Defending NTT IndyCar series champion Josef Newgarden is not ready to relinquish his crown. The Team Penske driver has been on a tear since the weekend at Iowa, gaining points on championship leader Scott Dixon. Newgarden put on another impressive performance on Friday, winning Race 1 of the Harvest Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. It was the third victory of the season for the American, and his first ever at the iconic venue. With the win, Dixon’s lead in the championship has shrunk to to 40 points with two races remaining in the 2020 season.
The race was sensational, from start to finish. When the green flag waved, the gloves came off as drivers were extremely aggressive. Alexander Rossi had himself another solid outing, finishing just behind Newgarden for his third consecutive podium after a rough first half of the season. Rookie Rinus VeeKay earned his first career podium finish just hours after securing his first career pole in the series. Colton Herta continued his solid season with a 4th place result as Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five on Friday.
Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 Box Score
Newgarden ended up beating Rossi to the finish by 14.2940 seconds in a caution-free race filled with clean but aggressive driving. For a track not known for producing exciting on-track action, it was quite the surprise as there was something going on at all times throughout the field. Many fans walked away with the impression that this was one of the best races of the season. For Newgarden, it was just what he needed to keep this championship battle alive.
“I don’t think I can think about the race; I’m so excited to be up here on this platform,” Newgarden said. “Thank you to everyone that came out. We had a rocket ship. I knew we did yesterday in qualifying. I was so surprised by how quick the car was. It was a great fight today. It was strategy, it was close combat, it was everything you wanted in an IndyCar race, and I had the quickest car.”
Dixon’s day wasn’t nearly as good as when he won the GMR Grand Prix back in July. The five-time champion was running 7th with two laps to go but pressure from Graham Rahal forced an unlikely error. Dixon went off course in Turn 7 and lost two positions, finishing in 9th position. “I’m not really sure what happened,” Dixon said. “We just really struggled on the primary tires with the PNC Bank car today. We had a really bad start where Rahal just moved us out of the way. Once that got us out of line, we just started to fall back, and that really hurt. The other stint on blacks just really hurt us again for some reason. We must have lost 15-20 seconds. But that’s the way it goes some days, I guess. It was just really weird, and we need to get it figured out fast before Race 2 here tomorrow.”
Oddly enough, Newgarden’s only top-ten finish on the IMS road course in seven starts was a 7th place finish in July. Coming into today, Dixon’s last four finishes on the IMS road course were 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 1st. Will Power had a decent finish in 6th place while Rahal improved four positions to finish in 7th. Jack Harvey has always run well on this course and did so again by finishing in 8th on Friday. Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten.
The three veterans making their returns to the series did not fare so well in Race 1. James Hinchcliffe strapped into the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, after Zach Veach was let go. The popular Canadian improved four spots from his starting position but still only managed a 14th place finish. Helio Castroneves is filling in for Oliver Askew this weekend as he deals with concussion-like symptoms from his crash in the Indianapolis 500 back in August. The Brazilian was a non-factor for Arrow McLaren SP, in what was a difficult day for the team. Castroneves finished 20th while Pato O’Ward came home in 22nd position. Sebastien Bourdais made his first start of the season in the No. 14 Chevrolet. The AJ Foyt Racing driver is looking to get a head start on his full-time 2021 plans with the team, but they finished 21st on Friday.
