Josef Newgarden finished 8th in his first race for Team Penske. He followed that up with a podium finish at Long Beach. Today, he continued his improvement, as he captured his first win of the season in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Newgarden won here at Barber Motorsports Park two years ago with CFH Racing, and had another podium finish last year with ECR. On Sunday, he earned his fourth career win in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Scott Dixon also had a great day at Barber, which has become a regular occurrence. Dixon has finished on the podium in seven of the eight races here. He’s still searching for his first win at Barber, but today was the fifth time he has finished runner-up in this event. Simon Pagenaud won last year’s race, and joined his teammate and Dixon on the podium.
Dixon and Newgarden each moved up two spots in the standings, and now trail Sebastien Bourdais by six and seven points respectively, heading into next weekend’s race at Phoenix. Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five on Sunday. Rossi had a phenomenal afternoon, charging his way up from the 18th starting position.
Honda Grand Prix of Alabama Box Score
The four Penske cars were clearly on another level today. Will Power dominated most of the race, leading a total of 60 laps. Unfortunately for him, a punctured left rear tire forced him to pit from the lead on Lap 77, which ultimately ended his chance at another win at Barber. Entering today’s race, Power had finished in the top five in all seven races at Barber. That streak has ended, and now his last five race results are 20th, 20th, 19th, 13th, and 14th.
James Hinchcliffe followed up his win at Long Beach with a solid 6th place effort today. Tony Kanaan wasn’t able to secure his first top five finish at Barber, but he came close with a 7th place finish. Bourdais was able to retain his championship lead with an 8th place result, and Takuma Sato quietly brought his Andretti machine home in 9th. Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top ten, giving the SPM team a solid weekend.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s bad luck from Long Beach apparently followed him to Barber. In the opening laps of the race, he and Hinchcliffe made contact which resulted in an unscheduled pit stop to replace the front wing. His teammate Marco Andretti had problems before the race even started. Graham Rahal’s bad luck continued as well. After starting in last, he did manage to move forward, but only had a 13th place finish. He’ll look to turn things around next weekend.
Teams and drivers now have a quick turnaround. The next race on the schedule is the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on April 29. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 9 PM ET on Saturday. This is the final event before the Month of May kicks off at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “You’re racing and you just want to go as hard as you can, but we couldn’t do it. The Menards Chevy had tremendous pace at the end. We struggled a little bit at the starts, and we adjusted the car during the race. I was very happy with the reds and on blacks at the end, it was good. We lost a lot of spots when Josef (Newgarden) hit me and I went in the grass in (Turn) 5. That’s where I think we potentially lost the race win, but it is what it is. It was a good day overall. We transformed a tough start this season into good results and I think that’s the key for the championship.”
Josef Newgarden: “That was an awesome day. This is what we work for as an entire group. We always want to get one of these cars in victory lane. And, for (teammate) Will Power, I feel so bad for those boys on the 12 Verizon car – they were on it today and I feel like it would have been a great battle between Will, myself and Scott (Dixon). But it ended up just being Scott and myself. It’s a group effort here (at Team Penske) – all four of these guys work together. I’m thrilled for the (No.) 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy guys but this is a team effort with all four cars. So whoever is in victory lane – we just want to get someone there with Team Penske.”
Helio Castroneves: “With a little bit of luck with the yellow, Will (Power) cutting the tire and (James) Hinchcliffe going off, we were able to get back into the top four. The AAA Chevy was really good, actually. It was just unfortunate with the black tires which actually had good balance, but were a little bit slow. When you had the Firestone reds, it was fast but it was too loose to control. Saving fuel toward the end was a little bit hard. Congrats to Josef (Newgarden) on his first win (with Team Penske). He’s not the rookie anymore. That’s why Roger (Penske) keeps hiring young talent and we keep pushing.”
