Newgarden beats Dixon at St. Pete

Newgarden celebrates
Newgarden celebrates

Josef Newgarden drove the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet to victory lane in today’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was the 11th career victory for the Nashville, TN native, who came home 2.8 seconds ahead of defending series champion Scott Dixon. The second-place finish was the fourth at St. Petersburg for the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Polesitter Will Power made it two Penskes on the podium coming home third, with rookie sensation Felix Rosenqvist fourth. Alexander Rossi rounded out the top-5.

Newgarden moved to the lead following the second round of pit stops. With the other front runners pitting towards the early part of the window, Newgarden and strategist Tim Cindric decided to stay out a little longer. When they did come to pit lane, the No.2 Chevy was outfitted with Firestone Alternate Red tires while the other front runners opted for the Primary Firestone rubber. This combined with the fact, the others who pit early found themselves running behind an out of sequence Marco Andretti allowed Newgarden to come out ahead and build a lead that he would never relinquish.

There were some strong performances elsewhere in the field. James Hinchcliffe brought a wounded No. 5 Arrow Honda home sixth after picking up a banner in the closing laps. Simon Pagenaud was seventh, with rookies Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci coming home 8th and 9th. Jack Harvey scored a career best 10th-place finish in the No. 60 Meyer Shank entry.

"When we went out on brand new reds (alternate tires), we were able to open up a huge chunk," Newgarden said. "It was just really good timing and positioning, and once we established that gap, it was about managing it, really. We didn't have to blow it wide open and we didn't need to see it shrink too quickly, but we let it seesaw back and forth how it needed to."

Dixon finished second at St. Pete for the fourth time and has never won the race in 15 tries. The five-time series champion, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, has 41 second-place results in a 19-year career, tying him for second on the all-time race runner-up list with Helio Castroneves. Mario Andretti is first with 56 second-place finishes.

"All in all, a great day for the whole PNC Bank crew," Dixon said. "Pit stops were phenomenal, great points. Obviously, we were going for a win so we just came one stop short, but congrats to Josef. (He) drove a hell of a race there and great strategy."

Power led 17 early laps before finishing third. It's the 71st time the 2014 series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner has been on the podium in a 15-year career.

"Definitely a lot better points here than I've done in the past two years, so I'm really happy about that," said Power, who finished 10th last year at St. Pete, 19th in 2017 and didn't race in 2016 due to illness. "We put ourselves in a really tough position pitting early there.
"I just kind of did my best to maintain a third-place finish. I got more points than the last two years so we're in the game (for the championship)."

Felix Rosenqvist, making his first NTT IndyCar Series start in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, placed fourth after leading 31 early laps. Rosenqvist was among three rookies to finish in the top 10, with Colton Herta (Harding Steinbrenner Racing) eighth and Santino Ferrucci (Dale Coyne Racing) ninth.

"It's a lot to take in," Rosenqvist said. "I'm worn out. These cars are tough to drive. I've never driven anything like it, but it's a dream come true just to be here."

"We have a lot to work on," he added. "I think I underestimated how much the track grips up. Still a lot of things to learn, but P4 is a great way to start."

The race was slowed by two early full-course caution periods, tying for the fewest in race history. The first came on Lap 20 when Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered a mechanical failure in the No. 28 DHL Honda on the frontstretch.

The second caution occurred on Lap 26 when Ed Jones hit the wall in Turn 9 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Chevrolet and Matheus Leist clipped Jones' car while racing past in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Both cars were eliminated in the incident and Jones sustained a small non-displaced fracture of the distal fourth metacarpal in his left ring finger, according to Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director. Jones had the finger splinted and is scheduled to see a hand surgeon, but it is expected that proper splinting will permit him to continue participating in racing activities.


Josef Newgarden wins the season opener at St. Pete
Josef Newgarden wins the season opener at St. Pete

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet), Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race winner: "We were literally talking about (tire strategy) right before the race. We were trying to figure out, should we go used (tires) or new Firestone reds (alternate tires) and we made the call at the last minute to stay with used (tires). We'll have that advantage if we need it and we used it. It just worked out perfectly. I just can't thank Chevy enough for all their support and what they put in this weekend. We had an incredible engine, we had everything we needed in fuel mileage and reliability and all the power. I'm telling you, we really figured things out on Saturday and it was a rocket ship. I'm so thankful to our group. We have the best of the best working at Team Penske."