The final doubleheader event will wrap up tomorrow, the penultimate race of the 2020 season. Saturday’s race coverage will begin at 2:30 PM ET on NBC.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I don’t know that I can think about the race because I’m just so excited to be up here on the top of the podium. I wish I could’ve been up here in August (Indianapolis 500) for ‘The Captain.’ He’s done such an amazing job with this facility. To see people back here, socially distancing in the stands and getting to watch a race I’m sure makes him happy. I’m happy to be standing up here today representing him and everyone at Team Penske, along with everyone at INDYCAR and IMS. Thank you to everyone that came out here in cold conditions. We had a rocket ship. I knew we did yesterday in qualifying. I was surprised at how quick the Hitachi Chevy was, and it was a great fight today. It was about strategy, close combat, everything you want in an INDYCAR race. I felt like Team Chevy did an amazing job and having Hitachi onboard has been good luck for us this year. I’m just pumped to be up here. I’ve always wanted to get up here during the ‘500,’ but this one is just as cool. If we had a few races back where we caught bad yellows, we would really be in this championship fight. It’s almost a shame to see the deficit we had at times in the points because this team is unbelievable. They’ve been the quickest on pit lane all year. Everyone has done a great job, and they deserve to be in this championship fight. We still have a bit of a hill to climb, but we made it smaller today. I said we needed to have three perfect races to finish. One of them is down, and there are two to go.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “Having some things go right for us, things not go wrong, and I executed. We unlocked a bit of pace in the car. It took us a while to figure out the offset with the Aeroscreen, but I think our off-track development is getting there. Huge hats off to the whole entire Andretti Autosport organization and Honda. This place has never been good to us in terms of performance, so to get a podium here is awesome. We’re disappointed that we got a weird penalty and that we didn’t have a shot to come close to fighting Josef (Newgarden), but be that as it may, we’ll have another go at it tomorrow, and we have a good car. It’s great to be able to have the whole qualifying and race to learn off of, and then take what was good and what was bad and try at it again. We thought we had a good car, and in qualifying we didn’t get to use the red tires, so that’ll be interesting tomorrow morning. But at least we know have a fast race car.”
RINUS VEEKAY: “Well, pretty good weekend so far. First pole yesterday, first podium today. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m very happy with a podium finish. I struggled on the blacks (primary tires), but I had a great last 15 laps on the reds (alternate tires). I wish I could have done a little bit better, but a podium is a podium. Tomorrow is another day, we will have one less set of reds, but it’s 10 laps shorter of a race. Tonight, I’m happy.”
COLTON HERTA: “The start and overall of the race was kind of what I was expecting because of the switch-up of tire choices and how a lot of people were starting on blacks and not so many on reds. I thought it would give a good chance in the second stint to move forward. In the end, we were just too loose. We wore out the rear tires and just didn’t have the pace to make the strategy work. We tried to do all we could and ended on blacks. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace at the end, but we’re really happy with the Gleaners car and proud to carry the No One Runs On Empty message today. I hope everyone remembers that you can donate now, $0.88 a month at Gleaners.org, and help save 135 families from hunger.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “P5 ended up being good for us with points in the NTT DATA Honda, but we were up there mixing it up for P2 where we really wanted to be. It felt pretty good, but the tires started to fall off, and we didn’t have any push-to-pass left. We spent a lot of time around lapped traffic, and that hurt, for sure. And with that, I think we had to pass a lot more cars than we should have. That wasted a lot of time, but we want to be better for tomorrow.”
WILL POWER: “Man, that was a tough race. We had some great pace at different points, but we just didn’t have enough to fight for the win at the end. Congrats to Josef (Newgarden). That was a big win for the team and big for the championship. I think we learned a lot on the Verizon Chevy that we can apply in tomorrow race and hopefully fight for the win.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “It was a tough day. I spun early, and luckily it didn’t end up hurting us. We were able to pass a lot of guys today, but in the end, we had to go to blacks, and I think it hurt us and we also ran out of overtake. We still got Dixie (Scott Dixon) back when he made his mistake, but it was definitely hard. (Will) Power was flying hard. His straight-line speed was extremely strong, so it was hard for us to get by him. We’re back at it tomorrow morning. We will try to qualifying up front and give ourselves a better shot to try to win this thing get this United Rentals car up front tomorrow.”
JACK HARVEY: “I made a mistake in the pit lane and was a little bit too far to the left, and we weren’t able to flow fuel. We’ve never had something like that happen before, so that was a shame. I definitely thought that we had good speed that we’ll take with us tomorrow. There’s really no need to reset; we’ll just get the job done tomorrow.”
