Monday, April 9, 2018
Josef Newgarden had eight laps to catch rookie Robert Wickens. He barely needed half that.
Newgarden used four new tires to easily run down Wickens in the IndyCar race Saturday night at ISM Raceway.
“You never know if you make the right call, but they did,” Newgarden said. “It was good we were on the offense.”
Newgarden started fourth on the restart, and got around Wickens with 3 1/2 laps to go on the 1.022-mile oval. The defending series champion raced to his eighth IndyCar victory and third on an oval, finishing 2.994 seconds ahead of Wickens.
“I was patient all night,” Newgarden said. “I wasn’t forcing it. I struggled with the balance in certain parts of the stint. We were just working on the car. The engineers were doing a really good job getting it back and I knew when it was time to be aggressive.”
Owner Roger Penske won his record ninth series victory at the track and 198th overall.
“It’s a Team Penske win tonight, I’ll tell you that,” Newgarden said. “It wasn’t me. This was a team effort tonight that got it done. ... They gave me the pit stops. They had the strategy. I was working with a rocket scientist on the pit stand.”
Wickens was making his first second career start — and first on an oval — for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“I feel like I’m setting the bar a little bit high for myself,” the 29-year-old Canadian said. “But I never would have expected the first two races to go as well as they did.”
Last month in St. Petersburg, Wickens was heading to a victory until two late cautions gave Alexander Rossi a chance to take it away. On a restart with two laps left, Rossi tried to dive inside Wickens, they made contact and Wickens spun off course, handing the win to Sebastien Bourdais.
Rossi was third in on the hot night in the desert, overcoming a drive-through penalty for hitting a crew member.