Josef Newgarden is confident that he would have had an answer for Sebastien Bourdais in the closing stages of the rain-delayed Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber, even if the latter hadn’t been forced into a late stop for wet tires.
Bourdais had been attempting a one-stopper before a downpour in the closing laps necessitated an unscheduled visit to the pits, dropping him out of contention and ultimately relegating him to fifth.
A few laps earlier, he’d appeared a threat to leapfrog Newgarden when the two-stopping Team Penske driver opted for an early switch to wets, but Newgarden is unconvinced that the Frenchman’s strategy would have paid off regardless of the conditions.
“I don’t know if [Bourdais] would have made it in one stop, to be honest,” Newgarden said. “If the rain didn’t come out, I think he might have struggled to stretch it and had to slow too much. It’s just a different situation. We were working on building the gap. He was working on saving fuel.
“But the rain is what changed the whole thing because you could have been running a lot faster till the end. We would have gotten more laps in because it was against the time clock. I think he would have struggled to make that work a lot more if it stayed dry.”
Despite Bourdais falling out of contention during the closing laps, Newgarden said that the Frenchman’s apparent gamble made sense given where he was in the race.
“They were making [their slicks] work as long as they could,” he said. “But then you saw it got to a point where it’s too wet. He was [just] about wrecking every lap. I mean, we could have stayed out and risked it like them too, but for us it made no sense. We had everything to lose. They had everything to gain. So I don’t blame them with what they did.
“If it stopped raining, we just would have been in bad luck then. It would have been their race to win if it stopped raining at that point, because they would have been able to make it work.
“But it was just a matter of how much water is going to come. That’s the biggest thing. We were racing the weather. If you listened to my radio, that was what Tim [Cindric] was saying: “We’re racing the weather right now. We’re not racing anyone else.” The rain was either going to come more and work out for us, or it wasn’t. Fortunately, it just kept coming down, and the more it came down, the more it just played into our hands.”
Newgarden goes into the GP of Indy as the new championship leader courtesy of his win on Monday, 13 points ahead of Alexander Rossi.