Josef Newgarden dominated the rain delayed Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park with a commanding drive to secure his second win of the year and reclaim the championship lead from Alexander Rossi
Newgarden had taken pole for the race on Saturday, but following monsoon rain and an accident for teammate Will Power during the race on Sunday, race control took the decision to postpone the remainder of the race until Monday, after 23 laps had been completed. The race resumed in the early afternoon with an hour and fifteen left on the clock, and Newgarden instantly started to pull away from the field as Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled it out for second place. Newgarden and Penske had opted for a two stop strategy, whilst the crew of Bourdais at Dale Coyne had chosen a one stop, hoping threatening rain wouldn’t materialise.
As the race progressed, Bourdais pulled away from Hunter-Reay who found himself suddenly under pressure from James Hinchcliffe. Initially Alexander Rossi was behind his teammate, but Hinchcliffe put in a charge to move past the then championship leader and chase down ‘Captain America’ for the final spot on the podium at that point. Rossi’s race then started to unravel, with a bizarre two stop strategy seeing him pit just a couple of laps before the rain fell at the end. A subsequent of track excursion and another stop for rain tyres saw his podium streak end, and he wound up 11th at the end of the race. A stark contrast to his dominant performance in Long Beach.
The rain however had made things interesting up front. With his second stop due and the rain slowly coming down, Newgarden pit for wet tyres but initially it looked like the wrong call. The rain was coming, but it appeared not hard enough for the wet tyres as Bourdais and Hunter-Reay carried on with slick tyres. Both initially pulled away, Hunter-Reay passing the Penske and with neither needing another stop for fuel it looked like Penske may have inadvertently jumped the gun. But alas Penske had got it right all along, as the top two were force in for wets but Bourdais had clung on bravely with just eight minutes to go and was never passed on track by Newgarden, only relinquishing the lead when he changed tyres.
Newgarden thus started to edge away once again, as Hunter-Reay settled into second. Hinchcliffe had vaulted his way back onto the podium and Robert Wickens in the second SPM car was now fourth and hunting his teammate down for a spot on the podium. Behind these two, Bourdais now found himself under massive pressure from Dixon, the pair going wheel to wheel at the last corner on the last lap for fifth place. Bourdais clung on and won the drag race to the line, but fifth wasn’t a just reward for such a heroic drive earlier in the race. With his victory, Newgarden retook the championship lead with Rossi just 13 points behind, and Graham Rahal moving up to third in the standings with another solid top ten result in 7th. Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti rounded out the top ten.