Alexander Rossi secured a first Verizon IndyCar Series road course victory as he took the honours at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, but Josef Newgarden’s desire to claim a maiden championship took a blow when he crashed exiting the pit lane.
Fresh off a new contract with Andretti Herta Autosport, Rossi was the star of the race, leading for much of the afternoon, although he also received a little bit of luck when a caution period came out not long after he was forced to make an earlier than expected pit stop after an issue with his fuel hose meant he left the pits on his previous stop without the right amount of fuel on board.
For the remainder of the race, Rossi found himself shadowed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, but the New Zealander was never able to get close enough to the American, but the runners-up spot ensures he sits only three points behind Newgarden in the championship with only the season finale at Sonoma Raceway to come.
The gap to Newgarden closed because of the Team Penske driver’s misfortune, as, while exiting the pits on lap forty-six, he locked up his wheels and hit the outside wall, before being struck from behind by Sebastien Bourdais, who had nowhere to go. Proving how tricky exiting the pits was at that stage, Tony Kanaan followed Newgarden’s lead and also hit the same wall!
Newgarden returned to the pits with a damaged car, with his rear wing needing replacing, but the bigger issue was with his suspension, which required a little more attention in several more stops, and he ended the day two laps down in eighteenth position.
Completing the podium was Ryan Hunter-Reay for Andretti Autosport, who proved that the Honda-powered team had a great set-up this weekend at Watkins Glen, while Helio Castroneves kept himself in championship contention by placing fourth for Team Penske, despite almost doing what Newgarden, only just avoiding the barrier as he left the pits.
Fifth place went to Graham Rahal, who kept himself in with an outside chance of the championship with the result, but the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is ninety-four points behind Newgarden with not many more than that available!
Will Power came home sixth for Team Penske after making great gains during a couple of his pit stops, gaining five places in one and then four in the next, while Charlie Kimball finished seventh for Chip Ganassi Racing, ahead of team-mate Max Chilton, who spent the last few laps keeping Simon Pagenaud at bay despite needing to save more fuel than the Frenchman.
The top ten was rounded out by AJ Foyt Racing’s Carlos Muñoz, who finished just ahead of team-mate Conor Daly, while Spencer Pigot was twelfth having earlier led eight laps, running as he was on an alternative strategy for Ed Carpenter Racing after an early spin.
Rookie champion Ed Jones was thirteenth for Dale Coyne Racing ahead of Jack Harvey, who finished his first road course event in IndyCar with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports fourteenth ahead of JR Hildebrand, Marco Andretti, Bourdais and the beleaguered Newgarden.
Seven drivers remain in championship contention – Newgarden, Dixon, Castroneves, Pagenaud, Power, Rossi and Rahal – with just the double points finale at Sonoma to come.
Watkins Glen International Race Result
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