A perfectly timed pitstop before a full course caution put Josef Newgarden in position to become the first repeat winner of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
The race started in wet conditions and was dominated early by polesitter Will Power with teammate Simon Pagenaud holding steady in second place. The track dried out rather quickly and the field pitted for dry tires after just 11 laps of racing. Power re-assumed the lead once the queue cycled around but now had Pagenaud right on his tail and stalked his teammate over the course of the stint.
James Jakes crashed into the tire barrier in turn 5 on lap 29 which brought out the full course caution. Newgarden and Carlos Munoz elected to pit just before the caution flag came out and with a round of pit stops ahead for the rest of the leaders, they found themselves in the catbirds seat to pick up some valuable track position.
Power brought the majority of the field down pit road as Helio Castroneves picked up the lead as he elected to stay out with Newgarden and Munoz as well as Rodolfo Gonzalez. Castroneves was on a strategy all on his own while Newgarden and Munoz were in good shape as they only had 3 laps less fuel on board then the rest of the pack.
Castroneves pulled away on the restart and held the lead until the second yellow flag flew on lap 41 for debris from Stefano Coletti’s #4 Chevrolet. The yellow brought Castroneves and Gonzalez down pit road which moved Newgarden to the lead.
The Tennessean showed what he was made of on the restart and put on a clinic during the final half of the race, but had one more pitstop to deal with as well as CFH Racing teammate Luca Filippi to deal with. Filippi had been running in the top 5 steadily all day and was ready to pounce.
Newgarden made his final stop on lap 64 and cycled back around to the front of the pack as Dale Coyne Racing’s Rodolfo Gonzalez inherited the lead on an alternate strategy. The Venezuelan held the lead but was not on the same pace as the leaders which brought the separated field back together and brought Filippi right on Newgarden’s tail.
Gonzalez eventually pitted on lap 73 which then handed the lead back over to Newgarden, who had a comfortable lead over his teammate. FIlippi proved to have nothing for his teammate and Newgarden survived a few slides in the misting track conditions to take the win.
“I can’t believe we did a 1-2 there,” said Newgarden. “I got a little close there with Luca (Filippi) but we were just trying to keep up and after we got into the final stint I got into a little bit of lapped traffic and I couldn’t do anything with lap traffic. They really wanted me to because of everyone that was coming. It was close racing but for sure too, I got a little lucky and you have to look at that.
“I got lucky on that yellow. It was a great call though and you can’t discount it that it was a great call by the team. It was an amazing effort by this team and the crew who gave me amazing pit stops. We were disappointed by qualifying because we knew we had a fast car.
“I am so happy to get a win, but a 1-2 is just amazing. Luca is just such a star and it was just amazing for us that he could get a second place as well. We gave this team a 1-2 their first year together and that is just an amazing job by everyone and so happy for the whole group.”
Filippi completes the first 1-2 sweep for CFH Racing in the re christened team’s short existence and is a nice recovery for the team after a double DNF at Texas. Castroneves’ strategy call elevated him to a third place finish followed by Will Power, who never led the race after the yellow flag jumbled the order. Sebastien Bourdais claimed his third top 5 finish of the season and was followed by Tony Kanaan in sixth place.
Point leader Juan Pablo Montoya survived a few close moments on track including a chunk of debris flying off of Kanaan’s car and striking his right on the nose. Montoya continued on and finished in seventh place.
Rounding out the top ten were Scott Dixon in eighth, Graham Rahal carrying the flag for Honda in ninth and Takuma Sato in tenth place. Simon Pagenaud ended the day in 11th place after running in second place for much of the day and was followed by Conor Daly who finished in 12th place in his final start for the foreseeable future.