IndyCar Series: Victory for Josef Newgarden in season's first oval race
The defending IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden scored his 8th victory in a career in the first oval race of the season at ISM Raceway (former Phoenix International Raceway) in Avondale, Arizona.
Newgarden, in the #1 Team Penske Chevrolet, beat rookie Robert Wickens in the #6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda by 2.9946 seconds. Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport, #27 Honda) completed the podium at Phoenix Grand Prix.
Newgarden was among eight drivers who made a pit stop for a new set of tires during the last caution period on Lap 229 of 250, and then charged from fourth place in the last seven laps to his first win of the season.
Wickens didn’t pit during that last caution, staying in the lead ahead of his teammate James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi at the restart on Lap 243. Newgarden immediately overtook Rossi and Hinhcliffe while Wickens was in front until lap 247.
“The team did such a good job. The car was good, the strategy was better, the pit stops were the best. I’m really proud of them and what they did. I think they deserved the win tonight,” Newgarden said.
He took the championship lead after two of 17 races, collecting 77 points, five more than Rossi and seven ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Newgarden’s victory was the 198th for Team Penske, the most of any team in Indy car history. Newgarden’s winning speed of 147.395 mph set a record for a race at ISM Raceway, as well as the number of lead changes (12) and drivers who led (nine). The race was slowed by just two caution periods, for single-car incidents involving rookie Pietro Fittipaldi (Lap 41) and Ed Jones (Lap 229).
The busy April’s IndyCar schedule continued with two races in the next two weeks. First, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach follows on Sunday, April 15. Then, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is scheduled for April 22 at Barber Motorsports Park.