BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Sunday, April 23, 2017) – Josef Newgarden added to the growing bank of fond memories he is accumulating at Barber Motorsports Park, driving to victory today in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First.
Newgarden’s win by 1.0495 seconds over Scott Dixon is his second on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course and comes two years after he secured his first career Verizon IndyCar Series victory at the same track. It also is the 26-year-old American’s first win since joining Team Penske, which took three of the top four finishing positions in the 90-lap race.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Box score
Driving the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden took the lead for the first and only time on Lap 77 when teammate Will Power was forced to pit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske with a punctured left rear tire.
“This is a good one to have, I think we earned it,” said Newgarden, who started the race seventh. “This was a great car this weekend. We were on it.
“I think it was shaping up to be a really great battle for me, Dixon and Will, and it ended just being between Dixon and me. I feel bad for Will. I wish he could have been in that with us, but sometimes that’s the way it rolls.”
Dixon finished second for the fifth time at Barber and for the 34th time in his Indy car career, tying Michael Andretti for fourth all time. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has reached the podium seven times in the eight races on the Alabama track but never won.
Dixon jumped two spots in the season standings to second place and is within six points of the championship lead after the third of 17 races this season. But the driver of the No. 9 NTT Data Honda lamented the pass Newgarden made on him for second place on a Lap 69 restart.
“I saw him late coming into (Turn) 15 or 16 on the last restart and I tried to turn down, but the car was just so neutral I just didn’t have the rear grip to pull it off,” Dixon said. “Kudos to Josef; he drove a hell of a race and the win was well deserved. The NTT Data car was strong in the race. I think we actually had the speed. I think if we would have had clean air in that race, we would have checked out.”
Simon Pagenaud, last year’s Barber race winner and Verizon IndyCar Series champion, placed third in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, just ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi, winner of last year’s historic 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, gained the most positions from start to finish of any driver, going from 18th on the grid to wind up fifth in the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda.
Power, bidding for his third win at Barber, led 60 laps but wound up finishing in 14th place.
“I held on as long as I could, but I knew (the tire) was going down – you could feel it,” he said. “We’ll move on to the next one. I’m thankful to my crew, Verizon, the whole team. They put a great effort in and that’s how racing goes sometimes.”
Newgarden, in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series season, collected his first win for Team Penske in just his third race with the prolific organization whose 188 Indy car wins are the most in history. By comparison, it took Power five races, Castroneves seven and Pagenaud 19 to get their first wins for the team.
“It’s a group effort (at Team Penske) – all four of these guys work together,” Newgarden said. “I’m thrilled for the (No.) 2 car guys, but this is a team effort with all four cars. So, whoever is in victory lane, we just want to get someone there with Team Penske.”
Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda, finished eighth in the race to retain the championship lead. Bourdais has accumulated 117 points, with Dixon second at 111, Newgarden third with 110, Pagenaud fourth with 106 and James Hinchcliffe fifth at 102.
Barber officials announced a three-day attendance of 82,745, which equated to a ticket revenue increase of more than 10 percent from last year.
“We are extremely encouraged by the fact that our ticket revenue has increased for the fourth straight year,” said Gene Hallman, CEO of ZOOM Motorsports, the exclusive event promoter of Barber Motorsports Park. “INDYCAR has so much positive momentum and we look forward to the continued growth of the sport.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the iconic 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway oval April 29 for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix under the lights. Race coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Alonso visits Barber ahead of Indianapolis 500 preparations
A racer is a racer is a racer. If nothing more can be gleaned from Fernando Alonso’s visit today to Barber Motorsports Park – and his plan to race in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 – it’s that racers share one goal: to be faster than the rest, no matter the car or venue.
And to do that, they occasionally need assistance from other racers.
The two-time Formula One champion explained that he’ll need help to be competitive at Indianapolis next month, so he’s relying on his five temporary teammates at Andretti Autosport – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and Jack Harvey – to help him get up to speed.
“I need to learn all of these things,” Alonso said. “To learn them alone would take two years. To learn it with some help would take six months. But I have two weeks. I will need a lot of help.”
Alonso has 32 F1 victories and championships in 2005 and 2006 to his credit. Aside from some Indy 500 warmups on a simulator in Italy, though, he has no experience with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, oval tracks or Indy cars.
“I will need the help to be competitive,” he said. “I’m very open-minded, knowing that the series is completely different, the cars are completely different and superspeedways require a driving technique and a driving feeling that’s completely different and that I don’t have yet.”
Alonso met his teammates Saturday night after arriving at Barber to watch today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First. From there, he’ll travel to Andretti Autosport headquarters in Indianapolis on Monday for a seat fitting and more time on a simulator. He’ll then travel to Sochi, Russia, for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix and his fulltime job with the McLaren Honda F1 team before returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a solo test in the McLaren-Andretti Honda on May 3.
That’s when the sorting of the details will commence.
“The setup of the car is extremely important, because the difference is in milliseconds,” Alonso said. “To set up the car for different parts of the race in different wind direction and fuel loads in the car, tire degradation – there are many things that you need to make small adjustments, apparently, that I have no idea about.”
For now, Alonso is just taking as much in as he can and relying on his fellow racers in the process.
“There are many, many things – more than people can imagine,” Alonso said. “There are little things when you’re driving at those speeds and you have all those things going on – the radio, etc. – but we are professional drivers and we should be able to deal with it.”
Herta wins 400th race in Indy Lights history
Colton Herta etched his name into Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires history when he became the series’ youngest winner last month. He further solidified his place in Indy Lights annals today at Barber Motorsports Park when he won the series’ 400th race.
Starting from the pole position, the 17-year-old phenom led all 35 laps in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Deltro Energy Dallara IL-15 and crossed the finish line 9.1465 seconds over Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser. Herta, who leads the Indy Lights standings by 16 points over Kaiser after four of 16 races, became the youngest winner in series history March 12 at St. Petersburg when he was 16 years, 11 months, 12 days old.