Newgarden gets first IndyCar win in Alabama

Josef Newgarden charges to his first IndyCar win

Anyone who says IndyCar can't put on a heck of a show wasn't watching Sunday. 24-year old American Josef Newgarden won his first IndyCar Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in the Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race, and he did it in style.

On a beautiful day (the ambient temperature was 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 43 percent and winds from the south-southwest at 10 mph) in the hills outside of Birmingham Alabama, the sun-drenched crowd enjoyed some good racing on one of the most beautiful road courses in North America.

Newgarden sprays the champagne from the top step of the podium for the first time

With his fuel running out in his Sarah Hartman/Ed Carpenter Chevy Newgarden held off the charging Honda of Graham Rahal as Americans finished 1-2 ahead of Scott Dixon from New Zealand. Australian Will Power and American Ryan Hunter-Reay (who turned the fastest lap of the race) rounded out the top-5.

It was a victory of sorts for Graham Rahal's team as well as today was team co-owner Mike Lanigan's birthday and they had a real chance of winning today with the fastest car on the track at the end of the race. Rahal was catching race leader Newgarden at over a second a lap and if the race went two more laps Rahal may have won.

"We knew when we made the strategy call to stay out we had to go fast in order to make up the gap," said Rahal after the race.

Graham Rahal drove his best race in years

"I've got to say Honda did a great job for me today. It's still tough to follow, but obviously I passed a lot of guys. This team has come a long way and I think we have proven that. Eventually one of these days we'll win one of these things. I hope everybody enjoyed the race because we were pushing there until the last second. It was great racing with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), Will (Power) and (Scott) Dixon – he gave me room there in those last couple turns. That's pretty nice of him – not a lot of guys do that."

And it was also a victory of sorts for Honda as well. After getting their lunch eaten in the first three races of the year (Yes, Hinchcliffe won in New Orleans but it was won with strategy) the Hondas were getting better tire wear in the race today and with Hunter-Reay turning the fastest race lap (by a wide margin) and with Rahal's Honda gobbling up the Chevy of Newgarden at the end, Honda showed the potential is there.

With his first win within reach, your Newgarden was feeling the pressure those last few laps.

"I was just so nervous and I can't tell you how nervous I was. In racing I am normally not but it's just been such a long time coming in trying to do this. I can't believe now is when it happened. I knew that one of these days it was going to happen with this team because they are so solid.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"I just can't think everybody enough that gave me an IndyCar job. Wink Hartman, Sarah Fisher, Libba Hartman and Andy O'Gara. It's unbelievable what this has turned into and now I have Ed Carpenter in the group and Stewart and everyone who is involved. I really wouldn't be here without all those guys because they made me into an IndyCar driver. It's so hard to become a professional driver these days and they made me one. So I just want to thank them and everyone on our car.

"Chevrolet was incredible. I was just getting crazy fuel mileage with fast pace. So Chevys are just obviously really unbelievable cars and we are spanking the Hondas right now. Very happy to be with those guys because they took us under their wing. We have great partners with Direct Supply and Firestone tires which stayed underneath me and kept me just fine. I really don't know what to say but I am just so happy that we have great partners, great owners, incredible team and group. Just happy we won this race finally.

IndyCar drew another big crowd in the heart of NASCAR country

"I thought I would get a little more choked up, and I am choked up but I think I am just so jacked up on adrenaline right now that I can't be. That whole race was just go, go, go and try to get to the front. It was just easy. These guys just gave me such an incredible car. All weekend we were just pounding away, were incredible on the pit stops and just never gave up. All my guys are so awesome they made it possible and I am so happy we were able to do that. When you become a professional driver and win an IndyCar race, that is how you want to do it."

"I am just happy the way we were able overcome the pitstop miscue and get back around Helio. The car was great. That is CFH Racing right there. They gave me the fastest car in the field and able to save fuel. Even when we got behind, it didn't matter because we were able to get back by Helio. It was just a great team effort and everybody behind this team just made it a solid effort and that is the way you want to win these races and hopefully we can do more this year."