Conor Daly: “I thought that was one of the hardest fought races I’ve ever driven. I passed (Max) Chilton on the outside of Turn 13. I was super happy with that. We were making moves. We weren’t just sitting back and that was really nice to do. I felt like we had the car to attack. I was able to make some moves, had some fun, but issues outside of my control are still plaguing us. But all of that stuff comes around so hopefully, we can have things go our way at some point. Until then I’m going to still try and do my job.”
James Hinchcliffe: “I feel bad for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys. The Arrow Electronics Honda was good enough for a podium, but I tried to go around the outside of Simon (Pagenaud) on the restart and lost a couple of spots. It’s just so hard to pass – track position is everything here. I’m a bit bummed. The guys deserved a little more today, but I guess overall it’s a good thing when you’re disappointed with a sixth-place finish.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “It was a difficult race for us. It ended up pretty good; we had really good pace throughout the race. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team did a fantastic job to build the car for this race, and that’s why we were so competitive. We were a little unlucky during pit stops, but besides that, I think we had a pretty strong race. I’m really happy we finished in the top 10 and brought the team some points. We’ll take it! We’ll head home and prepare for Phoenix and be even more competitive there.”
Max Chilton: “It was a very up and down day, actually kind of an up and down weekend. We didn’t start the weekend all that great, but then we qualified well. We were pretty quick in the morning warm-up in the wet and in the race we had one of the best race paces, we just lost positions where it really counted on the start and restarts. It’s just frustrating because we have really good speed out there, we just can’t get the luck we need and put it all together.”
Scott Dixon: “What a great race here at Barber. Another second-place finish for the 9 car. I think that’s our fifth runner-up here. One of these days we’re going to win here. We had a great NTT Data car and we were right up in the mix for the win at the end. We just didn’t have enough there, but all in all a good points day for the team. I saw (Josef Newgarden) late coming into (Turn) 15 or 16 on the last restart and I tried to turn down but the car was just so neutral I just didn’t have the rear grip to pull it off. Kudos to Josef – he drove a hell of a race and the win was well deserved. The NTT Data car was strong in the race. I think we actually had the speed – I think if we would have had clean air in that race we would have checked out. I feel bad for Will Power too – I think maybe a flat tire there or something. It was definitely a good fight.”
Tony Kanaan: “We’re moving in the right direction for sure. I think it goes without saying that I want to finish a lot higher than seventh, but I’ll take a top-10 after the way this season has started. We had a pretty clean race and our stops were good, we just couldn’t get up with the lead pack. I have a good track record at Phoenix, so hopefully we can come away with a good result next weekend.”
Will Power: “It was such a great effort all around. But the car was awesome. It was so fast. I feel bad. I could feel it starting to bottom and then started having issues in some fast corners. I held on as long as I could but I knew (the tire) was going down – you could feel it. We’ll move on to the next one. I’m thankful to my crew, Verizon, the whole team – they put a great effort in and that’s how racing goes sometimes.”
Carlos Munoz: “This was a really long day, it was one of my toughest races in the Verizon IndyCar series. It started out OK and then after the first pit stop we just lost the car totally – there was zero grip in the car. I’m not sure what happened. So I just wanted to finish the race and not go off track. It was my toughest race at Barber. We just have to sit down and see what happened and learn from it.”
Graham Rahal: “It was a frustrating day because we were just mired in traffic all day. Part of our strategy was to try to get clean air and every time we tried, someone would come out (on track, from the pits) in front of us. We just pretty much cruised around all day. That’s what we get for qualifying where we did. We need to maximize these weekends. We need some luck here soon.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “I’m really happy for the whole crew. Everybody did a really good job, we had solid pit stops. We didn’t have a great weekend at all. Performance wise we were average the whole time and I was very unhappy with the car so to salvage a top 10 and P8 like that in circumstances where there really wasn’t much going on, you have to feel pretty good about it. I think we learned a few things this weekend for the road course which we haven’t had many opportunities this year with the testing restrictions and it’s going to help us to get the car better for the rest of the season, so that was key to understanding what was doing what. I’m not sure we understand everything yet but today was a pretty big step in validating some of the things we understood. Now on to the next one.”
