(BIRMINGHAM, AL) – Josef Newgarden raced on cruise control in today’s completion of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Even a return of rain late in the race didn’t prevent the driver from collecting his third IndyCar Series win at Barber Motorsports Park in the past four years.
Newgarden drove the No. 1 Chevrolet to a 9.9607-second victory at the hilly 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course, despite increasingly treacherous track conditions as rain, which caused the race to be suspended after 22 laps on Sunday, reappeared for the final 15 laps today.
“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden admitted. “It seemed like it was pretty straightforward all day. We weren’t having yellows, it was dry, then that rain made it very nerve-racking.”
The race picked up today from where it was halted by heavy rain and flooded track conditions on Sunday.
The victory was the ninth of Newgarden’s six-year IndyCar career. Newgarden, who started from the pole position and was still in first place for the restart, quickly pulled away from the field in cloudy, but dry, conditions. The Tennessee native built a commanding 25-second lead over Sebastien Bourdais when rain began falling around the circuit on Lap 66.
Newgarden was the first driver opting to pit for Firestone rain tires on Lap 71, surrendering the lead to Bourdais.
“I think for us we did the only thing we could,” the reigning series champion said. “We went to rain [tires] as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early. Fortunately, the weather cooperated with what we needed, and I think that’s ultimately what got it done.”
Once Bourdais pitted, Newgarden reclaimed the lead and drove comfortably to the checkered flag on Lap 82.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second in the No. 28 DHL Honda while James Hinchcliffe finished third; the Canadian’s best Barber finish in eight starts.
With the win, Newgarden recaptured the championship lead after four of 17 races. He has 158 points, 13 more than Alexander Rossi, who gambled longest on slick tires and finished 11th today in the No. 27 Honda.
“As I said before, not a great test here, but two cars in the top 10 after qualifying and then two cars in the top five in the race, so pretty proud of these boys and everyone on the Arrow Electronics car,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s good to get a couple of Hondas up there, maybe not on the top step of the podium, but we took the rest of it.”
The IndyCar Series now turns its attention to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the monumental month of May. Most drivers and teams will participate in testing on the iconic 2.5-mile oval from April 30 through May 2 in preparation for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27.
Prior to that comes the IndyCar Grand Prix on the IMS road course, which is set for May 12.
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