By: Spencer Neff
June 1, 2019 | 6:06 PM
After his Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud dominated the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Josef Newgarden lost the points lead for the first time in 2019.
On Saturday morning, Newgarden tied Pagenaud by virtue of qualifying second. Later in the day, the 2017 Series Champion took the points lead back after winning a rain-soaked Race 1 at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Because of the rain, the race was shortened from a scheduled 70 laps. With a timed race of 75 minutes, 43 laps were run on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course.
In earning his second win of 2019, Newgarden joins Pagenaud as the only multiple race winners this season. With his 12th career victory, Newgarden now holds a 25-point advantage over Pagenaud through seven of 17 races on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.
After starting on the pole, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi finished second, 0.8237 seconds behind Newgarden. Completing the podium, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato finished third. Interestingly enough, the two drivers duplicated their finishes from the Indianapolis 500.
After a delay of more than 90 minutes to wait out the weather, the race was moved to a timed race of 75 minutes.
Early on, the conditions proved to be treacherous for the drivers. During the pace laps, Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach spun on the pace lap. Fortunately for Veach, he recovered for a season-best finish of eighth.
When the race finally got underway, Takuma Sato made contact with rookie Pato O’Ward early on. As the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver collided with him, the Carlin Racing rookie was able to continue and opted not to pit during the yellow flag.
During the yellow, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist was penalized for service in a closed pit and was sent to the back of the field.
Following the yellow, racing got back underway with about 56 minutes remaining in the window. Less than 10 minutes later, Marco Andretti became the first driver in the field to ditch the rain tires and utilized the primary Firestone set.
Despite handling a loose car on the slicks, Andretti managed to hang on, and soon after, several other drivers opted for the slick tires. Among them was Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing. The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year was the first to opt for the alternate Firestone tire.
Once again, the yellow flag flew when Ed Jones made contact with the Turn 7 tire barrier. During the ensuing pit stops, Will Power was first off pit road.
Unfortunately for the two-time race winner, his Team Penske crew did not get the right-front secured. In addition to having to pit again, Power was penalized as his No. 12 team had equipment outside their pit stall. During pit stops, Newgarden beat Rossi off of pit road to take the lead.
Two laps after the restart, another contender ran into issues. On Lap 24, Scott Dixon clipped the inside wall and ran into the Turn 6 tire barrier. With the two-time Detroit winner’s issues, the caution was out again. This is Dixon’s first DNF since the Texas Motor Speedway race in 2017.
On Lap 30, the issues continued for Leist, as the A.J. Foyt Racing driver went into the Turn 7 barrier and prompted another yellow – the fourth and final caution period of the afternoon.
Once the race restarted, Newgarden continued to hold the lead over Rossi through to the checkered flag, leading the final 25 laps. During the final lap, Newgarden ran the fastest time of the day, a lap at 1m16.5266s.
With Race 1 over, the 23 drivers will now turn their focus to tomorrow’s race. Belle Isle is the only track on the schedule to host multiple races and does so in the doubleheader weekend format.
As was the case today, Sunday will begin with two 12-minute qualifying sessions to set the field at 11:15 Eastern time.
Sunday’s race will feature a half-hour pre-race show on NBC which begins at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, eventually leading into NBC’s race broadcast which kicks off at 3:30 p.m.
Additionally, fans can catch all 70 laps of the action on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network. To listen to the radio network – and view timing and scoring – check out RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Additionally, you can find information on tire strategies here, courtesy of Firestone.
During tomorrow’s on-track action, join us on Twitter as well. We will be online during the day with insight on all the latest developments.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.