Newgarden retakes championship lead with Detroit race one victory

5 Mins read
Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

Josef Newgarden has won the first race of the weekend at the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader. Newgarden’s Team Penske crew pitted him to switch from wet tyres to dries just a caution came out, with Josef holding on the rest of the way to take the chequered flag. Newgarden’s win puts him back into the lead of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series ahead of tomorrow’s second race at the Belle Isle Street Circuit.

The start of the race was delayed by almost two hours due to severe rainfall. Thankfully, the standing water that littered the Belle Isle Street Circuit cleared enough for the race to be run; albeit reduced to a seventy-five minute timed race.

After claiming pole position for the race earlier in the day, Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi led the way in the early stages of the race, with the conditions proving utterly treacherous as cars slipped around the circuit.

Due to the concrete racing surface, the track dried up very quickly. With fifty-minutes to go, Marco Andretti took the gamble from the back of the order to pit for dry tyres. The ensuing laps were spectacular to watch, as Andretti somehow kept his car out of the barriers. Soon after, Andretti’s pace bettered as the changeover for wet to dry tyres officially arrived.

Slap bang in the middle of the pit-stop cycle for dry tyres, Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa driver, Ed Jones, would hit the wall and bring out the full course caution. Simultaneously, Team Penske were sending Newgarden on his way after a pit-stop for dry tyres. With Josef being the first of the leaders to pit, he was handed a major advantage, as the remaining race leaders would have to make their pit-stops under the caution period.

After the pit-stop cycle was completed under caution, Newgarden would find himself in the lead of the race ahead of the previous race-leader Rossi and Scott Dixon; who had been stalking Rossi for the entire opening stages of the race.

The green flag would come back out with just over half an hour of racing remaining, but the yellow would soon be displayed once again after Dixon made a shockingly uncharacteristic mistake. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver clipped the wall on the inside of turn seven, with the contact immediately breaking Scott’s right-front steering arm. He would hit the wall on the outside of the corner and would retire from a race for the first time in over two years.

Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

Yet another caution would come heading into the final twenty-two minutes of the race when Matheus Leist crashed at the end of the back straight. The race would restart for the final time with twelve minutes remaining, with race-leader Newgarden and second-placed Rossi sprinting away from the pursuing pack in the next few laps.

For the final few laps of the race, it would be a straight-up duel between Newgarden and Rossi. The pair were separated by no more than eight-tenths of a second throughout the final ten minutes. Newgarden appeared to be stronger for the first half of the lap, whilst Rossi would claw time back in the latter half.

The gap between the race-leaders would remain virtually equidistant as the race entered its final lap. Both drivers had burned through their push-to-pass, but Rossi was unable to find a way to get by Newgarden. The track was still very wet off of the racing line, meaning that it would have been very dangerous for Alexander to make a move for the lead.

As a result, after a thrilling seventy-five minutes of racing, Josef Newgarden would cross the line to take the win in the first race of the weekend at the Detroit Grand Prix, with the Penske driver taking the chequered flag with an eight-tenth advantage over second-placed Rossi.

The win would be Newgarden’s second of the season, following up his victory at the season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg back in March. Newgarden led the championship all the way until the conclusion of last weekend’s Indianapolis 500, where his team-mate Simon Pagenaud would take the lead by a single point. After today’s win, however, Newgarden has now jumped back into the title lead by twenty-five points. He will hope to be back on the podium again tomorrow to try and hold his championship advantage leaving Detroit.

For the second race in a row, Rossi would have to settle for second-place. The Californian would rue the unfortunately timed caution prior to his pit-stop for dry tyres, but the race was nonetheless a decent haul of points for Alexander. He will want to take pole position and go one step higher on the podium tomorrow.

The final few minutes of the race saw a massive train take shape behind third-placed Takuma Sato. After some daring overtakes throughout the race, Sato worked his way from ninth on the grid into third place. However, he did not look to have the same pace in the closing stages, as a train of over ten cars formed behind him.

Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

Due to the tricky track conditions off of the racing line, Sato would be able to hold on to third place for the second race in a row. Ganassi’s rookie, Felix Rosenqvist would finish right on the tail of Sato to equal his best NTT IndyCar Series result to date; with Felix ending the race less than impressed with Sato after the pair made contact whilst duelling in the final laps.

The top five would be completed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who benefitted massively from the caution during the tyre changeover period. Hunter-Reay had spun early in the race and had toppled down the order, so to recover and take a top-five finish was a great comeback for the Andretti driver.

Sixth-place would go the way of last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, who put on a great show to move up from thirteenth on the grid. Seventh-place would be Graham Rahal, closely pursued by Zach Veach, who would take his best finish of the season so far in eighth place despite spinning on the formation lap and being forced to start the race from the back of the pack.

James Hinchcliffe and Spencer Pigot would round out the top ten of the first race at Belle Isle, with Sebastien Bourdais just outside in eleventh-place. Despite starting in fifth place, Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta would fall down the order to twelfth-place, but he will at least be glad to have ended his run of five consecutive race retirements in the lead up to Detroit. He was closely followed by fellow rookies Marcus Ericsson and Patricio O’Ward, who finished in thirteenth and fourteenth respectively.

Further back, Marco Andretti’s gamble to be the first to switch onto the dry tyres did not pay off. During the all-important caution at the tyre changeover point, series officials elected not to bunch the pack up before opening the pit-lane. This meant that the leaders had all pitted before Andretti joined the pack, negating the advantage he may have had by staying out and jumping the pitting cars. His team subsequently pitted him to ensure he had enough fuel to finish, relegating Marco to an eventual finish of sixteenth place.

It was a torrid day in Detroit for Penske’s Will Power. After a mistake in qualifying relegated him to a grid spot deep in the mid-field, Power had charged through into the top five prior to the pit-stop phase. Sadly, the race would be thrown away after a fumbled pit-stop saw Power leave the pits with a loose front-right wheel. He would be forced to crawl around with three wheels on his wagon, with Will going on to finish the race way down in eighteenth place.

Santino Ferrucci would finish as the final driver on the lead-lap in nineteenth place. Ferrucci was another driver who pitted early for dry tyres but failed to reap the rewards when the field was not packed up prior to the yellow flag pit-stops. After his aforementioned crash early in the race, Ed Jones would finish in twentieth place as the final runner at the chequered flag, one lap down on the race leaders.

The two retirements from the first race in Detroit were Matheus Leist and, shockingly, Scott Dixon. Both drivers were unable to rejoin the race following their incidents. Both, especially Dixon, will be seeking redemption in the second race of the weekend tomorrow.

Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Detroit Grand Prix – Race one results:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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