Joey Newgarden, Josef's father was a very happy man after the race. "We are just as happy as could be and we are proud of Josef. I want to cry but I can't."

Rodolfo Gonzalez made his first Verizon IndyCar Series start in the No. 18 car after having previously tested for Coyne and one other team this offseason. He comes with a rich open wheel pedigree having competed in 64 GP2 Series races and spending 2 years as the Marussia F1 Team's test driver.

Despite his IndyCar testing history, this is the first time the Venezuelan was able to run with the new Honda HPD aero kit and the learning curve proved to be challenging. He spent most of Saturday finding the limits of the added downforce, which contributed to his 21st starting position.

Gonzalez made the most of his opportunity to show his racing skills honed at Europe's top levels as he battled all the way to 10th position during the middle portion of the race. The team's strategy would have brought the car home in 15th place had he saved a bit more fuel in the last stint. Gonzalez was forced to pit with just two laps left.

Despite bringing the car home in 20th position, Gonzalez raced many of IndyCar's accomplished veterans to their limits. He had battles with Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, and Juan Pablo Montoya while trying to hold on to his strong run. As the television commentators mentioned, Gonzalez was fearless during the battles and his experience showed through.

Speaking of the fuel situation, Gonzalez said, "(We were) two laps from the end. We didn't quite make the fuel numbers and it was disappointing I had to come in and finish 20th. In the end, it was good experience and in the future I just have to be more cautious of the way I save fuel."


JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet, race winner): “This is the way I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to win on some crazy incident or on luck. This team deserves it. They gave me an incredible car and let me get out there and rip with the thing and pass people on pure merit. And that’s due to CFH Racing – they were just incredible today. We’re going up against the giants, but I think this team can be a giant one day. We’ve got great partners in Chevrolet and Firestone – they deserve it and today they made it easy on me. Today was a good day and we need to have more of these."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda, second place): “I'm really proud of these Steak 'n Shake guys. They've worked extremely hard and today I drove that race 110 percent, every single lap. We knew when we made the strategy call to stay out (that) we had to go fast in order to make up the gap. I’ve got to say Honda did a great job for me today. It's still tough to follow, but obviously I passed a lot of guys. This team has come a long way and I think we have proven that. Eventually one of these days we'll win one of these things. I hope everybody enjoyed the race because we were pushing there until the last second. It was great racing with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), Will (Power) and (Scott) Dixon – he gave me room there in those last couple turns. That's pretty nice of him; not a lot of guys do that." … (On if he had a chance to win): “(Jack) Hawksworth got out of the pits in front of me and that held me up and we lost a few seconds right there, so we had to pit a little earlier than we wanted to. A couple laps earlier, we would have gotten him I think."

Dixon came home third
Dixon came home third

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Coke/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, third place): “It was definitely a tough day. It started horribly, we kind of got pushed around there at the start and just didn't get a clean line there. We dropped like a rock – we bled the rear tires off on the first set and I think we were the first to stop in that situation. It kind of altered the day and how we could kind of deal with tires and fuel and all that kind of stuff. We knew the alternate strategy was going to come late and it came strong. All in all, congratulations to Josef (Newgarden) – he's a hell of a driver, with a small team, and for them to get a victory is really cool to see."

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, fourth place): “Very eventful. A fun race that you like if you end up in a good position. Man, I didn’t even see what happened when I got put in the gravel there (the incident with Sato). But I did everything I could to get back and got back to fourth, so it’s a good result considering. After (the incident) I was just focusing on doing a good job, saving fuel and passing when we could. Did everything we could, got back. I didn’t even see what happened on that penalty because I just felt a hit from behind. I thought I was clear. I looked in the mirror, it was hard to see, but that’s racing."

