Newgarden takes thrilling Texas victory

Image by Michael Levitt/LAT

Newgarden takes thrilling Texas victory

IndyCar

Newgarden takes thrilling Texas victory

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Josef Newgarden won a Wild West shootout after a thrilling late battle with Alexander Rossi to win the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The drama heightened as the 248-lap race came to a close, and reached its peak when reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was fending off rookie Colton Herta for second place. Off the exit of Turn 2, Herta, driving the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, went to dive under the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, was pinched to the white line and refused the lift as the duo entered Turn 3. The two made contact, scraping into each other and hitting the outside wall before sliding down the banking.

That incident set up a restart on Lap 235, where Newgarden came under repeated threat from Rossi for the lead. Piloting the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, Rossi tried numerous times to set up an outside pass off the exit of Turn 4, but Newgarden maintained the bottom lane and held steady to claim his first-ever victory at the 1.5-mile superspeedway and 13th of his career.

“[Rossi] was fast,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. “He ran a great race. Both him and Dixon ran me really fair at the end. It was hard to get away on the restart. That was my biggest concern — just getting the jump getting back going again. He was good, man. He was just hard to hold off. He was so good in dirty air. I saw him earlier in the race, how good he was behind people. So I knew it was going to be tough. It was going to be really tough, but you saw the speed I had on the frontstretch just to try and hold him off, so thanks to Team Chevy.

“It’s a good day at Texas. I’m glad we finally figured this place out. It’s been awhile!”

Despite starting seventh, Newgarden maintained solid track position and finally found the lead at Lap 190, relinquishing it briefly before locking down the top spot from Lap 203 to the finish. In all, he led 54 laps en route to claiming his third victory of the 2019 season and now carries a 25-point lead over Rossi after the opening nine races.

“I knew we had a rocket ship,” added Newgarden, the 2017 IndyCar champion. “We were better in the front than in the back, so I knew if we could get some position we would be okay. Team Chevy doing a great job for us; just a good day to capitalize on some points. These guys put me in position so it’s all up to them.”

Rossi made several strong runs, but Newgarden left no openings. Image by LePage/LAT

The outcome was demoralizing for Rossi, who now has three runner-up finishes over the last four races.

“I think we had a good car, and could obviously get a good run on him off of [Turns] 3 and 4,” said Rossi. “Lane two was really never there for me. We could get halfway around the outside, then would have to bail out. Could have maybe taken a bit more of risk, but it was pretty low percentage. I didn’t think a lot of guys were making it happen.

“Ultimately, then, it became about trying to beat him for the line. But we took out a lot of the tire life going in lane two there, so we just didn’t have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him.

“That sucks. I mean, I didn’t see him up front all day. All of a sudden he appears in P1, so… Obviously they’re doing a good job. He had a fast car once he got in front. Ultimately I think Scott, myself and Colton in terms of fuel mileage and where we were going were looking pretty good there ’til the end.”

The aforementioned late-race restart bunched the field and proved advantageous for Graham Rahal, who moved up from fourth to trail the top two to collect third, his first podium of the season.

Rookie Santino Ferrucci continued to demonstrate his ability after carefully navigating through the treacherous night from 18th starting position to claim a career-best fourth.

The complexion of the race started to take shape early on when pole sitter Takuma Sato ran into trouble during the first sequence of pit stops. After leading the opening 60 laps, it all came undone when he slid the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda through his pit stall and clipped a crew member on Lap 61. The chaos was worsened with a stop and go penalty for the incident, which pushed him well out of any threat of victory, and he ultimately finished 15th.

Those events allowed Ryan Hunter-Reay to charge from third to first after a commanding out lap, which saw him pass Dixon in Turn 3 on Lap 64. Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda remained a fixture among the frontrunners for much of the night, leading a total of 90 laps before being undone by fuel mileage, which cost him valuable track position and into a fifth-place finish.

The rough luck continued for James Hinchcliffe, who started eighth and was running solidly in the top five on Lap 218 when the back end of his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda kicked out and touched the outside wall before coming across the track, turning and making a heavy right side impact with the inside wall.

“We were coming up on some lapped cars, and I tried to use those lapped cars to pick on [Alexander] Rossi,” said Hinchcliffe. “We got a good run on the outside, but I just got a little bit high and got into the grey. The car pushed to the outside and then just snapped on me, tagged the right rear into the wall and just went around. My fault. I was trying to make moves at the end of the race and get a good result for the No. 5 Arrow guys, they really deserved it. We’ve had just garbage luck this year.
“The car was good, strategy was good, Arrow guys were good in the pits, just my mistake.”

Tony Kanaan finished 16th in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet but tied team owner A.J. Foyt for second place on the Indy car career starts list with 369. It also extended Kanaan’s record streak of consecutive race starts to 309.

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