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Unfortunately, not the ideal race that we wanted. I ended up hitting the No. 20 car on the restart, so another bad race here in St. Pete, but it is what it is. Sometimes it's just not your day and you've got to keep working hard for the next one. I'm looking forward to the next (race) at COTA (Circuit of The Americas) now."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It's not the finish we wanted. The Arrow car, honestly, had more pace than that. The first stint we were stuck behind Graham (Rahal), and we weren't able to make up spots in that. About two-thirds of the way into the race, a banner started to come off in Turn 3, and unfortunately, a part of it wrapped around our front wing. These cars are so aero-sensitive that we lost a ton of downforce. Unfortunately, we got behind (Max) Chilton and he had no respect for lead lap cars. With the banner on the wing, I don't know if we would've made many more positions than that so we will take it.

"I think we've shown our competitiveness. We obviously didn't get where we needed in qualifying because of an issue we found after the fact. Our race pace was stronger than the end results, so we just have to go to Austin and execute every single day and every single lap of every session, and hopefully, we will be at the front."

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was a great race up until the end. We started quite far back, farther back than what we think we should've started. It was going well and we were well inside the top 10 when we had the problem (mechanical issue). Looking at what's happening now, we were definitely going for a top eight in the Arrow car. It was just a shame because it was a really great race up until then."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "All in all, a great day for the whole PNC Bank crew. Pit stops were phenomenal. Great points. Obviously, we were going for a win, so we just came one stop short, but congrats to Josef (Newgarden). Drove a hell of a race there and great strategy." (About why he likes racing in St. Petersburg): "I think it's fun. It's technical. I think it's the atmosphere. The city, as they say, embraces the race, and they do. Even walking around downtown, I think everybody – for me at least, living in Indianapolis – it's nice to get some warm weather, especially this week. But I don't know, the traffic has passing opportunities, Turn 1, Turn 4, you can maybe get sneaky occasionally, but a lot of circuits don't have that combination. You've got to give Kim (Green) and Kevin (Savoree) a lot of credit, obviously Firestone, too, for sponsoring this event, but it just has a great feel about it, kicking off the season, I think everybody is happy to start the season."

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Top five is for sure satisfying, I think there was a bit more in it. I think some pit stops there didn't really go as planned, but the NTT Data Honda was really good today. I think it was a good enough package to win the race. Just some small things didn't go our way, but I'm really happy to be up here. I really have to thank my team, Chip Ganassi Racing, for starting off the season better than anyone could have expected."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), NTT P1 Award winner: "It was definitely a lot better points day than I've had in the past two years, so I'm really happy about that. We put ourselves in a tough position pitting early there. We had no defense. And really, me losing that position on the restart, I was stuck. I couldn't pull the gap to negate the cold tire penalty because I was pitting early. I just kind of did my best to maintain a third-place finish. That was as much as we could do in that situation. We got more points than in the last two years, so we're in the game.

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
"Tough race for us. We didn't have the pace today. I mean, we tried. We had a pretty good start and then we caught a yellow (flag) that we didn't need. It was one of those days that nothing goes right. Once we got going, we definitely didn't have the pace to fight with those guys, so we just settled in. We needed a finish. Tough day."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda):
"I thought the United Rentals machine was pretty strong today and I thought the race was shaping up OK for us. We had a good first pit stop and I thought we were headed down the right path. Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) was about equal to us. I thought we were maybe a little better than Alex (Rossi), but we were struggling to get around (Jack) Harvey at that point. And Hinch said the same: he had a ton of straightline speed. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. It was a shame to get a puncture when we did. We've been on a little string of bad luck the last few races – the end of last year and to kick off this year – but hopefully, it will turn around in a hurry. I'm excited and happy with what I saw though. Our competitiveness this weekend versus last year here is definitely better. My hopes and expectations are pretty high."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda):
"It wasn't the weekend the No.18 SealMaster Honda team was looking for. A tough deal. No qualifying yesterday with a car that seemed to be pretty quick, then unfortunately, we had a non-team related issue with the car which took us out of the race. Really a shame, but we'll regroup, keep working and see what we can do next race."

