Newgarden Dominates Road America

Josef Newgarden held off Ryan Hunter-Reay for the win at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]


by Paul Gohde

Josef Newgarden was the 2017 Verizon Indy Car Series champion, but his 2018 season hasn’t been going very well until today at Road America. He’s had just two wins, and one was at Barber Motorsports Park, a track quite like Road America.

Today, however, the pole-winner led 53/55 laps of the Kohler Grand Prix and held off persistent challenges from Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon to score his first Road America win; the 10th in his IndyCar career.

“I was doing everything I could to keep Ryan and Scott behind me,” he said of the duo who tailed him for the last half of the chase. “I was looking in my mirrors all day. You spend the day in the lead trying to juggle fuel mileage, tire strategy and downforce to stay in front and…you still go into the last laps about even,” said the Team Penske driver who says he needed patience to get through his rough start. “We’ve had the cars each week, and we worked hard on it one race at a time.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay started third in his Andretti Autosport Honda, behind Newgarden and Will Power and thought in the early going he might have something for the eventual winner. “I thought we had the pace during the first two stints. I should have pressured him more then, but we were on a fuel-saving program then and by the time we got to the last run we were evenly matched…I was hoping for a yellow later to help catch up,” his hope for a caution in vain as the race ran caution free.

Dixon, who started eighth for Chip Ganassi Honda, thought back to what might have been if he had qualified a bit better on Saturday. “Had we started farther up we might have done better. Will (Power) had a problem right away and slowed at the start. I couldn’t pull around him and I lost a few positions there.”

Later in the race Dixon had another shot at Hunter-Reay, but again there were problems. “I got to RHR at turn 14 on his out lap (after he came from his pit stop), but I got side-ways and lost my momentum. It was too much of a gap then, but speed-wise we were right there with them,” said the New Zealand native who may be in line for a seat with McLaren’s move to IndyCar in 2019 should rumors prove true.

Takuma Sato and Robert Wickens waged a top-five battle for position during most of the race but finished far behind the lead trio in fourth and fifth place.

Will Power shared the Team Penske front row with Newgarden but only finished two laps after problems at the start sidelined him early on with mechanical trouble.

From the outside some might have thought that a 3.375-second win might have been an easy ride for the Tennessee native who has been in IndyCar for seven years; but the winner will tell you otherwise. “I’m happy the race ended. It was hard to keep the others behind me for so many laps. We had to be perfect on mileage and pit strategy,” he explained. “It was tough, hard work, to save fuel early and still build a gap over the others. One bobble and we lose the race.”

But Newgarden did win, and perhaps those double-digit finishes of earlier in the season might be a thing of the past. So, after he took the checkered flag, he said he enjoyed the slow, four-mile drive back to the pits. “I took my time on the cool-down lap to take in the atmosphere. It was sad when this place wasn’t on the schedule. It’s an incredible atmosphere here, the people know about IndyCar racing and are very knowledgeable.”

And the day ended with good news for everyone. Road America announced that it had reached an agreement to extend the contract it has with IndyCar for three more seasons, through 2021.

Good news for all and especially welcome news for drivers like Newgarden who appreciate being here so much and winning here, too.

Notes: There had been talk in the past of Road America working with the Milwaukee Mile to co-op a race there. With the recent announcement that the Phoenix oval was off the IndyCar calendar for the future, we asked RA President and General Manager George Bruggenthies for his thoughts on the subject;I’ve looked at the Mile and it would be impossible to do IndyCar at the Mile. It would take $15-20 million to get it to IndyCar standards. We’ve talked to the team down there twice and because it’s a state-owned facility there’s other things that make it very, very difficult.”

KOHLER Grand Prix results
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Results Sunday of the KOHLER Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 4.048-mile Road America, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 55, Running
3. (8) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
4. (7) Takuma Sato, Honda, 55, Running
5. (5) Robert Wickens, Honda, 55, Running
6. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
7. (14) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 55, Running
8. (10) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 55, Running
9. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 55, Running
10. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 55, Running
11. (15) Marco Andretti, Honda, 55, Running
12. (13) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 55, Running
13. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 55, Running
14. (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 55, Running
15. (20) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 55, Running
16. (4) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
17. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 55, Running
18. (19) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 55, Running
19. (23) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 54, Running
20. (21) Alfonso Celis Jr, Chevrolet, 54, Running
21. (17) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 54, Running
22. (11) Zach Veach, Honda, 54, Running
23. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2, Mechanical

Race Statistics:

Winner’s average speed: 132.101 mph
Time of Race: 1:40:16.4165
Margin of victory: 3.3759 seconds
Cautions: 0 for 0 laps
Lead changes: 2 among 2 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden, Josef 1 – 13
Dixon, Scott 14 – 15
Newgarden, Josef 16 – 55

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
Dixon 393, Hunter-Reay 348, Rossi 348, Newgarden 343, Power 328, Rahal 278, Wickens 274, Pagenaud 255, Bourdais 235, Andretti 232.



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