By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin — Josef Newgarden was forced to keep challengers at bay throughout a caution-free 55 laps at Road America.
He did so with ease.
Newgarden surged to the early lead from pole and held the top spot through varying pit strategies to win Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix. The victory was Newgarden’s 10th-career Verizon IndyCar Series win, and his third triumph of 2018.
It also served as a healthy dose of redemption for the Tennessean after falling just short of victory at Road America in 2017.
“I have wanted to win here since last year,” Newgarden said afterward. “I felt like we had a car that could win then, and it just didn’t happen. This Chevrolet has been a rocket all weekend, but it was not easy. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was quick and I knew (Scott) Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.”
The stat sheet would say that Newgarden dominated in IndyCar’s annual trip to Wisconsin. He led 53 of 55 laps and surrendered the top spot only during pit sequences. But the Team Penske ace’s winning effort was far from easy.
Newgarden was left to carry the torch alone for Chevrolet at the front of the field on Sunday. Teammate Will Power qualified second, but early power issues brought the Australian to pit road and ended his race after just two laps. No other Bowtie contended for the win during the 55-lap event, leaving Newgarden alone against a large swath of Hondas.
The strongest of those Hondas was Hunter-Reay. The Belle Isle winner made his way to second over the early part of the event, and spent the second half of the race stalking Newgarden around the 4.048-mile road course.
The 2012 IndyCar champion kept Newgarden within range for the entire finishing section of the race, but ultimately proved unable to to complete the pass. He ultimately slotted in second, scoring his fourth podium of 2018 – a mark that’s already better than he managed in each of the past three seasons.
Scott Dixon continued his consistent 2018 campaign with a third-place result in Road America after methodically advancing through the field during each pit sequence. Takuma Sato and Robert Wickens rounded out the top five, with Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe making up the back half of the top 10.
Championship hopefuls Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi each saw their days set back by issues over the course of the event. Bourdais was forced to pit before the field hit Lap 10 after his No. 18 Honda encountered a malfunctioning gear control unit. The issue forced a lengthy pit stop as his Dale Coyne Racing team recycled his power unit, trapping the St. Petersburg winner deep in the field. He could only salvage a 13th-place run at race’s end.
Rossi found himself in contention for the race win early on, but a left-front steering issue forced the Californian to pit road during the middle stages of the event. The lengthy stop that ensued dropped Rossi outside of the top 10, ultimately resulting in a 16th-place finish.
IndyCar newcomer Alfonso Celis Jr. ended a quiet debut in 20th for Juncos Racing.
The IndyCar Seres will return to action at Iowa Speedway on July 8.
- Josef Newgarden
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Scott Dixon
- Takuma Sato
- Robert Wickens
- Graham Rahal
- Simon Pagenaud
- Spencer Pigot
- Ed Jones
- James Hinchcliffe
- Marco Andretti
- Jordan King
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Tony Kanaan
- Matheus Leist
- Alexander Rossi
- Max Chilton
- Charlie Kimball
- Gabby Chaves
- Alfonso Celis Jr.
- Zach Veach
- Will Power