Josef Newgarden took his first victory as a Team Penske driver as he held off the charge of Scott Dixon to win at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday.
It was the second time in three years that the young American has been victorious at the Alabama circuit, but for Dixon it is the fifth time that he has finished second, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver coming up just short again.
But Will Power’s dreadful start to the year continued as the long time race leader was forced to hit pit lane with a dozen laps to go with a deflating tyre that saw him fall completely out of contention. Power had led 60 of the 90 laps but ultimately found himself finishing fourteenth.
Newgarden was in feisty form during the day, making good overtakes, with the most important coming just after the final round of pit stops to jump Dixon at the penultimate turn for what was then second, and when Power disappeared from in front of him, he maintained control of the race, winning by 1.0495 seconds.
Simon Pagenaud completed the podium, only 2.5706 seconds off the winner, but the reigning series champion and defending race winner was never truly in the fight for the win all afternoon.
Helio Castroneves made it three Penske machines in the top four, and had it not been for the tyre issue for Power, the team should have had all of their cars in the top five, however the luck is currently not on Power’s side.
Alexander Rossi drove strongly to move from eighteenth on the grid to fight through to fifth for Andretti Herta Autosport, finishing just behind Castroneves, while James Hinchcliffe started and finished sixth for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport.
Hinchcliffe was aiming for consecutive race victories after triumphing at Long Beach two weeks ago, but the Canadian fell back behind Rossi as he attacked Pagenaud ahead of him, and ultimately ended up 0.5436 seconds down on the American.
Tony Kanaan finished seventh for Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of championship leader Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing, who retains the lead but by a reduced margin of six points heading out of Barber.
The top ten was completed by Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato and by Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, who overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay for that position on the final lap of the race.
The race was neutralised twice, the first for debris on the opening lap that came off the front of Hunter-Reay’s car after a clash on the run to turn four with Hinchcliffe that hit the front of Ed Jones’ car and forced the Dale Coyne Racing driver to hit the pit lane for repairs, while the second was for a spin exiting the hairpin for Spencer Pigot, who was looking strong up to that point for Ed Carpenter Racing, running inside the top ten.
There was also disappointment for Marco Andretti, who after a strong start to the weekend was forced to pit before the race started with a gearbox issue that left him three laps down when he finally got on track.
Barber Motorsports Park Race Result
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