There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Josef Newgarden.
After another brilliant call by race strategist Tim Cindric, Newgarden held off Alexander Rossi in a 12-lap shootout to win Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway – the third victory of the season for the NTT IndyCar Series championship leader.
“I knew we had a rocket ship,” Newgarden told NBC Sports following his victory. “It was just about getting to the front. We were better in the front than we were in the back, so I knew if we could gain some positions, we would be okay.”
“We’ve been close here before. Not necessarily at the end of the race, but I know we’ve had good cars here and we’ve not been able to just make it happen. One thing happens or another, so just to finally figure it out feels great.”
It may have been Newgarden’s raw talent that allowed him to win for the second consecutive weekend, but it was Cindric that put Newgarden in position to do so.
In last Saturday’s Race 1 of the Detroit Grand Prix, Cindric called Newgarden to the pits just before a yellow came out, allowing him to inherit the lead for good during the caution period.
In Texas, Cindric called Newgarden in on Lap 137 while under caution for Zach Veach’s spin in the backstretch, which put Newgarden off-sequence with the leaders.
Newgarden inherited the lead during the green-flag pit cycle before his final stop on Lap 198, but managed to come out ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay on track to keep the lead. He would remain up front for the rest of the race.
Rossi had to settle for his third runner-up finish in the last four races and slipped to 25 points behind Newgarden in the standings.
American drivers captured the top five positions at the finish, with Graham Rahal, rookie Santino Ferrucci and Hunter-Reay finishing third, fourth, and fifth respectively.
Though the night was great for them, other series regulars experienced a more disappointing evening at TMS.
Pole-sitter Takuma Sato led the first 60 laps of the race, but his race immediately went sour when he came into the pits for his first stop on lap 61.
Not only did Sato miss his pit stall, but he also hit his inside front tire changer, Chris Welch, in the process.
Welch’s head hit the pavement, but he was up on his feet minutes later because he was wearing a protective helmet. He was later evaluated and released from the infield care center.
On Lap 220, James Hinchcliffe’s great run ended when his car got loose exiting Turn 2, then spun into the inside wall on the backstretch. Hinchcliffe was uninjured, but disappointed.
“I’m just gutted for the No. 5 guys because the car was fast, the crew was good in pit lane. The car was quick when we needed it to be. We were just kind of working our way through it, but man, we just can’t catch a break,” Hinchcliffe said.
Lastly, defending race champion Scott Dixon and IndyCar rookie Colton Herta’s nights were cut short at Lap 229, when they made contact and wrecked in Turn 3.
Dixon took the blame for the incident and apologized to Herta, but a postrace tweet from Dixon’s wife, Emma, indicated that he had not seen a replay of the crash before speaking to NBC Sports – and that “he feels a lot differently about the situation now.”
Last year’s NTT IndyCar Series champion leaves Texas fourth in the standings, 89 points behind Newgarden. He had entered the night 52 points back following his win last Sunday in Detroit Race 2.
The NTT IndyCar Series now heads to the woods of Wisconsin for the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America on June 23. Live race coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC.