Leading 53 laps of the 55-lap race, Josef Newgarden had a “phenomenal” car to make it to the top step of the podium in the KOHLER Grand Prix.
“We have great race cars and we keep working on it one weekend at a time,” said Newgarden after the race. Sunday’s victory is career win number 10 for the young American driver.
A clean IndyCar race at Road America was no surprise – with just a few cautions in years past, the Elkhart Lake circuit gives drivers plenty of space to wheel through the 14 corners.
With Newgarden leading the field to green, the start saw all IndyCar machines through the opening corners without damage. Drivers like Takuma Sato took an early charge, moving three spots up from mid pack. Will Power on the other hand limped around the four miles of lap one before pulling into the pits.
Power’s Chevy machine had to be shut down and restarted. By Lap 14, the crew had repaired what was determined to be a lost header, but it was not enough of a fix to keep Power on track and he retired from the race early.
By Lap 6, pit stop and alternate strategies took centre stage. Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball were the first to show their four-stop plan. The three-stop strategy pit window fell between the lap 13-14 range.
Later in the race Sebastien Bourdais lost all speed exiting Turn 12 and had to pit for repairs to the gear control box. The shut down and restart was quick enough to keep him on the lead lap.
Unsurprisingly, Scott Dixon – leading the pack as pit stops cycled through – made it one extra lap on fuel. The Dixon-led circuits were the only two laps Newgarden would give up to another driver.
Zach Veach on Lap 19 had a long pit stop to fix a broken tow link, and then was penalized for crossing the blend line early on pit exit. James Hinchcliffe was also penalized with a post-race fine for hitting pit equipment. Robert Wickens team was reviewed by the stewards for an unsafe pit release, but no action was taken.
Alexander Rossi, who spent the first part of the race in the front pack also had an additional pit stop for mechanical repairs to the left front of his vehicle. He did not lose a lap.
Following Newgarden in the finishing order were Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2nd and Scott Dixon rounding out the podium. To continue the Honda trend, it was a good day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as Takuma Sato (4th) and Graham Rahal (6th) were both solidly inside the top-10.
Championship contenders down in the order included Rossi (16th) and Power (23rd). Alfonso Celis Jr. finished 20th for Juncos Racing in his Verizon IndyCar Series debut.
In the first 27 laps, there were more than 100 passes behind the race leaders. For a quick race – less than 120 minutes – there was plenty of action to keep the crowds enthralled.
Amid the 2019 calendar shake-up discussion, Road America returns to the IndyCar schedule for the next three years.
Image courtesy of Zach Wenzel/Open-Wheels.com