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 David Yurman Honda):
"I can't thank the No. 19 David Yurman, Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing team enough. We found something in morning warmup that was unexpected and we made it work in the race. Our engineer, Michael Cannon, called a brilliant strategy and I had to do a lot of fuel saving, to say the least. We kept it clean and in the top 10 and that was the goal. I'm really happy with today's result, especially considering where we started."

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet):
"It's been a frustrating weekend so far. We had the pace to be at the front in qualifying. Then today, the guys gave me a great race car. We had to take risks to get forward quickly. I made it from 16th to ninth, then I just tried to get a run on (James) Hinchcliffe unfortunately I clipped the inside wall in Turn 9 and that was it. I'm sorry for the team; they did great work and they deserved a better result."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):
"Overall, it was a fairly frustrating first half of the race. I got shuffled back at the start and we really didn't find our groove until later on. After that, we were able to make up some ground and gain some positions. Overall, we definitely have come away with a lot of things in mind to improve on for next time out at COTA. I appreciate all the support from Autogeek and my guys. We'll try our best to fight up higher on the grid in a couple of weeks."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet):
"I had a fantastic time out there. The Menards Chevy was phenomenal today. It was really unfortunate that we didn't have an opportunity to put a lap down in (the qualifying session) yesterday, which put us way back on the starting grid. Being able to come up through the field with this high level of competition was pretty amazing. The No. 22 crew was on it today making great calls and executing fast pit stops. We're off to a great start for 2019."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Carlin Chevrolet): "It was a disappointing result from a day with a lot of promise, but I can't thank the No. 23 crew enough. The No. 23 Tresiba® Carlin Chevrolet was quick all day carrying over from qualifying yesterday. We just got caught out and knocked the front flap off on one of those restarts. Even though the restarts are pretty frantic, you really have to make the most of them with it being so hard to pass around here. It was just unfortunate. We had to come in and change the front wing putting us a lap down, but we kept fighting and learned a lot about the car and what we need to do on the next street circuit."

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda):
"Obviously, not the day that we wanted. It just seemed to be a bit of a messy race – not on our part, but in general. We made a change overnight with the car that I think may have made things a little more complicated. We got hit into Turn 1 by (Takuma) Sato at some point and that kind of shuffled us back, and that's where we ended up running. I feel we did what we could with what we had today. I'm thankful for all the work the guys put in and happy to have the support from Gainbridge here. I'm looking forward to going on to COTA – if you have one bad one a year, we got ours out of the way up front."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): "It was really all we had, pretty much where we started. It's good for points, but it's disappointing (because) you always come to races wanting a win. It was a good setup in the race, I just think we were one step behind our competition. We found the optimal setup, or at least a car that I was comfortable with, but we need to be a little more on top of it. Nonetheless, a good recovery by the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport boys."

"We just gradually lost power today. Honda has been doing such a great job for us. They give us tremendous powerplants and great drivability, so we'll have to go back and look at it. We definitely had a lot of positives this weekend for the DHL team. It's unfortunate. Somehow, we have to avoid the bad luck and we'll make a run for the championship. This one definitely stings. It's going to put us behind the eight ball in points. We'll figure it out. I have a great team behind me, and we'll keep soldiering on. I have to thank all the fans for coming out and supporting us though – the NTT IndyCar Series has the best fans."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic / Seeman Holtz Honda): "Everyone was on the same tire strategy. I think it's the first time since Firestone brought out the red (alternate) tire that everyone chose to start on the same one, which means it was quite difficult to make a different strategy. Having said that, we made good progress. I overtook a few cars on the start and restarts, as well on track. We were steadily moving up the field and it was looking good for us. We weren't the most competitive, but we were definitely moving up the field, which was positive. In the end, I am obviously disappointed not to finish. The boys worked so hard for us, it's a shame not to finish it. COTA is the next race for us and we had a positive test. It's a very dynamic course and I am looking forward to it."

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): "It was a very long day, but it was nice to finish on a high, if you can call it a high. On our last stint, the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet showed good pace and good fuel save, but the weekend just didn't go where we wanted it to. I made a mistake halfway through the race and went into the runoff area, but we got back going fairly quickly and only lost one spot. The second half of the race was actually pretty decent, but to get a good result here you have to get to the front and stay at the front to have a good race."