SCOTT DIXON: “I’m not really sure what happened. We just really struggled on the primary tires with the PNC Bank car today. We had a really bad start where (Graham) Rahal just moved us out of the way. Once that got us out of line, we just started to fall back, and that really hurt. The other stint on blacks just really hurt us again for some reason. We must have lost 15-20 seconds. But that’s the way it goes some days, I guess. It was just really weird, and we need to get it figured out fast before Race 2 here tomorrow.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “I think for us it was a decent race and a top 10 after starting from P15. I was wanting a bit better race, but the way it panned out, it just kind of was what it was. On the start, I had to get out of position to avoid the championship leader (Dixon). It felt like maybe we had some damage after that point and it felt strange, but it was a decent result and we have some work to do for tomorrow.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “We were pretty optimistic going into the race. The AutoNation car came out of qualifying well, and we had a good start. I think had we not had to come in for the fire and the resulting damage we would have come home 11th, maybe even inside the top 10. 2020 has been a tough one on us, and we’re ready to get past it, but for now we’ll look ahead to Race 2. The guys have some repairs to do tonight, and we’re hoping to come back strong tomorrow.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: ” It was a non-race, really, tried to do whatever I could. At the start, it was a tough spot because basically I ended up being right behind Dixie (Scott Dixon) and didn’t feel like I wanted to be there and take any chances and because of that I just lost a bunch of positions. Started to go left, right, and that was a bit of a shame. Then we kind of hung in there for a while, but tire degradation for us was quite high. Just not using the tires right. We don’t have the balance — we’re really struggling. The whole race was a bit of a struggle. It didn’t get any better or worse; it just kind of stayed where it was, and I never found anything that seemed to dig us out of there. And it was tough because we didn’t have any push-to-pass, so defending was impossible. The second half of the race, we were a lap down and trying to get out of the way of the guys on the lead lap fighting for positions. Our pace wasn’t good enough to challenge for anything. Unfortunately, we’ve got some work to do, and we’ve to try to find something to give us a direction for next time we come back around.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES: “It’s great to be back in a race car in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet did a phenomenal job by giving me the tools that I need. Obviously, we were a little off pace. However, it was great to understand what we need to do to learn about the car. We will make some adjustments for tomorrow. That’s the good news: We have another day to do it all over again.”
MAX CHILTON: “It was a long day out there – 85 laps of hard racing. I had a pretty good start, but then we had a situation on the first lap where I had to avoid an accident and take a shortcut, which then resulted in a penalty where I had to let a car past. Unfortunately, they made me give up the position in a place where more than one car got past. So that hurt us at the start, but after that we really had pretty good pace all day. I’d say I definitely did some of the best and most overtakes I’ve done in a race all year, if not in a really long time. We were racy out there, and we were able to work our way up from 15th after the unfortunate start to 11th , just missing out on a top-10 finish. It’s a little gutting to not get that top 10, but we’ve shown that the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet is quick, and luckily we get to do it all again tomorrow.”
CONOR DALY: “We had a great start, but sadly got driven off by two other competitors in the second half of Lap 1. The 59 car (Max Chilton) and the 18 car (Santino Ferrucci) decided they didn’t want to leave a lane for me, even though I gave them plenty of room. Being sent off the track twice was a shame and really put us behind, but we had a great car and great pace. We started passing cars as soon as we got back going, which was nice. We tried to strategize our way forward. Our pace was really good on reds there at the end. We definitely have improved our car since the last time we were here. We just need to be able to get a fair qualifying session in tomorrow and try to start up front like our teammate – then go for it.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “We showed today the No. 18 SealMaster Honda had good pace even with a smashed front wing. We were having a really good race, just (Ryan) Hunter-Reay didn’t want to give up the inside going into Turn 2 and well … I wasn’t going to lift. Other than that, I’m really proud of the crew. On the last pit stop, it was nobody’s fault. One of the lug nuts got striped, and that’s that. All and all, I think we are ready tomorrow.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “We kind of did what we could today, without any yellows and strategy to play that way. I think we played the tire game right and put on the right tires at the right time. The Gainbridge car was, honestly, pretty quick. We had a couple issues in the pit stop – I was a little far out, and we couldn’t get the fuel connected. That cost us a bit of time. But we made some stops up on track. Certainly not as much forward progress as we would have liked, but we learned a lot for tomorrow and hopefully we can start, and finish, higher up the grid tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “We had a good start, picked up a couple of spots. Then (Santino) Ferrucci was coming up from behind, as he was on reds and we were on the slower primary tires. He made a late attempt at a pass around the outside and got about halfway up alongside, at best. He was still at my corner and he just decided to keep his foot in, and he went off track. It took us both out. It’s becoming a common theme with him – it happened at the last race at Mid-Ohio when he took out several cars. The good news is, at that point, we switched our focus to Race 2 and saved all our new red tires for tomorrow. So, I’ll be coming.”
