Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden has won the 2018 KOHLER Grand Prix after a truly dominant performance at Road America. The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion started the race from pole position and went on to lead all but two of the fifty-five lap race distance en-route to his third win of the 2018 season.
Drama struck straight away on the opening lap. As Newgarden drove away in the lead of the race, his team-mate Will Power immediately began to fall down the order after having qualified on the front-row. The Australian was suffering major engine issues in his #12 Chevrolet, issues that would soon confine him to the garage.
Penske tried to get the Indianapolis 500 winner back out on the track, but eventually, it was decided that they would retire from the race. It was a disappointing blow for Will, who could have earned a lot of points in the race had he been able to capitalise on his strong qualification.
Power’s misfortune gave second place to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who managed to stay within a second of Newgarden for much of the early stages of the race. However, later on in the race, Josef began to slowly increase the gap between him and Ryan. It became apparent in the last few laps that Newgarden may have just been cruising for much of the race, as he suddenly put the power down and extended his gap by multiple seconds during the final run to the chequered flag.
It was a faultless performance from Newgarden and the #1 Penske crew. The pit-crew executed their three pit-stops perfectly, allowing Josef to race virtually unchallenged all afternoon. Newgarden’s late burst of speed in the final laps meant that he would cross the line to win the race with a 3.3-second lead over his nearest rival. The result ended what has been a dominant weekend at Road America for Josef, with the American having only failed to finish on the top of the leaderboards in just one session; third practice on Saturday.
The victory is Newgarden’s third of the season, having previously won earlier in the year at ISM Raceway and Barber Motorsports Park. It is also his tenth victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series and his seventh whilst driving for Team Penske.
Ryan Hunter-Reay ran in second place for almost the same amount of time that Newgarden led the race for. It was a great drive for the American in the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda, who seems to have really upped his game over the last few races. He will head to the next race at Iowa full of confidence, as a result, especially considering that he has won at the speedway on three occasions previously.
Scott Dixon put in a solid performance to go from eighth on the grid to a strong third-place finish. As a result, he further extends his championship lead over his immediate rivals, most of which had a tough day at the office.
Takuma Sato finished just shy of the podium in fourth place, his best finish of the season so far in the #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. It was a good day for the team, with Sato’s team-mate Graham Rahal finishing not far behind in sixth place. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports‘ rookie Robert Wickens put in a good effort to split the pair, taking fifth place in the #5 Honda.
Penske’s Simon Pagenaud put a disappointing qualifying result behind him to take seventh place. It was a decent recovery for the Frenchman, who had started outside the top ten in twelfth place. Simon overtook Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot on the final lap, with the American having to settle for eighth place. Nevertheless, it was a great result for Spencer, as it was his second top ten finish of the 2018 season so far.
Ed Jones took ninth place for Chip Ganassi Racing, with James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top ten in his #5 Schmidt Peterson Honda. Marco Andretti and Jordan King were just outside of the top ten in eleventh and twelfth respectively. After starting the race in sixth place, Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais could do no better than thirteenth place after suffering an electrical issue on an early pit-stop.
Further back, Alexander Rossi had been up inside the top five for much of the race and was having a combative race with numerous battles. His forceful driving against Wickens and Sato drew the attention of fans and race control after Alexander pushed both drivers off of the track when they were on his outside trying to pass. However, on both occasions race control ruled that he had done no wrong.
Ultimately, Rossi’s hard work would fail to yield a strong result. The Californian suffered a puncture on lap thirty-eight and would be forced to make a lengthy pit-stop whilst his team repaired his #27 Honda. He would get back out on the track, but he would finish down in sixteenth; a disastrous day considering that a top-five finish would have earned him a great number of championship points.
Both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball were unable to take Carlin towards the top ten. After a weekend where the British team struggled to find speed, the pair would finish as the final two drivers on the lead lap down in seventeenth and eighteenth. Gabby Chaves was the first driver to finish a lap down, with the Harding Racing car finishing in nineteenth place.
Mexican driver Alfonso Celis Jr. finished his first Verizon IndyCar Series event in twentieth place for Juncos Racing. Zachary Claman De Melo was just behind in twenty-first after the Canadian pulled off an impressive save after almost hitting the wall on the exit of turn one.
Zach Veach had been having a reasonable race weekend until his #26 Andretti Honda developed an issue on the right-rear toe-link. The team managed to repair the issue, but when the rookie exited the pit-lane, he did so right onto the racing line ahead of the race leaders. This earned him a drive-through penalty, which pushed him down to an eventual twenty-second place finish. The only driver classified behind him was the only retiree of the race; the aforementioned Will Power.
With ten rounds of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series in the books, Scott Dixon now holds a lead of forty-five points over both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in the championship; with Hunter-Reay’s strong last few races moving him up into contention.
Newgarden’s win today moves him ahead of team-mate Power into fourth place in the standings, with Power hoping to bounce back at the next round of the 2018 season.
The next race, the 2018 Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, will take place in two weeks time on Sunday, July 8.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – KOHLER Grand Prix – Race results:
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