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM MSR w/ Arrow SPM Honda):
"As a whole, it's been a really successful weekend. We had our best finishing position and our best qualifying position. Naturally, when you qualify well the hope is that it will transfer into the race. We can't say it didn't because we got our best race finish, but we definitely lacked some pace. The guys did a great job this weekend, we qualified seventh and finished 10th. We said prior to the season that we wanted to qualify in the top 12 and finish in the top ten, so by our own standards that was a great race."

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda):
What an up and down race. We had a pretty poor start to the race. I bumped the wall after a restart and lost quite a bit of positions. We were all the way down in 17th position at one point. After that, we just had really great pace and were able to start making up positions when everyone was in the pits. An eighth-place finish isn't too bad for the first race of the season. The Harding Steinbrenner Racing guys did a great job this weekend and I'm very happy with the No. 88 Latitude Vacation Club car. Can't wait for next weekend.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): "It was the toughest-fought 13th we've had in a while. We had to overcome qualifying and it's just so hard to pass. You have to be flying in order to overtake. We got some guys but not enough. Then we got the flat tire and that was the nail in the coffin. We had a bit too much understeer for (the Firestone red tire) alternate pace, but the big killer was qualifying and then losing ground to that tire."


Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Led ST Engine Points Team
1 2 Josef Newgarden 110 0.0000s 0.000s 60 2 Chevy 53 Team Penske
2 9 Scott Dixon 110 2.8998 2.8998 0 4 Honda 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
3 12 Will Power 110 12.7442 9.8444 17 1 Chevy 37 Team Penske
4 10 Felix Rosenqvist 110 14.5858 1.8416 31 3 Honda 33 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
5 27 Alexander Rossi 110 18.3616 3.7758 2 6 Honda 31 Andretti Autosport
6 5 James Hinchcliffe 110 31.1596 12.7980 0 9 Honda 28 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 22 Simon Pagenaud 110 31.4401 0.2805 0 13 Chevy 26 Team Penske
8 88 Colton Herta 110 40.4700 9.0299 0 11 Honda 24 Harding Steinbrenner Racing
9 19 Santino Ferrucci 110 57.6029 17.1329 0 23 Honda 22 Dale Coyne Racing
10 60 Jack Harvey 110 59.1909 1.5880 0 7 Honda 20 Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM
11 21 Spencer Pigot 110 62.6866 3.4957 0 16 Chevy 19 Ed Carpenter Racing
12 15 Graham Rahal 109 1 LAPS 9.2522 0 10 Honda 18 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
13 98 Marco Andretti 109 1 LAPS 4.2923 0 17 Honda 17 Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
14 26 Zach Veach 109 1 LAPS 1.3930 0 14 Honda 16 Andretti Autosport
15 14 Tony Kanaan 109 1 LAPS 13.6770 0 21 Chevy 15 AJ Foyt Enterprises
16 59 Max Chilton 109 1 LAPS 2.0460 0 24 Chevy 14 Carlin
17 23 Charlie Kimball 109 1 LAPS 8.6871 0 8 Chevy 13 Carlin
18 81 Ben Hanley 108 2 LAPS 1 LAPS 0 12 Chevy 12 DragonSpeed
19 30 Takuma Sato 75 13 LAPS 11 LAPS 0 20 Honda 11 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
20 7 Marcus Ericsson 54 49.2059 2.9329 0 18 Honda 10 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport
21 20 Ed Jones 25 5.1209 0.2905 0 15 Chevy 9 Ed Carpenter Racing
22 4 Matheus Leist 25 9.7609 0.7854 0 22 Chevy 8 AJ Foyt Enterprises
23 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 19 13.8595 3.8722 0 5 Honda 7 Andretti Autosport
24 18 Sebastien Bourdais 11 27.1753 1.8121 0 19 Honda 6 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

Race Statistics

Winner's average speed: 95.572 mph

Time of Race: 2:04:18.2588

Margin of victory: 2.8998 seconds

Cautions: 2 for 11 laps

Lead changes: 8 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Power, Will 1 – 12

Rosenqvist, Felix 13 – 15

Newgarden, Josef 16

Rossi, Alexander 17 – 18

Power, Will 19 – 23

Rosenqvist, Felix 24 – 50

Newgarden, Josef 51 – 79

Rosenqvist, Felix 80

Newgarden, Josef 81 – 110

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 53, Dixon 40, Power 37, Rosenqvist 33, Rossi 31, Hinchcliffe 28, Pagenaud 26, Herta 24, Ferrucci 22, Harvey 20.

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