Ed Jones: “It was a frustrating start to the race. I caught some debris that wasn’t really avoidable. That put us to the back of the field. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have the pace today so I think we would have struggled even if we were up there from the beginning. It was a tough day but, again, I learned a lot. I feel we’ll be better for the next one. Phoenix is up next and that’s the first oval of the year so it will be interesting to see how we get on.”
Spencer Pigot: “We were making good progress, we were all the way up to eight after starting 17th. The car was feeling really good and the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys did a great job in the pits. We were definitely going forward. I made a small mistake trying to pass a car that wasn’t even for position, I got on the power a little too hard out of Turn 5 and spun the car. It’s unfortunate to have our race change that way. It was looking really promising for another very solid top-10 finish, at least. I feel sorry for the guys, they worked very hard this weekend. We are getting better all the time. This time was a mistake on my part that cost us. Next time I will do better.”
Zach Veach: “Overall, I’m pretty happy with our first Verizon IndyCar Series weekend. For what it was coming in here on short notice and a limited amount of time to get familiar with the car, I’m really happy with the progress that we made. I couldn’t have done it without the help of JR Hildebrand and the entire crew at Ed Carpenter Racing. Everyone here was so open to helping get me up to speed. They helped me from Lap 1 all the way to the end of the race. This was the longest race I’ve ever done in my life and part of that was learning how to save fuel and doing my first real race pit stops. I’m pretty happy with how it went. Granted, I think we would have loved to have a little more speed, but with the amount of time I had in the car, to come home where we did I think says a lot.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a difficult weekend, but I think the start was pretty exciting. I overtook a couple of cars and had a really good start. After that, I struggled on the pace a little bit. During the first stint, I had issues braking. So, first I had to move the bias all the way on the front. Then later on we lost one brake, so it felt like three-wheel braking – that was a shame. Over the course of the stint, I think I was getting better and better over time because we kept making the right adjustments. I think we held on well and the guys did well on the pit stops. Ninth is not perfect, but I think where we are it was a good points day and result for us.”
Marco Andretti: “Disappointing day for the 27 team. We were fast Friday and fast this morning (in warmup), but issues set us back on the start of the race and there was just no way to get the laps back. I feel bad for the crew and want to thank them for sticking in there, they worked hard all weekend and gave me a fast car but we just weren’t able to do anything with the hand we were dealt today.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We started fifth with the DHL car, which was positive since we started 18th here last year, so we were looking forward to capitalizing on that and then lost ground on the start. At the beginning of the race (James) Hinchcliffe just tracked out and hit me, the contact broke our front wing. We went to the back and worked our way to what should have been a 10-place finish, but then Mikhail (Aleshin) knocked me off the track right at the end. It was an eventful day, but not the finish we were looking for. Looking forward to moving on to Phoenix.”
Charlie Kimball: “Overall we tried an alternate strategy and I don’t know if it gained us many spots, but it was worth the effort for sure. I think without the length of that last yellow, we definitely had the speed in the 83 car to go forward and pass some of those guys who were trying to save fuel. It’s too bad we didn’t have a dry warmup this morning, because we could’ve validated some of the changes we made overnight. We obviously found a lot of speed compared to qualifying yesterday – I think my fast lap was well within the top 10 today. The pit stops were great. We definitely made up ground there. I’m proud of the guys’ efforts getting through these first few races with me. We have some momentum now heading into the Phoenix and then hopefully that will get even stronger heading into the month of May.”
Alexander Rossi: “We knew based on our starting position that we had to come up with something different. We knew we were stopping early, then it was about how fast we can go while saving fuel. The team did a good job and gave me a good car. Considering we started 18th, a top five is really good. We worked really hard overnight and tried to understand where we made mistakes this weekend. We’ll use it as a learning experience and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”