Hunter-Reay had the fastest race lap in his yellow Honda
Hunter-Reay had the fastest race lap in his yellow Honda

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda, fifth place): “I think that was as good as we were going to get today. We really worked hard on saving fuel. We had to have a lot of discipline to pull that off. Some guys pitted a little later than us and they were able to go a little heavier, a little harder (at the end), so we missed out on the podium because of that. All in all a good day. Progress. We had to save a lot of fuel today. One of the worst things in an Indy car is having to save fuel while guys behind you are on good tires and don’t have to save any (fuel), like Graham (Rahal)."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader): “We had a long day with the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevy. We started with a bad qualifying effort, but we seemed to be in an OK position to dig ourselves out of the hole at one point. We were racing with (Ryan) Hunter-Reay and he finished fifth. It’s hard to race with some of the guys in the back of the pack. They are young and sometimes make moves like you aren’t even there when you are right beside them. So we ended up with two broken wings and a 14th-place finish."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “Not the finish we hoped for the AAA Insurance Chevrolet. There was just a bit of miscommunication on our fuel number that, unfortunately, caused us to have to pit with one lap left. You never want to see the white flag on pit road. We were on the same strategy with (Josef) Newgarden and (Scott) Dixon, but we were needing to meet a different fuel number than they were and I didn’t understand that. So I was trying to balance making the number we had to meet with not giving up a position to Dixon, who was behind me. Unfortunately that caused us to come up short. I hate it because the AAA guys gave me another car that could’ve easily won the race, but it was a crazy race out there today."

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “We were off to a great start with a great strategy. We pitted and then after that we were running 10th and the car felt great and we were up there. However, when we pitted, an accident just happened and Race Control apparently thought that I came in when the yellow was out, which I really don’t think is the case. We need to get that clarified because they sent me to the back of the field and my race went downhill from there. I tried to pass (James) Jakes and we both made contact and spun, and then I got a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact and after that it was really over for me. I feel bad for my team because they have been working so hard to give me such a fast race car, but we seem to be getting the worst luck and hopefully that changes soon."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “The race was pretty good for the Arrow Electronics team. We were able to pick up a couple of spots, obviously. The pace of the car was really good and I think the guys called the right strategy for where we started. We were missing in one area: We just didn't quite have it on the brakes today, unfortunately. That allowed Graham (Rahal) to stay in front of us while he was on blacks (primary tires) there and it really got us stuck behind those Coyne cars for way too long. You look at where Graham finished and we were right with him there. Obviously we missed a bit but strategy was good, car was good and like I said, if we'd of just had a little bit more on the brakes, I think we could've made some good headway. We stayed out of trouble, had a good points day and we'll take it. We get faster and faster, more and more competitive in these races and that's what we need to see. A big thanks to all the Arrow crew guys for a solid weekend and we look forward to the GP of Indy now."

JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was a disappointing day for the No. 7 MediaTech Honda with UMP and We just had an error in the pits and then we got turned around, actually when we were on the lead lap. It's disappointing but we'll take credits from this weekend and move on to the Indy grand prix. Obviously, the No. 5 car got some more points for the team, which is good, and we'll try to do the same next week."

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “Another rough day for the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. We started out well on that first lap and actually moved up a position fighting for a spot in the top 10, but then the setup just went kind of loose. We came in and looked at what was going in and it looks like one of my rear springs actually broke. There’s nothing we can do about that, but it’s still a shame because I think we had a good car all weekend."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a tough day for NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing. We really had a roller coaster of a race weekend with a bad practice to start and then a solid qualifying effort. It just kind of went downhill even from the first lap when I got caught between some cars and dropped a few spots. It was just a hard day for the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, with struggling to maintain tires and get back to the front of the pack. I'm happy for Scott (Dixon) for scoring another podium, but the 10 car definitely needs to get back up to the front."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Chevrolet): “We had a great day. The Mistic machine was awesome. It’s just Race Control ruined it for us. You can’t leave two drivers stranded out there because they did a great job. Simon (Pagenaud) and I were managing our tires better than most people, we were first and second and we were going to come into the pits a few laps later and they called a caution for debris. They should have let us know they were going to call a caution and given us a chance to pit. They didn’t do that and it ruined our day. After that, it was recovery mode. Thankfully, we had a great car and we beat all the guys we were competing against … some guys in front of us and the guys who were on the same strategy. But you can’t overcome being dropped to the back of the pack like that. That was a shame because it should have been a very different day. The Mistic crew did a great job and we will keep trying, but for sure it is very frustrating."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was good to finish the race under the very tough and difficult circumstances. At the start of the race we gained a couple positions and we were working through our strategy when the yellow came out and we tried to take advantage of it, so we pitted. I think the decision was OK as there were a couple other good cars on the same strategy. We used red (alternate) tires in two stints, but one stint was really long and later in that stint we were struggling to keep pace quite a lot. Now you can say we should have come in, change tires, get a splash of fuel, etc., but at that time it was a difficult decision. We were losing a lot of positions, but the team decided at the time to stay out so I would only have one more pit stop. It was a tough day. And I had the collision with Will (Power), which looked like he didn’t see me when I was already committed into the turn. He just came out of the pit and we were side by side and I tried to avoid him, but it was not possible. He is the last guy I would want to hit out there. It was a tough day but we learned something for both cars and hopefully we can put it to good use for the Indy grand prix."

