After taking his first Superspeedway win in the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden has stated that his #2 Chevrolet was “a rocket ship.” Newgarden’s team put him on a strategy that saw him get out into the lead in the closing stages of the race having spent much of the event being held up in the lower reaches of the top ten.
In years past, Penske have shown massively impressive speed on the high-banks of Texas Motor Speedway. Just twelve months ago, the three Penske drivers locked out the top three places on the grid. However, this year looked to be more of a challenge for the team.
In qualifying, Newgarden’s team-mate Simon Pagenaud would lead the trio of Penske drivers. However, Pagenaud was fifth on the grid, with Newgarden seventh and Will Power all the way down in fifteenth. After the session, Josef would simply blame his poor grid position on a lack of speed in qualifying trim. The American was optimistic of better pace in the race, however.
“It was an alright day,” Newgarden said on Friday, “Not enough speed today. It seemed like once it came time to go fast, we were a little short. The car feels great, though, and I think we’re going to have a great race car. The Chevy engine feels awesome in the pack and it’s fun to have Fitzgerald USA back. Hopefully, we’ll have a great race for these guys this weekend. I feel confident and I think we’re going to have a great race car for tomorrow night.”
For a vast majority of the race, Newgarden remained in the lower half of the top ten. Whilst other drivers such as Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta were able to pass cars out on the track, it looked to be a touch more difficult for Josef.
Deep into the latter half of the race, however, Newgarden’s race took a turn for the better. Newgarden’s strategist and the Penske president, Tim Cindric, elected to pit Josef a few laps earlier than those around him to try and undercut the drivers ahead of him using the fresher tyres. The plan worked an absolute treat, with Newgarden pumping in fantastic laps during the remaining laps of the pit cycle to hold onto the lead when the other leaders made their final stops.
Now with track position, Newgarden’s pace looked much stronger. However, he still had the threat of drivers behind; especially on the numerous race restarts towards the end of the race following the accidents for James Hinchcliffe as well as Colton Herta and Scott Dixon; with all three having been in contention for the win up until their retirements.
Following the caution for Herta and Dixon’s incident, the race would be restarted with thirteen laps to go. Newgarden got a great initial getaway and got out of range from an attack from second-placed Rossi into the first corner. Soon, however, Rossi would regroup and begin his assault.
With seven laps to go, Rossi had his best shot at passing Newgarden. He briefly edged his nose ahead on the run into turn one, but Newgarden stuck his car firmly on the inside line for the first two corners and would retain the lead. In the end, Rossi couldn’t quite find a way to complete a pass on Josef. Newgarden would cross the line to take his third win of the season and his first at Texas Motor Speedway; also his first on the Superspeedway variant of track.
The win follows up Josef’s victories earlier this season at St. Petersburg and Detroit. All three of his race wins came off of the back of superb strategic calls from his pit-box. After the race on Saturday night, Newgarden would acknowledge the fantastic work his crew have been doing so far this year.
“It’s these guys [on the crew], man, they keep putting me out front [and] I’m just trying to get it done at the end,” Newgarden said, “How about this Fitzgerald car; it looked good. It was good to have the Fitzgeralds here tonight.
“I knew we had a rocket ship and it was all about getting in the front. We were better in the front than we were in the back. We knew if we could get some (track) position we would be OK. Team Chevy doing a great job for us. A good day to capitalize on some points. These guys put me in position so it’s all up to them.”
Josef was then asked about his battle with Rossi at the end of the race. Josef said that he knew he had a fight on his hands due to the sheer speed of Rossi’s car in dirty air, but he was happy with the top-end speed of his Chevrolet engine and its ability to keep him ahead of Alexander.
“He [Rossi] was fast,” Josef exclaimed, “Honestly, he ran a great race. Both him and [Scott] Dixon ran me really fair at the end. It was hard to get away on the restart; that was my biggest concern was getting a jump getting going again. [Rossi] was good, man, he was just hard to hold off. He was so good in dirty air. I saw him earlier in the race and how good he was behind people.
“I knew it was going to be tough, really tough, but you saw the speed I had on the front stretch to hold him off, so thanks to Team Chevy. It was a good day in Texas, man. I’m glad we finally figured this place out. It’s been a while.”
As a result of his win on Saturday, Newgarden has now won on every type and sub-type of racing track in the NTT IndyCar Series. He has won on road courses and street circuits and has now also won on both standard speedways and superspeedways on the oval side of the schedule.
Josef spoke after the race of how he was happy to finally get a win at Texas after having come close in previous seasons.
“You know, we’ve been close here before, not necessarily at the end of the race,” Josef concluded, “I know we’ve had good cars here before and have not been able to make it happen and one thing happens or another. To just finally figure it out has been great.“
Newgarden now holds a lead of twenty-five points over Rossi in the championship standings. We are now over halfway through the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, with the next race taking place in just under two weeks time at Road America on Sunday, June 23.