Saturday, June 15, 2019

Newgarden Reaches Front in Strategic Texas Triumph

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A bold strategy call and impressive driving by Josef Newgarden under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway made the season-long NTT IndyCar Series points leader the first driver to capture three wins through nine of 17 races in 2019.

Now solidly leading the championship as the second half of the season begins, Newgarden managed to convert a seventh-place start into a first-place finish and capitalize on a forgettable result for one of his closest title rivals.

Off strategy from the leaders during the first half of the race, Newgarden pitted under caution on Lap 137. When race leader Scott Dixon visited pit lane for his final time 53 laps later, Newgarden inherited the lead and clicked off some of the race’s fastest laps, ensuring he remained in position to return to the lead after his final pit stop on Lap 198.

Newgarden took the lead for the final time on Lap 203 following a pit stop by Sebastien Bourdais and survived two further cautions and a late-race battle with Alexander Rossi. With Rossi unable to complete a pass on the outside and Newgarden protecting the inside line, the Team Penske driver cruised to the checkered flag and crossed the line 0.8 seconds ahead of Rossi.

The result bolstered Newgarden’s position in the points standings. He heads into the next round at Road America with 367 points — 25 more than second-placed Rossi and 89 more than defending champion Dixon.

Rossi narrowly avoided contact that took out Dixon and rookie Colton Herta when the duo were battling for the second position. After crashing each other out, Rossi inherited the second position and held it through the final restart that set up a 12-lap dash to the finish, ultimately finishing second to a Penske car for the third race out of the last four.

Graham Rahal surged from a ninth-place start to finish third, earning his third podium finish at Texas and the best result for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing of the night. Teammate Takuma Sato, who started from pole, had a disastrous pit stop on Lap 61 when he overshot his pit box and hit a crewman. The incident resulted in a stop-and-go penalty for Sato, dropping him out of contention. Chris Welch, the crewman, was unhurt.

Dale Coyne Racing rookie Santino Ferrucci finished a career-best fourth, hanging on to speed under the checkers just 0.2338 seconds ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay. In his oval debut at Indianapolis two weeks ago, Ferrucci secured Rookie of the Year honors.

Hunter-Reay ended the race in the fifth position after leading a race-high 90 laps. The Andretti Autosport driver’s strategy committed him to a four-stop program, although the race’s second caution for a crash by James Hinchcliffe allowed him to pit for fuel and, more critically, four fresh tires with 25 laps to go. He rejoined in the 10th position, making up five before the end but still coming up short in his bid to earn his first Texas win.

Indianapolis 500 victor Simon Pagenaud finished sixth ahead of Marcus Ericsson, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Marco Andretti who completed the top 10.

There were eight cars on the lead lap at the end of the 248-lap race and 16 still running. Dixon, Herta and Hinchcliffe all retired from crash damage while Zach Veach and Matheus Leist were afflicted with poor-handling race cars. Veach’s handling issues were the result of his brush with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 on Lap 134. Carlin’s Charlie Kimball retired after 86 laps with a mechanical issue.

After a much-needed weekend off, the series will return to Road America June 23 for the REV Group Grand Prix.

Ben Hinc
Ben Hinchttp://www.benhinc.com
Ben's executive editor title is purposefully broad to encompass the bottomless list of roles he fills for The Apex, which includes webmaster, graphic designer, quality consultant and writer. Ben's technical background and progressive media distribution approach set The Apex apart technologically and philosophically.

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Alexander Rossi in Andretti Indy car on 2019 Belle Isle pit lane

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