Josef Newgarden won an accident-filled Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which was condensed into a 75-minute timed race after severe weather delayed the start for over an hour.
Newgarden held off pole sitter Alexander Rossi over a final green-flag run of 12-and-a-half minutes to take his second victory of the season (St. Petersburg).
In a near-repeat of last week’s Indianapolis 500, a Team Penske driver led Rossi to the checkers, followed by Takuma Sato in third place.
“How about that call from Tim?,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “It was the perfect call to get us the position that we needed.”
The call Newgarden referred to was one made by Tim Cindric, his race strategist, to pit with 44 minutes remaining in the race – just before a yellow flag came out.
With the race leaders yet to pit, Newgarden took the lead during the yellow-flag cycle of stops. It was later reported that Newgarden had not received a full fuel load during his stop, but with help from multiple late-race cautions, Newgarden had enough fuel to make it to the end.
“We really wanted this one,” Newgarden said. “I can’t tell you how hard we worked in the off-season. This whole team made sure our street course cars were ready, and they were ready today.”
Entering 2019 with a focus on getting consistent results, Newgarden has followed through with two wins, four podiums and only one finish worse than fourth (15th at IndyCar Grand Prix – Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course) through the first 7 races.
And with today’s victory, Newgarden has reclaimed the NTT IndyCar Series championship lead by 25 points over Penske teammate and new Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden tied Pagenaud earlier in the day by being the fastest driver in his qualifying group, which earned him one championship point.
Pagenaud minimized damage with a nice recovery drive on Saturday, finishing sixth after qualifying mid-pack in 13th. He’s seeking to become the first Indy 500 winner to claim a victory in Detroit the following week.
Also having good runs were rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who broke a rough stretch by finishing fourth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished fifth to collect his third Top-5 so far this season.
On the flip side, two of IndyCar’s biggest names had costly setbacks.
Will Power climbed from 12th at the start into the Top-5, but on his stop with 40 minutes to go, the right front tire on his Chevrolet was not tightened enough. Moments later, Power lost the tire at pit exit. A subsequent drive-thru penalty for equipment out of the pit box and an unsafe release added further insult for the Australian, who finished 18th.
Then, with 31 minutes to go, it was Scott Dixon’s turn for trouble. After taking a restart in third, the defending series champion appeared to clip the inside wall in Turn 6 before stuffing his Honda into the tire barriers. It marked his first DNF since the 2017 race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Live coverage of Race 2 from Detroit begins with qualifying tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by the main event at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. The forecast for tomorrow looks much better with clear skies and temperatures in the 60s expected come race time.