Rodolfo Gonzalez showed he has what it takes
Rodolfo Gonzalez showed he has what it takes

RODOLFO GONZALEZ (No. 18 Dale Coyne Honda): “We were really competitive and it is a bit misleading to see a 20th-place finish because we had made up some really good ground during the race. I had a lot of interesting battles with some big names in the series, so that was good. We finished quite a few places below where we were running a lot of the day because we took a little gamble on fuel at the end and didn’t have enough to make it to the end. We were still running pretty good even though I was saving fuel and then I had to save even more, which was difficult. We ran as high as 10th and were running P15 at the time. I had some good battles with (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Takuma) Sato, who are very good drivers. Two laps from the end, we didn't quite make the fuel numbers and it was disappointing I had to come in and finish 20th. In the end, it was good experience and in the future I just have to be more cautious of the way I save fuel."

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Honda): “This felt like a never-ending race because of all of the track action and how physical it was out there. I was a little disappointed in my performance during some phases of the race, but there were others where I gave some guys a good battle when I was in the middle of the pack. I got my lap back and was slightly off strategy, so I was fighting for position for a while with some fast guys. During the last stint someone came into my rear tire and we had to do an extra pit stop. I didn't have any more (alternate) red tires left so we had to go to black and I ended up last because of this. I think I would have finished 21st or something without that puncture. The strategy was really good and I was running in clean air, but someone hit my tire and that was it."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “We had plenty of pace in the Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Plenty. Plenty. We would have challenged for the win. In the first stint when we got by Will (Power), we were looking really strong coming up on Helio (Castroneves) and (Josef) Newgarden. It was a little bit of a shame. We just got unlucky with the yellow there. From then on we had to be really aggressive and attack and pass people, which we did. That was fun from that part; I'm happy with my driving. But I feel like we had a much better car than the result we actually had, but there are always some outside factors you can't control. Congratulations to Newgarden on his first win. He deserves it. He has been knocking on the door for a long time. I'm really happy for him."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “I think sixth for me is like a victory today. I mean, I always want to win, but this sixth feels so good because of how we started the weekend. Starting 22nd at Barber (Motorsports Park), it is really hard to make your way to the front. My team did a great job – in pit stops, in strategy. I think I did a great job at saving fuel; I’m more or less a rookie at saving fuel, but I think now I have my ‘saving fuel degree’ from university (laughs). Now I’m looking forward to the next one."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I lost too much time early in the stint to (Scott) Dixon and Ryan (Hunter-Reay). I had a go at Dixon … I got pushed off the track, so we lost a lot of track position. I lost a lot of time, really, in that stint trying to conserve (fuel). I need to get better at managing, but we were losing the rear tires, so it was a real struggle."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I didn’t get a great start off the line, got caught in it in the first corner, but got my rhythm in the first stint and picked off a few cars. Then we pitted and had a good second stint and were running with (Simon) Pagenaud and (Tony) Kanaan. Then on the restart, I passed Pagenaud but couldn’t stop the car on the exit and I ended up losing that spot. Then we settled into a rhythm and were doing OK, but we died there on the reds (alternate tires) at the end and should have pitted a lap earlier. When we did pit we had an issue and we lost a lot of time in the pits, so then it was day done. We just had to bring the car home. It’s disappointing really because we could have gotten a top 10 or 11 out of it. So a bit disappointed."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was kind of a frustrating race with some of the calls that were made and I think they’re worth investigating further. Overall, the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew just never stopped fighting. We had really good pit stops. We did get caught out with that first yellow and had to go with an alternate strategy, but we were quick when we needed to be. I mean to be knocking on the door of a top-10 finish after our strategy went completely wrong is a pretty good result for the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet. I’m looking forward to the Indy road course and the entire month of May. I feel like we made a big step as a team this weekend and hopefully we can keep that up in a few weekends at the GP of Indianapolis."

GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “We ended up with the right strategy to take us to a possible top-eight finish. One of our stints on the (alternate) red tires, we just couldn’t hang on to the handling. About four or five laps in, and it just took us off the pace. I’m very happy we again showed our strength in race trim and had strong stops by the BHA guys."


Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Pits Fast Lap Led ST Engine PTS
1 67 Josef Newgarden 90 0.0000 0.0000 3 1:10.328 46 5 Chevy 119
2 15 Graham Rahal 90 2.2061 2.2061 3 1:10.187 17 8 Honda 103
3 9 Scott Dixon 90 4.8371 2.6310 3 1:10.798 2 4 Chevy 123
4 1 Will Power 90 19.4903 14.6532 4 1:10.488 0 2 Chevy 112
5 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 90 22.0663 2.5760 3 1:09.719 0 18 Honda 81
6 26 Carlos Munoz 90 24.0595 1.9932 3 1:10.882 0 22 Honda 84
7 5 James Hinchcliffe 90 24.6529 0.5934 3 1:10.302 1 10 Honda 110
8 11 Sebastien Bourdais 90 25.4534 0.8005 3 1:10.589 2 7 Chevy 91
9 22 Simon Pagenaud 90 30.6139 5.1605 3 1:10.314 3 3 Chevy 96
10 27 Marco Andretti 90 33.4777 2.8638 3 1:10.309 0 13 Honda 81
11 20 Luca Filippi 90 34.1607 0.6830 3 1:10.881 0 9 Chevy 69
12 83 Charlie Kimball 90 34.6792 0.5185 3 1:10.790 0 11 Chevy 58
13 10 Tony Kanaan 90 35.3334 0.6542 3 1:10.545 0 6 Chevy 110
14 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 90 36.6361 1.3027 4 1:10.594 1 15 Chevy 136
15 3 Helio Castroneves 90 39.4194 2.7833 4 1:10.387 18 1 Chevy 133
16 98 Gabby Chaves 90 45.8965 6.4771 3 1:10.412 0 17 Honda 56
17 14 Takuma Sato 90 50.8442 4.9477 3 1:10.716 0 20 Honda 50
18 8 Sage Karam 90 55.1372 4.2930 5 1:10.463 0 12 Chevy 35
19 4 Stefano Coletti 90 55.4160 0.2788 5 1:10.543 0 16 Chevy 41
20 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez 90 67.9855 12.5695 4 1:11.111 0 21 Honda 10
21 41 Jack Hawksworth 90 73.1828 5.1973 3 1:10.870 0 19 Honda 57
22 7 James Jakes 89 1 LAPS 40.1851 4 1:10.741 0 14 Honda 62
23 19 Francesco Dracone 89 1 LAPS 19.8309 4 1:11.831 0 23 Honda 30


  1. Juan Pablo Montoya 136
  2. Helio Castroneves 133
  3. Scott Dixon 123
  4. Josef Newgarden 119
  5. Will Power 112
  6. James Hinchcliffe 110
  7. Tony Kanaan 110
  8. Graham Rahal 103
  9. Simon Pagenaud 96
  10. Sebastien Bourdais 91


  1. Gabby Chaves 56
  2. Stefano Coletti 41
  3. Sage Karam 35
  4. Francesco Dracone 30
  5. Conor Daly 13
  6. Rodolfo Gonzalez 10

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