Josef Newgarden fends off Scott Dixon to bring in his first win with his new home Team Penske.
The Verizon IndyCar Series traveled to Leeds, Alabama for the third round of this season’s championship at Barber Motorsports Park. It would be Will Power on pole with his Penske teammates not far behind all within the top 7.
The first story of the race would be Marco Andretti pitting before the green flag waved. It would be a gearbox issue that put Andretti out of contention for the second week in a row.
The green would wave and the field would get off to a relatively clean start. Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe would battle early giving Hunter-Reay damage and leave debris on the track.
Josef Newgarden would pass both Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe getting to the fourth position from seventh on the grid.
The first caution of the day would come out on lap 3 for debris from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s contact with Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay would come in for repairs under the caution.
The green flag would wave again on lap 6 with Marco Andretti joining the field 3 laps down.
Newgarden would battle his Penske teammate and series champion Simon Pagenaud for the third spot. The battle would conclude with Newgarden forcing Pagenaud wide. It would cause Pagenaud to lose 2 spots with Newgarden taking the position from his teammate.
Pit stops began on lap 20 with Josef Newgarden leading the way into the pits. Leader Will Power would put on lap 22. The teammates would cycle out nose to tail battling with the 12 of Power on top.
James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud also battled after pit stops. Scott Dixon would be the last of leaders to pit on lap 25 handing the lead positions to the Penske drivers.
Another battle of interest would be the AJ Foyt cars of Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly for twelfth.
Will Power would pull a 4 second lead out on Josef Newgarden with Scott Dixon closing on the Penske driver. Dixon would mount an attack on Newgarden but with no success.
The last round of pit stops started with Josef Newgarden pitting on lap 44.
The next battle on track would be points leader Sebastian Bourdais and Tony Kanaan. The battle would continue until lap 63.
Spencer Pigot who was running solidly in the top 10 came to a stop on lap 63 bringing out a full course caution. The caution saw the leaders along with the rest of the field pit with the exception of Charlie Kimball.
Charlie Kimball led the field to green with 22 laps to go. Will Power would need to pass the lap car of Spencer Pigot to launch an attack on his rival.
Kimball would need to pit handing the lead back to Will Power. Powers lead would be cut short due to a tire going down. Power would stay out as long as possible before pitting and handing the lead to his teammate Josef Newgarden. Newgarden would get the position beforehand with a daring pass on Scott Dixon for second place.
Rain would make an appearance but eventually disappear as quickly as it appeared.
Takuma Sato ran wide in turn 5 costing positions late in the race. James Hinchcliffe would also run wide losing 2 positions.
The battle between Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon would heat up with Dixon getting as close as .06 hundredths.
Eventually, Dixon would use up his push to pass seconds and Newgarden would put a gap on Dixon that he could not close with just laps to go.
Josef Newgarden would pick up his fourth career win and first with Team Penske. Scott Dixon would come in second with Simon Pagenaud rounding out the podium.
Also, notable Alexander Rossi would come from 18th on the grid to finish in 5th his best result of the season.
Sebastian Bourdais would keep his points lead but have it cut to 6 points to Scott Dixon and 7 to Josef Newgarden.
IndyCar returns next week for its first oval of the season at Phoenix.
Featured Image Credit – Chris Jones – www.indycar.com