Had Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix at Alabama continued for a few more minutes – IndyCar’s original minimum goal of a one-hour race given the expected dreary forecast – Josef Newgarden theoretically could have collected valuable points with a win that could impact his place in the championship come September. But would it have been fair competition– and does that matter if you’re the race leader?
When asked about the value of fair competition versus running laps until the race was called, Newgarden said he didn’t want to just run out the clock.
“Look, I was calling for us to not run,” said the pole-sitter, who avoided an incident with a save on the lap 17 restart that saw teammate Will Power crash into the pit wall.
“For me, I was in the easiest situation. I was leading the race, had the best viewpoint. We do another 14 minutes under caution, we call the thing halfway from a distance standpoint, or time standpoint, sorry, we pick up the win. It’s more advantageous for us to get it in. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t think the conditions were right.
“The weather tomorrow is going to be a lot better and we’ll get a full race in. I actually don’t know what the procedure is. We’ll get rest of the race in. It will be a good show and be if a fair fight for everyone.”
After a 37-minute red flag the race was restarted under caution, but most of the drivers still couldn’t see.
“Absolutely nothing is what I was seeing, which wasn’t great,” said Alexander Rossi, who was running fourth. “Under that first yellow there, we were asked to go green again. I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. We did. Obviously the result of that was the car hydroplaning off.
“I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want. But safety is obviously a priority.
“I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.”
Newgarden agreed the decision to postpone the race was tough but the right call.
“We want to put on a good race. We want to put in a show,” he said. “So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that.
“But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were okay. You could run at that level of rain. Then it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns one and two, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form.
“Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before. It intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands.
“What happened with Will I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too.”