SAGE KARAM: “Actually, we got a good start and made up a few positions early. Then Charlie (Kimball) hit me off the track around Lap 4. He came over after the race and apologized. I was surprised by it that early in the race. Then we had a couple of weird issues on a few pit stops that hurt us. Our strategy for the race was pretty good when we pitted early (Lap 9). We got off the black Firestones and onto the reds. The Oil2Soil Chevy then ran some pretty solid laps. In the last stint, we put on sticker black tires, and the car really ran well. But we were too far back with the early problems. Now we’ll concentrate on Saturday’s qualifying and the race. The fuel pressure issue on Thursday kept us back from a full practice. That cost us some precious track time. We need all the track time we can get right now as a part time team.”
DALTON KELLETT: “I got kind of hung out to dry off the start, but we were there by Turn 4 with the rest of the pack. I was just being smart and sensible, trying to make smart moves. The pace in the first stint seemed relatively good. We were keeping with some guys making passes, so I was happy with that. Lost a bit of time as we were merging into traffic and trying to find a spot on track, so kind of cycled back there. And then the scuffed reds weren’t really kind to us. We didn’t have a good middle two stints on the black and reds, so we lost pace there. So, that was kind of the story of it. Then as we were pitting out for our last two stints, we were coming out into leader traffic, and that always costs you a lot of time as you’re trying not to impede others while being cognizant of your own race. So, that was a bit of a bummer. I think we’ve got some good data from today between the three cars, and Charlie (Kimball) was obviously much happier with his car so we’ll see what they did and compare notes and see what we can do for tomorrow.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “First and foremost, it’s great to have fans back here watching us race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It seemed like it was a pretty awesome race from where I was sitting in the cockpit, looked like in some of the recaps there was some pretty great racing throughout the field. Big credit, huge credit actually, to the No. 4 team – those guys on pit lane, in all three stops, the strategy from the timing stand. You know at the end it was getting a little dicey, I think the 26 (James Hinchcliffe) and I were on two different sets of tires coming down to the close, but we were able to hold him off for 13th all the way up from 23rd so felt like it was a really good day for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet. Big thanks to the AJ Foyt Racing crew for making the car better overnight from yesterday, and we get to do it again tomorrow.”
PATO O’WARD: “There is not much to say. It’s probably the worst day we’ve had all year. We just have to regroup tomorrow and try to go win the race. There’s nothing that we can do right now, honestly. For the rest of the year, we have to try to win as many races we can. There’s two more to chase. We will be going for it tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Congratulations to Josef on the win today. It was a great race out there today. We still have some work to do on the DXC Technology Chevrolet for tomorrow’s race, but we will get there. While things didn’t go our way today, it’s a great result for the team and good for the championship. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race, and hopefully we can end the weekend with another win for Team Penske.”
ALEX PALOU: “I made a mistake leaving pit lane after my first stop, so that set us back and pretty much cost us our race. There’s not much more to say. It’s a shame because our No. 55 Guaranteed Rate car was good, quite competitive. We discovered what our issue was yesterday in qualifying, so hopefully we can have a better qualifying run tomorrow and that we can start further up for Race 2 and give ourselves a better chance.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It was a tough day. From where we were starting, we tried to go to a two-stop strategy, which according to the calculation was seven to eight laps short anyway. We hoped we could make some of the fuel number with yellows, but regardless, we couldn’t make it, so we had to shift to the three-stop strategy. But by the time we did, we lost so much time (on track). And then, of course, because we had to go to an aggressive downforce setting to make up places, but maybe we tipped over. The car was extremely tough to manage and also we lost one set of reds from yesterday, which hurt us. All in all, it was a tough race, but it was definitely great data for tomorrow’s qualifying and race. We need to qualify in the top 10. After today, all of the field will move up even tighter because they have all the data. But we believe we can be more competitive tomorrow.”