Josef Newgarden Controls Chaotic Weekend for Second Win of the Season

By: Christian Ryan

On the second try for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, defending series champion Josef Newgarden picked up his second win of the season on Monday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park. The victory marked the ninth of Newgarden’s career, with three coming at Barber - the site of his first career win.

Starting on the pole and looking to become the first multi-race winner of the season, Newgarden showcased a domineering performance between Sunday and Monday, leading 73 of the race’s 82 laps. As the first day ended due to rainy conditions, the second attempt with a sunny start would turn to rain towards the late stages of the race. Opting to pit in for wet tires rather than stick it out on dry tires, Newgarden would fall back to third and turn the lead over to Sebastien Bourdais. However, as the rain fell harder, the Team Penske driver would retake the lead and never look back.

“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden admitted, post-race. “That rain made it very nerve-racking. I think for us we did the only thing we could. We went to rains as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early.”

Bourdais had his own gamble, remaining in the lead by sticking it out on dry tires. However, as the wet weather intensified, the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver would have to pit and surrender the lead. He would still supply a tense finish, battling it out side by side with Scott Dixon, a flashback to their battles last week at Long Beach, with a photo finish for Bourdais to claim a fifth place finish.

Race strategy in the return of the rain allowed Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe to better their top five starting positions and round out the podium. The podium marked Hinchcliffe’s career best finish at Barber Motorsports Park, despite his own issues with the wet unrelated to the rain.

“It was all kind of guesswork,” he said of the on-track conditions. “But that’s the risk you take, and that’s the kind of game of roulette you play with Mother Nature every weekend. We did an alright job as a team and [I am] proud of that.”

The race was not without controversy, as the hectic conditions on Sunday’s initial running made for very poor visibility and a tendency for hydroplaning. A restart after water had pooled on the track sent Will Power careening into the wall at the drop of the green, ending his weekend. The red flag would be called soon after, and the race pushed to the next day. Canadian rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo, despite putting up the fastest lap of the race, would get caught up holding off Spencer Pigot for a nail-biting ride for both drivers. Tempers were hot after the race, with arguments ensuing on both pit road and online, making for an eventful Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

An 11th place finish against Newgarden’s win would see Alexander Rossi slip behind in points as the defending champion took his place atop the series standings. Despite two consecutive weeks with some setbacks, Sebastien Bourdais sits third in points and shows no signs of slowing down as the elder statesman at the head of the pack.

The Verizon IndyCar Series enters a short break, returning to the start of the famous month of May for the series. The month kicks off on the 12th with the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in its road course configuration.

All quotes sourced from official IndyCar press releases.

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