Josef Newgarden had a new experience at Barber Motorsport Park as he took his first win in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Newgarden took the decisive lead on lap 70 of 90 and held on for 20 laps with Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon all over the back of the CFH Racing driver, but alas they couldn’t get through and had to settle for second and third respectively.
However, that makes it all sound far too easy for Newgarden and ignores the monumental battle he had with Helio Castroneves throughout the first half of the race generally involving small errors in the pits.
First off, Castroneves’ pit crew dropped a wheel nut in his tyre change and Newgarden went through – until the second round of pit stops when the Carpenter Fischer Hartman racer was too hesitant leaving his pit box and saw the Team Penske driver sail back past into the lead.
Unfortunately for Castroneves, he had to make a late stop to take on a splash of fuel and he had to settle for a lowly 15th place just behind team mate Juan Pablo Montoya.
Back at the front, the hardest charger was eventual runner up Graham Rahal. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver had a long middle stint on the harder black tyres until he made it to lap 69 and put on the soft red-walled tyres and charged up the top ten and battled with Scott Dixon.
No matter how hard he tried, Newgarden was an obstacle too many for the younger Rahal and Newgarden held on to take the first victory for CFH.
He said: “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.”
With Rahal second and Dixon third, Will Power was the first man to miss out on a podium in fourth but was just ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz.
It wasn’t a particularly good showing for the rookies in Alabama with the five rookies taking up the last eight places on track. Gabby Chaves was the highest placed finisher in 16th with Francesco Dracone finishing dead last.