


Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Sept. 12 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 1, Lexington, Ohio (Will Power, Team Penske)

Sunday, Sept. 13 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 2, Lexington, Ohio (Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport)

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1 (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 3 2020
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