Josef Newgarden Race Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of AlabamaDATE: April 1, 2012
EVENT: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: Leeds, Ala. (2.38-mile, 17-turn street circuit)
START/FINISH: 15th/17th (Running, Completed 90 of 90 laps)
WINNER: Will Power of Team Penske
LEEDS, Ala., Sunday, April 1, 2012 – Rookie Josef Newgarden drove his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car into the top 10 twice during Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama before contact with another car forced him into a 17th-place finish in just his second IZOD IndyCar Series race.
From his 15th starting position, Newgarden was climbing his way through the field when he was forced to pit to fix front wing damage after contact with Ed Carpenter. “I didn’t expect Ed to slow so much in the flat-out chicane and I just got caught out,” Newgarden said.
After the contact Newgarden was forced to pit immediately to change the front wing of his car.
“We were on a really great strategy and Josef was moving up through the field,” Sarah Fisher, owner of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, said. “Having to pit to repair the damage threw us off of a strategy that I think would have had us close to a top-10 finish.”
Newgarden lost a lap to the leaders of the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama during the unscheduled pit stop, but got the lap back shortly thereafter when a full-course caution was thrown on lap 66 for a spin by Katherine Legge.
Unfortunately, Newgarden’s tires went away from him on the last restart and he was not able to gain back the positions he had lost.
“On the last run I lost a ton of grip in the Firestone reds (tires) and I couldn’t carry any speed into the corners,” Newgarden said. “Our reds were a little older than the other teams and that hurt us.”
Team Penske continued its dominance of Barber Motorsports Park Sunday. Will Power won his second consecutive Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama by holding off Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon over the final 25 laps. Power’s margin of victory was 3.3709 seconds.
The win was Power’s 16th of his IndyCar career and maintained Team Penske’s perfect record at Barber. Helio Castroneves won the event in 2010.
Dixon finished in second place for the second consecutive week. It is Dixon’s third consecutive runner-up finish at Barber.
Rounding out the top five were Castroneves, Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal and Sam Schmidt Motorsport’s Simon Pagenaud.
There were nine lead changes among five drivers. For the second week in a row, Dixon led the most laps with 38, one more than his 37 in St. Petersburg.
All but three of the 26 starters were running at the finish. There were two caution periods for a total of seven yellow flag laps.
On the strength of his win in St. Petersburg and his third-place finish Sunday, Castroneves leaves Barber Motorsports Park with a two-point lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship over Scott Dixon (86-84). Power is third with 77 points. Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe has a two-point lead over Pagenaud (60-58) to round out the top five in points.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 15 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.
You’re pretty fast for a rookie: On lap 56, Newgarden had the 5th fastest lap in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Only race winner Will Power, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti turned faster laps than Newgarden.
Looking to Long Beach: After the first two events of the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule rookie Josef Newgarden is 15th in the driver point standings. With two races under his belt, he is ready to apply the knowledge he has gained in the first two races to the streets of Long Beach.
“I think we’re learning and getting better each time we’re on the track,” Newgarden said. “Eventually we’re going to get it all put together and be right up there.”
Standing out from the crowd:When the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car was painted last winter, the colors blue, white and silver were chosen as a way to stand out from other cars in the IndyCar paddock. Unfortunately, teams for the cars driven by Simon Pagenaud, Katherine Legge and Takuma Sato had the same idea and all feature similar liveries of blue and white. To help Newgarden’s No. 67 car stand out at Barber Motorsports Park, the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team added orange to the car’s nose and rear-view mirrors.